Reflections in a robot's eye: A cultural history and epistemological critque of humanoid robotics

Rand D LeBouvier, Salve Regina University


We appear to be at a critical juncture where the impetus to procure autonomous systems to address urgent needs may push us past our reservations about robots and into embracing a rapidly evolving technology with far-reaching implications. The pursuit of humanoid robots is a fact—it is an ongoing, highly attractive field that cannot be ignored solely on the grounds that the ultimate aim might never be achieved. The issue of realization of a humanoid robot is only tangential to what the research and development of humanoid robots has the potential to reveal to us about our own humanity. The humanoid robot is chosen for a very specific reason—the disciplines within this select field of robotics are oriented toward recreating particular human capabilities or traits, and the humanoid form relates both philosophical and scientific concepts of the need for "embodiment" to the development of true autonomy. The development of humanoid robots connects the works of fiction, philosophy, and technology in a very direct way that allows the exploration of the meaning of humanity in an age of advanced technology. This dissertation examines what humanoid robotics reveals and what it has the potential to reveal about the search for knowledge, the search for the meaning of existence, and the understanding of reality. Both the scientific and fictional investigations of humanoid robots change our views about what a human really is. New questions are raised as a result of the dynamic tension between technologists and humanists. Humanoid robotics is most productively studied from an interdisciplinary, phenomenological perspective, as we must consider the cultural and epistemological impacts of humanoid robots on us as we strive to recreate ourselves.

Subject Area

Epistemology|Philosophy of Science|Science history|Robotics|Artificial intelligence

Recommended Citation

LeBouvier, Rand D, "Reflections in a robot's eye: A cultural history and epistemological critque of humanoid robotics" (2011). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI3483269.