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The 'measure of a man' and the ethos of hospitality: Towards an ethical dwelling with technology



In this paper, I argue for the impossible possibility of an ethical dwelling with technology. In arguing for an ethical comportment in our dealing with technology, I am not only arguing for the consideration of the ethical implications of technology (which we already do) but also, and more importantly, for an ethics of technological artefacts qua technology. Thus, I attempt to argue for a decentering (or rather overcoming) of anthropocentric ethics, urging us to move beyond any centre, whatever it may be—anthropological, biological, etc. I argue that if we take ethics seriously we must admit that our measure cannot be that of man. To develop the argument, I use an episode in Star Trek where the fate of the highly sophisticated android Commander Data is to be decided. I show how the moral reasoning about Data remains anthropocentric but hints to other possibilities. I proceed to use the work of Derrida and Levinas (with some help from Heidegger) to suggest a possible way to think (and do) an ethos beyond traditional ethics—an ethics of hospitality in which we dwell in a community of those that have nothing in common.
The ‘measure of a man’ and the ethos of hospitality:
towards an ethical dwelling with technology
Lucas D. Introna
Received: 20 October 2008 / Accepted: 26 September 2009
Springer-Verlag London Limited 2009
Abstract In this paper, I argue for the impossible possi-
bility of an ethical dwelling with technology. In arguing for
an ethical comportment in our dealing with technology, I
am not only arguing for the consideration of the ethical
implications of technology (which we already do) but also,
and more importantly, for an ethics of technological arte-
facts qua technology. Thus, I attempt to argue for a dec-
entering (or rather overcoming) of anthropocentric ethics,
urging us to move beyond any centre, whatever it may
be—anthropological, biological, etc. I argue that if we take
ethics seriously we must admit that our measure cannot be
that of man. To develop the argument, I use an episode in
Star Trek where the fate of the highly sophisticated android
Commander Data is to be decided. I show how the moral
reasoning about Data remains anthropocentric but hints to
other possibilities. I proceed to use the work of Derrida and
Levinas (with some help from Heidegger) to suggest a
possible way to think (and do) an ethos beyond traditional
ethics—an ethics of hospitality in which we dwell in a
community of those that have nothing in common.
1 Introduction
Increasingly we find ourselves surrounded by technological
artefacts, artefacts that have become increasingly complex
and ubiquitous. As we draw on, and become dependent on
the possibilities they provide, the boundary between our
machines and us are becoming less and less obvious. What
is a soldier without the technology of global positioning,
night vision, laser guided telescopes, mobile telecoms, and
more? What is the detective without the detecting tech-
nology of genetic profiling, fingerprint matching, voice
recognition, bugging, and so forth? Is a soldier really a
soldier without her kit? It seems that her kit is becoming
integral to what she is, as a soldier. As society develops,
we are putting more of ourselves ‘into’ technological
artefacts (depending on them to make decisions we used to
make), and technological artefacts are increasingly
‘inserting themselves’ into us (as artificial limbs or exten-
sions of ourselves), doing very important things we used to
do for ourselves. At the end of the progression, we have the
android and the cyborg. We are becoming, or always have
been, human/machine hybrids (Haraway 1991; Latour
1993). As we progress along this path, which we clearly
already started with the first tools, and without wanting to
speculate about the inevitability of such a progression or
how rapid or slow this may be, it will certainly become
increasingly important for us to consider an ethics of
technological artefacts qua artefacts.
When referring to an ‘ethics of technology’ or an ‘ethics
of the artificial’, I am referring to it in two very distinct
ways. In the first, more traditional sense, I mean the values
and interests built into the very materiality of the tech-
nologies we draw upon—inscribed in their ‘flesh’ as it
were (Winner 1980). In drawing upon the possibilities
presented by these technologies, we become wittingly or
unwittingly enrolled into particular scripts and programmes
of action (in the actor network theory sense of the word).
These scripts and programmes make certain things possible
and others not, include certain interests and others not (for
example the increased use of ATM may have lead to the
closure of bank branches which exactly excludes those that
can not use ATM’s, such as physically disabled people). In
L. D. Introna (&)
Center for the Study of Technology and Organisation,
Lancaster University Management School,
Lancaster LA1 4YX, UK
AI & Soc
DOI 10.1007/s00146-009-0242-1
this sense of use, the ethics of machines is very important
and is in desperate need of our attention (an example of this
type of work is the paper by Introna and Nissenbaum
(2000) on search engines and the work of Brey (2000)as
proposed in his disclosive ethics). However, this paper is
not primarily concerned with this sense of technological
ethics. It is rather concerned with the question of the moral
and ethical significance of technological artefacts in their
technological being, i.e. the question of the weight of our
moral responsibility towards technological artefacts as
artificial beings.
In order to develop and structure the discussion, I will
draw on a particular episode of Star Trek (2003) titled:
‘The measure of a man’’.
In this episode, the ethical
significance, and therefore subsequent rights, of the android
Data becomes contested. This ‘case study’—if I may call it
that—will give us some indication of how the problem of
ethical significance of the artificial can become apparent
and considered. In discussing this case, I will argue that its
approach to the issue, as well as the work of Levinas, is
essentially anthropocentric—ultimately the measure of
ethical significance is ‘the measure of a man’. I will argue,
with Heidegger (1977a), that it will ultimately fail to pro-
vide us with an adequate way to consider the ethical sig-
nificance of the artificial. I will then proceed to suggest,
with the help of Derrida, a more radical interpretation of
Levinas as a possible way forward towards an ethics (or
rather ethos) of hospitality—an ethical dwelling with the
artificial other that so pervade our everyday being in the
2 Commander Data and the measure of a man
Those familiar with Star Trek will know that Commander
Data is a highly sophisticated android designed by Doctor
Noonien Soong. Dr Soong created only one Data in his
lifetime. Lieutenant Commander Data is now one of the
officers on the USS Enterprise, which is part of the Fed-
eration’s Starfleet. The acclaimed robotics expert Com-
mander Maddox has been authorised by Star Fleet’s
Admiral Nakamura to remove Data from the USS Enter-
prise for study, with the intention to refit and replicate him.
Maddox intends to download Data’s brain into a computer
for analysis, and then reload a copy back into a refitted and
upgraded Data. Due to certain technical complexities, the
procedure is risky and he could not guarantee the end
result. Data objects to the procedure by claiming that the
end result would not be him. He suggests that ‘‘there is an
ineffable quality to memory that [would not] survive the
shutdown of [my] core.’’ As such he is concerned about the
continuity of his identity, for him it would be like dying
and waking up as somebody else.
After considering a number of options, Data decide to
resign as officer of the Starfleet in order to prevent the
possibility of being disassembled. Commander Maddox
responds by arguing that Data does not have the freedom to
resign since he is a machine and as such the property of the
Starfleet—a view shared by Admiral Nakamura. He argues
that they ‘‘would [not] permit the computer on the Enter-
prise to refuse a refit’’, why should Data be accorded such a
right? The matter is referred to Captain Phillipa Louvois of
the understaffed local Judge Advocate General’s (JAG)
office for a decision. After considering the legal position,
she issues her own summary ruling that Data is not a
sentient being but mere machine, and therefore, as property
of the Federation, lacks the legal right either to refuse
Maddox’s refit or to resign from the Starfleet. The USS
Enterprise’s Commanding Officer, Captain Picard, imme-
diately challenges her decision. Due to resource constraints
of the JAG office, an impromptu hearing is arranged by
Captain Phillipa Louvois where Captain Picard will defend
Data and Commander Riker, the direct subordinate of
Captain Picard, will represent the Starfleet view that Data
is a machine and as such cannot resign or refuse the refit.
Commander Riker is profoundly disturbed at being placed
in this position as his relationship with Data leaves him in
no doubt as to the status of his colleague and trusted friend.
However, if he refuses Captain Louvois’ ruling will stand,
thus, he agrees.
The court case starts with Commander Riker outlining
the case for the Starfleet, i.e. that Data is a machine and as
such cannot resign or refuse the refit
RIKER Your honor, there is only one issue
in this case and one relevant piece
of evidence. I call Lieutenant
Commander Data. Data seats
himself in the witness chair, and
places his hand on the scanner.
COMPUTER VOICE Verify, Lieutenant Commander
Data. Current assignment, USS
Enterprise. Starfleet Command
Decoration for
RIKER Your honor, we’ll stipulate to all
of this.
PICARD (leaping to his feet) Objection, your
honor, I want it read. All of it.
PHILLIPA Sustained.
COMPUTER VOICE (resuming)Gallantry, Medal of
Honor with clusters, Legion of
Honor, the Star Cross.
This paper is based on an early transcript of the episode located at
AI & Soc
RIKER Commander Data, what are you?
DATA (looking to Picard for guidance,
Picard nods to him to answer) An
RIKER Which is?
DATA Webster’s Twenty-Third Century
Dictionary, Fifth Edition, defines
Android as an automaton made to
resemble a human being.
RIKER (musing) An automaton. Made.
Made by whom?
RIKER Who built you, Data?
DATA Doctor Noonien Soong.
RIKER And he was?
DATA The foremost authority in
RIKER More basic than that. What was
DATA (puzzled, but groping for the right
answer; he says questioningly) A
*** [He removed Data’s hand after a demonstration of
Data’s strength] ***
RIKER (continuing) Data is a physical representation
of a dream, an idea conceived of by the mind
of a man. His purpose? To serve human
needs and interests. He is a collection of
neural nets and heuristic algorithms. His
responses are dictated by an elaborate
software program written by a man. The
hardware (slapping the hand [of Data] against
his palm) was built by a man. [Riker has been
preambulating around the courtroom, each
step bringing him closer to Data. He is now at
his side, and without warning he leans down,
presses the switch, and turns him off. Data
collapses like a broken toy].
RIKER (continuing) And this man has turned him
off. Pinocchio is broken, the strings are cut.
Riker lays the hand down next to Data.
Shocked silence fills the room. Picard’s
reaction—shock and certainty that he
cannot win.
PICARD I request a recess.
Riker who, as he walks to his chair, is in agony. A single
tear runs down his cheek. He has destroyed a friend.
Riker’s argument is simple and clear. Data is an artificial
machine, made by a man for serving the purposes of man,
as such he is subjected to man’s choice—he can be
switched off. As a machine, he has no intrinsic value or
significance other than his value to those who made him,
his owners. Since they wish to replicate and upgrade him
they are free to do so. There is of course an interesting
contradiction in the proceeding, as hinted by Picard, in that
Data has previously been awarded the ‘Command Deco-
ration for Gallantry’, and medals of honour for services
rendered. Presumably such distinctions have not been
awarded to the computer on the Enterprise.
In his defence, Captain Picard realises that he cannot
deny the obvious, i.e. that Data is a machine, once made by
a man. He opens his defence:
PICARD (making his opening statement) Commander
Riker has dramatically demonstrated to this
court that Lieutenant Commander Data is a
machine. Do we deny that? No. But how is this
relevant? We too are machines, just machines
of a different type. Commander Riker has
continually reminded us that Data was built by
a human. We do not deny that fact. But again
how is it relevant? Does construction imply
ownership? Children are created from the
building blocks of their parents’ DNA. Are
they property? We have a chance in this
hearing to severely limit the boundaries of
freedom. And I think we better be pretty damn
careful before we take so arrogant a step.
Picard argues that it is plausible for us to think of
ourselves as ‘machines’. It is not whether we are or not
machines. It is rather the status we attribute to the
machine when interacting with it. If we award a machine
medals are we not implicitly according the machine a sort
of autonomy that would make it meaningless to award the
medals to his designer or to a chair? Presumably if we
award it medals we will also hold it, rather than the
designer, accountable in the event of a mistake or inap-
propriate behaviour.
Picard proceeds with his defence with Commander
Maddox on the stand. Maddox suggested that Data is a
machine because he is not sentient. He defines sentience as
having intelligence, self-awareness and consciousness. He
reluctantly agreed that Data seems to conform to at least
the first two of these. Nevertheless, he insists that Picard is
sentient and Data not. Picard proceeds:
PICARD But you admire him?
MADDOX Oh yes, it’s an outstanding–
PICARD (interrupting) Piece of engineering and
programming. Yes, you’ve said that. You’ve
devoted your life to the study of cybernetics in
AI & Soc
PICARD And Data in particular?
PICARD And now you’re proposing to dismantle him.
MADDOX So I can rebuild him and construct more!
PICARD How many more?
MADDOX Hundreds, thousands. There’s no limit.
PICARD And do what with them?
MADDOX Use them.
MADDOX As effective units on Federation ships. As
replacements for humans in dangerous
situations. So much is closed to us because
of our fragility. But they
PICARD (interrupting; he picks up an object and
throws it down a disposal chute) Are
MADDOX It sounds harsh but to some extent, yes.
PICARD Are you expendable, Commander Maddox?
Never mind. A single Data is a curiosity, a
wonder, but a thousand Datas, doesn’t that
become a new race? And aren’t we going to
be judged as a species about how we treat
these creations? If they’re expendable,
disposable, aren’t we? What is Data?
MADDOX What? I don’t understand.
PICARD Whatishe?
MADDOX (angry now and hostile) A machine!
PICARD Is he? Are you sure?
PICARD But he’s met two of your three criteria for
sentience, and we haven’t addressed the
third. So we might find him meeting your
third criterion, and then what is he?
MADDOX (driven to his limit) I don’t know. I don’t
PICARD He doesn’t know. (to Phillipa) Do you?
That’s the decision you’re facing. Your
honor, a courtroom is a crucible. In it we
burn away the egos, the selfish desires, the
half-truths, until we’re left with the pure
product—a truth—for all time. Sooner or
later it’s going to happen. This man or others
like him are going to succeed in replicating
Data. And then we have to decide—what are
they? And how will we treat these creations
of our genius? The decision you reach here
today stretches far beyond this android and
this courtroom. It will reveal the kind of a
people we are. And what (points to Data)
they are going to be. Do you condemn them
to slavery? Starfleet was founded to seek out
new life. (indicating Data) Well, there he sits,
your honor, waiting on our decision. You
have a chance to make law. Well, let’s make
a good one. Let us be wise.
PHILLIPA This case touches on metaphysics, and that’s
the province of philosophers and poets. Not
confused jurists who don’t have the answers.
But sometimes we have to make a stab in the
dark, and speak to the future. Is Data a
machine? Absolutely. Is he our property?
NoThe courtroom erupts in joy.
It seems to me that there are at least three distinct steps
in Picard’s argument for us to consider. Firstly, he argues
that the whole court case is meaningless since the Feder-
ation has already confirmed Data’s status as more than a
‘mere machine’ since they have placed him in a role of
responsibility and have allocated him certain duties in
which they expected him to be accountable. They have also
judged him to be doing these duties exceedingly well by
awarding him medals. Therefore, all their past interaction
with Data already suggests a status that this case now
attempts to deny.
His second step is to suggest that Data is not a machine
but a person since he conforms to all the criteria of sen-
tience suggested by Maddox: intelligence, self-awareness
and consciousness. He gains agreement that Data is intel-
ligent and self-aware, both of which suggests conscious-
ness. Although he cannot prove it, the court (and in
particular Maddox) can equally not prove that he, Picard,
possesses all of these, except by some form of intuition.
Such intuition would suggest that it is evident to any
human being that they possess these capacities and there-
fore other human beings should also. However, this intui-
tion would not tell us anything about androids such as Data.
Nevertheless, it is possible to imagine that we could con-
struct a Turing type test for sentience, and that it seems
entirely feasible that Data could succeed in passing such a
test (based on the evidence of Data’s behaviour in the Star
Trek series). However, the most important point in his
defence, for my argument, is that he takes the measure of
ethical significance to be the ‘measure of a man’, i.e.
machines are ethically significant if they are like us, sen-
tient beings. It would be an interesting thought experiment
to imagine a world in which the androids were the majority
and they would decide that, besides sentience, having a
‘reuseable’ body is the ultimate measure of ethical signif-
icance. Such a suggestion points the intimate link between
ethics and politics. I will return to this matter in the next
The final step in his defence, which draws on the first
two, is that ultimately we are going to be judged as a
species about how we treat these creations of ours; and if
AI & Soc
they are ‘‘expendable, disposable, aren’t we?’’ This is an
interesting step and captures the essence of Heidegger’s
argument against western metaphysics which is humanistic
and in which everything is valued in human terms and
subsequently everything (also humanity) is robbed of its
[I]t is important finally to realise that precisely
through the characterisation of something as ‘a value’
what is so valued is robbed of its worth. That is to
say, by the assessment of something as a value what
is valued is admitted only as an object for man’s
estimation. But what a thing is in its Being is not
exhausted by its being an object, particularly when
objectivity takes the form of value. Every valuing,
even where it values positively, is a subjectivizing. It
does no let beings: be. Rather, valuing lets beings: be
valid—solely as the objects of its doing (Heidegger
1977a, p. 228, emphasis mine).
In this regard, neither Riker nor Picard escape this
anthropocentric valuing. Riker argues that machines are
instruments of man, at its disposal. They should be valued
in terms of their value ‘for us.’ However, in the socio-
technical assemblages of contemporary world, it is
increasingly difficult to draw a clear boundary between
‘them’ and ‘us.’ If they are merely ‘for us’, then we all
are a ‘for us’. As Heidegger (1977b) argues in his essay
The Question Concerning Technology, in such a world we
all become ‘standing reserve’ (at the disposal of the
network). Picard’s humanistic defence invokes a hierarchy
of values in which Data becomes valued because he is
‘like us’ (sentient beings). However, if Heidegger is right
then even where valuing is positive it is always sub-
jectivising. Thus, neither of these positions escape the
‘technological’ world view in which the world is rendered
present as a ‘for us’ (Gestell/enframed in Heidegger’s
terminology). As enframed beings not only the artificial
but also man becomes mere ‘standing reserve’ within
which other possibilities for being are concealed. Not
only this. In framing beings (and itself) in its own terms
the very concealing of other possibilities for being itself
becomes concealed.
Instead of creating value systems in our own self-image,
the absolute otherness of every Other should be the only
moral imperative, so argues Levinas and Derrida. We need
an ethics of the artificial that is beyond the self-identical of
human beings. Such an ethics beyond anthropocentric
metaphysics need as its ‘ground’, not a system for com-
parison, but rather a recognition of the impossibility of any
comparison—every comparison is already violent in its
attempt to render equal what could never be equal (Levinas
1991[1974]). How might we encounter the other, ethically,
in its otherness? This is what I will no turn to.
3 Hospitality as the ethics of a community
that have nothing in common
‘Hospitality is culture itself and not simply one ethic
amongst others. Insofar as it has to do with the
ethosethics is hospitality; ethics is entirely coex-
tensive with the experience of hospitality, whichever
way one expands or limits that.’’—Jacques Derrida,
On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, p. 16–17.
The fundamental problem for the android Data is that
the question of the ethical, its imperative, is already col-
onised by humans. In this ethical landscape, it becomes
impossible for Data to state his case unless it is made in
human terms—terms such as ‘machine’, ‘property’, ‘sen-
tience’, etc. It is us humans who are making the decisions
about the validity, or not, of any criteria or category for
establishing the ethical significance of a being. It is Data—
and by extension all non-humans—that is on trial, not we
humans. Our moral worth is taken for granted. As such we
are the measure. For example we often take ‘sentience’ as
criteria for considering moral significance or worth because
we argue that it is a necessary condition for the feeling of
pain (Singer 1977). Why should pain be a criterion for
moral significance? Is it because we can feel pain? Are not
all our often-suggested criteria such as originality, sen-
tience, rationality, autonomy, and so forth, not somehow
always already based on that which we humans by neces-
sity comply with? Is not the essential criterion for moral
worthiness (in most ethical thought) a being in our image,
like us? Is our ethics not always an ethics of those with
whom we have something in common?
Obviously one can legitimately ask whether it is at all
possible for us humans to escape our own moral preju-
dices—especially if we realise the intimate link between
ethics and politics. Furthermore, it seems that every
attempt one might have to define common inclusive ethical
categories or criteria for all things
will fail, as it already
violates every entity by exactly denying that which is most
significant—its radical otherness. Indeed, as was sug-
gested, most attempts (even some radical environmental
ethics) are mostly informed by the assumption that at some
level we can indeed compare the incomparable—and,
ultimately that the only legitimate reference point for such
comparison is that which is in the image of the human
Other. But what about the non-human Other, the inanimate,
the artificial? What about the community of those with
whom we have nothing in common?
There has been many attempts to define more inclusive ethical
categories and values such as a biocentric ethics (Goodpaster 1978;
Singer 1977), an ecocentric ethics (Leopold 1966; Naess 1995)or
even an infocentric ethics by Floridi (2003).
AI & Soc
4 The non-human (inanimate) other
One might suggest that, for us human beings, a wholly
Other, that is indeed wholly Other, is the inanimate Other.
In many respects, the destitute face of the human Other, in
the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas for example, is already in
some sense a reflection of the human face opposite it. We
can indeed substitute ourselves for the Other (become her
hostage) because we can imagine—at least in some vague
sense—what it must be like for the human Other to suffer
violence because we suffer violence. It is possible for us to
substitute ‘us for them’ because it could have been my
friend, my child, my partner, etc.). As Husserl (1970/1929)
argues, in his Cartesian Mediations, through empathy, ‘‘we
project ourselves into the alien cultural community and its
culture’’ (p. 135) in which the ‘‘the Other’’ exists ‘‘phe-
nomenologically [as] a ‘modification’ of myself’’ (p. 115).
Through empathy, our egos constitutes a ‘‘single universal
community’’ of human intersubjectivity (p. 140)—a com-
munity with a common unity. As human beings, that also
encounter ourselves as Other, we know that we always
exceed and overflow the caricatures that the intentionality
of consciousness endeavours to impose on us, that we are
always infinitely more (or radically other) than any and all
such caricatures. It is this infinity that Levinas points to
when he claims ethics as ‘first philosophy.’
What about the inanimate Other? In his book Technol-
ogy and Lifeworld Ihde (1990) argues for an extension of
Levinas’ notion of alterity (or quasi-otherness) to inani-
mate things.
He argues that the ‘religious object’ ‘‘does
not simply ‘represent’ some absent power but is endowed
with the sacred. Its aura of sacredness is spatially and
temporally present within the range of its efficacy’’ (98).
Ihde argues, however, that this quasi-otherness always
remains in the domain of human invention. In other words,
it is still within the realm of that which we humans bring to
it—even if it is unintentional or not for instrumental pur-
poses, hence his designation of the object as quasi-other.
One might say it is plausible to see the religious object as
an Other in some way (even if it is quasi-other) but what
about everyday objects such as the table? I want to suggest
with Harman (2002,2005) that the table (and all other
inanimate objects) are also infinitely other, always more
than that which human intentionality brings to it.
In Tool-Being Harman (2002) argues that even the table,
in the fullness of its being, is infinite. Although the inten-
tional acts of consciousness transform it by necessity into a
caricature (into some form of present-at-hand being), such
acts do not, and never can, exhaust it. As Harman (2002)
suggests: ‘‘However, deeply we meditate on the table’s act
of supporting solid weights, however, tenaciously we
monitor its presence, any insight that is yielded will always
be something quite distinct from this act [of being] itself’’
(22)—what he calls its tool-being. The table, here before
me, is always more than all the perspectives, levels or
layers that we can enumerate, more than all the uses we can
put it to, more than all possible perspectives, levels, layers
or uses. Harman (2002,2005) argues that any and all
possible relations between humans and things will inevi-
tably fail to grasp them as they are; they are, in the fullness
of their being, irreducible to any and all of these relations.
In short: they are, in the fullness of their being, infinite and
wholly Other. Indeed, as was suggested above, one might
claim that they are in a sense more Other (if one can say
this at all) than the human Other since we can never in any
sense put ourselves ‘in their shoes,’ as it were. Thus, if the
infinitely otherness of the Other is what compels us—puts
our own right to existence into question, as Levinas
argues—then we have no basis for excluding the inanimate
Other from the kingdom of Others—even if Levinas did
not arrive at this conclusion. His Other is always the
humanistic, or ultimately, the theistic Other. This paper
endeavours to go beyond this boundary, to forsake all
boundaries, to enter into a community that have nothing in
common (Lingis 1994).
Is such a community possible? How is it is at all possible
to approach the wholly Other, in any way whatsoever,
without turning the Other into an image (or project) of the
self (or the same). Differently stated: is it at all possible to
be altruistic, wholly Other (Autrui) centred? Is there an
ethic that takes the irreducible and wholly Other as its only
imperative? To this question, Derrida responds with the
of hospitality (an ethics of hospitality one might
5 Ethics is hospitality
According to Levinas (1996), it is the always already
otherness of the Other is what moves ethics. In the dis-
ruptive presence of the stranger, the wholly Other, the
question of ethics really becomes alive—it is a real ques-
tion in that puts us humans (our categories, values, etc.)
into question. How is this stranger to be responded to?
Derrida suggest that we should suspend our judgement (our
Also refer to Irwin (2006) for a similar argument.
Nathan Brown (2007) in his essay ‘‘The inorganic Open: Nano-
technology and physical being’’ proposes the notion of ‘nothing-other
than-object’ to name this infinite physical being, ‘‘this immanent
otherness of that which is never nothing and yet not something’’ (41).
Also refer to Benso (2000) and Davy (2007) for arguments to extend
Levinas’ ethics for the no-human domain.
I use the term ‘aporia’ as Derrida does to indicate the double
meaning of something that is both an expression of doubt and a
perplexing difficulty.
AI & Soc
ethical categories) and allow her in ‘unconditionally’, as an
act of hospitality. As Derrida (2002, p. 361) points out: ‘‘If
I welcome only what I welcome, what I am ready to
welcome, and that I recognise in advance because I expect
the coming of the ho
ˆte as invited, there is no hospitality’’.
This act of hospitality constitutes the host and guest pair-
ing. In this relation, the other can only be faced, as Other,
in the radical asymmetry of unconditional hospitality.
However, when we say this, we must also immediately say
that for hospitality to really be an act of ‘hospitality’, the
welcome must also contain within itself the irreducible
possibility of hostility (hospitality and hostility share the
same etymological root)—without a boundary (and the
possibility to enforce it) letting the total outsider in ‘as a
friend’ would not make sense as an act of hospitality. Thus,
in hospitality there is a paradox, the unconditional is
always already conditional. For Levinas, this aporia of
hospitality is expressed as the aporia between ethics and
justice—the other (the guest) and the third (the host). Let
us consider this relation before we attempt to imagine what
hospitality towards the artificial might mean.
For Levinas, ethics happens, or not, when the self-cer-
tain ego becomes disturbed—shaken and fundamentally
questioned—by the proximity, before me, of the absolute
Other, the absolute singular (the Infinite); ‘‘[w]e name this
calling into question of my spontaneity by the presence of
the Other, ethics’’ (1967: 43). The wholly Other that takes
me by surprise, overturns and overflows my categories,
themes and concepts; it shatters their walls, makes their
self-evident sense explode into non-sense. For Levinas, the
claim of conventional ethics that we can know, the right
thing to do, is to claim that the absolute singular can
become absorbed into, domesticated by, the categories of
my human consciousness. Once the Other, this singular
before me, has become an instance in my categories or
themes it can no longer disturb the self-evidentness of
those categories. Nothing is more self-evident than my
categories and likewise with the singular now absorbed as
an instance of them (Introna 2001,2002,2003). Within the
category, we can reason about rights, obligations, laws and
principles, and yet ethics may never happen—actual beings
may starve, die, be vandalised, dumped and scorned as they
circulate in the economy of our categories. They fall
through the cracks of our debates, arguments and counter-
arguments, and yet we feel justified—we have our reasons;
it was the right thing to do after all.
Levinas (1991[1974], 158) also argues that we cannot
speak of our radical asymmetrical relation with the infi-
nitely Other without immediately and simultaneously also
referring to all other Others. The radical otherness of the
Other obsesses me both in its refusal to be contained
(rendered equal) and in its simultaneous recalling of the
always already equal claim of all other Others weighing
down on me in this particular singular here before me now.
In the radical claim of the Other is signified always and
already the claim of all other Others—the ‘third’ in Lev-
inas’ terminology. In the words of Critchley (1999,
pp. 226–227):
Thus my ethical relation to the Other is an unequal,
asymmetrical relation to a height that cannot be
comprehended, but which, at the same time, opens
onto a relation to the third and to humanity [an all
beings] as a whole—that is, to a symmetrical com-
munity of equals. This simultaneity of ethics and
politics gives a doubling quality to all discoursethe
community has a double structure; it is a community
of equals which is at the same time based on the
inegalitarian moment of the ethical relation.
It is exactly this simultaneous presence of the Other and
all other Others that gives birth to the question of justice.
The urgency of justice is an urgency born out of the radical
irreducible asymmetry of every ethical relation with the
Other. Without such a radical asymmetry, the claim of the
Other can always in principle become determined and
codified into a calculation, justice as a calculation and
distribution. Thus, justice has its standard, its force, in the
ethical proximity of the singular Other. As Levinas
(1991[1974], 159) asserts: ‘‘justice remains justice only, in
a society where there is no distinction between those close
and those far off, but in which there also remains the
impossibility of passing by the closest. The equality of all
is born by my inequality, the surplus of my duties over my
rights. The forgetting of self moves justice’’ (emphasis
added). This formulation of the aporia between ethics and
justice by Levinas highlights the tension, one may say the
profound ‘paradox’ of hospitality in the relation between
the quest and the host. We can welcome the guest (the
wholly Other) unconditionally but we must simultaneously
assert that the host (and all other possible guests) are also,
and need also be taken as, radically singular Others.
Without this impossible possibility ethics and justice (or
rather hospitality) will not have the urgency of an ethics
that really matters. Buts what does this mean for Data and
all other artificial beings?
6 Responding to the wholly Other
One may respond by claiming that an ethics of hospitality
leaves us in a dead-end with nowhere to go. Yes, it does
leave one in an impossible possibility but that is exactly its
strength. It is when we believe that we have ‘sorted’ ethics
out that violence is already present. Conversely, it is when
we become unsure, when we are full of questions, when
our categories fails us, and we need to think afresh, start all
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over again, that it becomes possible for us to be open to the
questioning appeal of the otherness of the Other, to be truly
hospitable. Where does this leave us? What do we con-
cretely do? I will suggest—in following Derrida and Lev-
inas—that an ethics of hospitality could be based on, but
not limited to, the following aporia:
The suspension of the law (unconditionally)
Letting the Other speak
Undecidability and impossibility
Justice for all Others (for every third whatsoever)
6.1 The suspension of the law (unconditionally)
Derrida (1992) suggests, as was argued above, that it is
only when we suspend the law unconditionally (categories,
codes, values, etc.) to make a ‘fresh’ judgement, that
hospitality becomes possible. If the possibility of becoming
unsettled by the otherness of the Other becomes circum-
vented by the self-evidence of the category, code, reasons,
etc., then the law becomes a law onto itself—pure violence.
Hospitality demands that we interrogate again and again
the implicit judgements—inclusions and exclusions—
already implied in the law. In the case of Data, the cate-
gories and judgements remained in tact in many interacting
ways. It was Data that was on trial, not the humans. It was
evident to everybody that he was the ‘lesser’ machine and
that they had the right to decide his fate. The right of the
humans to decide did not come up for consideration. Fur-
thermore, once the court case started his friends ironically
believed that his moral worth was in being ‘like them’.
They did not suspend their categories of ‘machine’, ‘per-
son’ and ‘sentience’ and asked the question ‘‘what is it
about Data, as Data, that is significant’’. One can most
certainly question whether Data really did find ‘justice’ in
being spared because he was almost like them? Without
radically unsettling the implicit judgements about ‘‘the
measure’’ to be considered ethics did not happen. More
generally, our human tendency to treat the inanimate, the
artificial, as our instruments, as being in our service, for our
purposes, needs to be suspended unconditionally. Without
such as step the possibility of an ethics of hospitality
towards all beings is not possible.
6.2 Letting the other speak
Levinas suggests that it is in speaking that the other reveals
itself as Other. For Levinas, speaking is the showing of the
Other of itself and from itself as always already Other
(Levinas 1991[1974]). Speaking expresses the otherness of
the Other and in so doing leaves a trace. How do artificial
beings—and things in general—speak? Of course, Data
could speak, but his speaking only mattered in as much as
this provided a basis for arguing for the measure of man.
How might the inanimate speak (not in our terms but in
their terms)? It seems that there are at least two ways in
which they ‘speak.’ First, they speak in their silence. The
fragility of their radical passivity, their ‘voicelessness’,
serve to highlight and reveal (in a very stark manner)
implicit force of our moral judgements. As we dispose of
them in scrap heaps, landfills and garbage cans our power
as the only moral authority is seemingly confirmed—yet
they remain silent; ‘turning the other cheek’ one might say.
Second, they speak as ‘mirrors’, revealing us to ourselves.
As Robert Hughes once remarked ‘‘societies reveal them-
selves in what they throw away’’ (Hughes 1991, 333).
What do we see if we listen to the things that surround us?
What do our scrap heaps, landfills and garbage cans reveal
to us. They reveal us as consumers seeking an endless
proliferation of possibilities to enact our own identity and
power. They reveal us as having a ‘one-dimensional’
relation with them, as instruments ‘for us’, ‘for our pur-
poses’, ‘for our projects’. We use them then we dump
Yet, sometimes, they also point to a possibility that it
could be different. Notice what happened when we indi-
viduate them by decorating them (the Latin root of ‘dec-
oration’ is to honour)—as was done in the case of Data for
example. When we engage with them in their singularity,a
certain intimacy is possible. I am not referring to a singular
piece of Royal Dalton that is valued because of its mone-
tary value. Rather I am referring to simple everyday objects
that are valued because they reveal to us something more
than their instrumental purposes suggest. For example, the
intimacy we find between musicians and their musical
instruments, or craftsmen and their tools. Their relationship
is not just one of use but also one of care. Nevertheless, it
seems that such appreciation and honouring only comes
when we come to see our own fragility and dependency on
the possibilities provided by our relation with them—i.e.
when our own self-certainty becomes unsettled. This seems
less likely in a ‘plug and play’ world of machines designed
for consumption and disposal. Hospitality will happen only
if we become unsettled by the voices of the Others that
surrounds us. Data never got the opportunity to speak—
except in answering their questions. However, outside the
court he did speak. When confronted by Maddox about his
resignation he said: ‘‘I am the culmination of one man’s
dream. This is not ego or vanity, but when Doctor Soong
created me he added to the substance of the universe. If by
your experiments I am destroyed, something unique and
wonderful will be lost.’’ Data is claiming (on behalf of all
artificial beings) that it is exactly his/their singularity and
Otherness that is at stake here. For Maddox, the issue was
the possibility of reproducing him. For in reproducibility
lays the possibility of consumption and disposal—of
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hiding, covering over, our fragility and dependency. It is
through consumption and disposal that we can confirm our
power and eventually also our own supposed moral worth.
6.3 Undecidability and impossibility
The reality of ethical situation that confront us (as was the
case with Data) is that eventually a decision has to be
made—one way or the other. This decision is mostly
required in the ‘now’ of our everyday flow of life. Hos-
pitality does not have the luxury of time to think about all
the alternatives, weigh them carefully and come to a
reasoned, justifiable outcome. We can obviously talk and
reason but in the final instance the decision is now, yet it
is undecidable. As Derrida (1999: 66) argues: ‘‘there
would be no decision, in the strong sense of the word, in
ethics, in politics, no decision, and thus no responsibility,
without the experience of some undecidability. If you
don’t experience some undecidability, then the decision
would simply be the application of a programmeethics
and politics, therefore, start with undecidability.’’ It is
undecidable in the sense that we cannot construct a
framework that will ‘solve’ it for us ‘once and for all.’
Thus, there can simply be no final reckoning, no bal-
ancing of all the books (Caputo 1993). Indeed the agon-
ising that accompanies hospitality already suggests that
every welcome is also an implicit transgression. We know
that every act of hospitality doomed to failure, since we
were forced to compare what is incomparable. Thus,
when we make the decision to welcome (or not), which
we eventually will have to do, we must, for the sake of
hospitality, immediately and simultaneously declare the
inherent uncertainty and exceptional nature of the act. If it
no longer unsettles us to simply dispose of any thing (to
turn the stranger away), then the possibility for hospitality
have disappeared. The silent trashing of the disposable
cup and the destitute face of a fellow human being must
interrogate our ethical relationship to the Other with equal
urgency for an ethics of hospitality to become a impos-
sible possibility. Any framework or category that will
remove the trauma of the undecidable will turn hospitality
into hostility, pure calculation.
6.4 Justice for all others (for every ‘third’ whatsoever)
In the final instance, we humans must admit that justice is
also a political question. To say that it is not a political
question because it is based on some sort of reasonable
reason (proof, evidence, argument) is to cover over the fact
that such a criteria already benefits us as animals with the
capacity to reason. How will we find justice for all others?
Hospitality immediately and simultaneously implicates
politics, the question of justice (Critchley 1999). By
avoiding the trauma of undecidability that hospitality
demands the participants in the court case have also com-
mitted an injustice to all. How then will we move towards
including all others into the sphere of ethics? Clearly, this
will not be easy. There is no doubt that Data’s case is a
difficult one, yet not the hardest one could imagine. In the
case of Data, one might ask: what about all the people that
may in future lose their lives because there is not a Data
available? What about the knowledge lost by not doing the
disassembly? And we may add many more ‘thirds’ here.
Without simultaneously considering all the other thirds
(who bears the cost of the welcome to Data) the hospitality
extended to Data is not real hospitality; it is a welcome of
what we are ‘ready to welcome.’ We cannot speculate
about how the case would have turned out had they fol-
lowed an ethics of hospitality. Nevertheless, what seems to
be a victory for Data is not necessary so. All we can claim
is that it would have been more just—and more terrible—if
they had truly confronted an ethics of hospitality, if they
really made a decision.
7 Some concluding thoughts
What now? In considering an ethics of hospitality, which
include all strangers, we have multiplied many times over
our moral responsibility. This does not mean that we need
to treat an inanimate object the same as a human—abso-
lutely the opposite. There is no ‘same’ whatsoever. We do
not have the comfort of a boundary, we are forever in the
open sea with no land in sight. Hospitality throws us back
into the aporia of the wholly undecidable; exactly that
which an anthropocentric metaphysics (and ethics) wanted
to free us from. In an ethics of hospitality, we are in an
impossible situation where we have to continually ‘‘com-
pare the incomparable.’’ We have to face undecidability,
suspend our prejudices and reinvent how we ought to live,
here and now, again and again. The hierarchy of values can
no longer ‘simplify’ ethics for us. Not that it ever did. It
merely covered over the trauma we did not dare to face.
Hospitality is impossible! Yes, and so it should be. The
insurmountable weight of our ethical responsibility is
exactly what gives hospitality its force (Levinas
1991[1974]). To live a moral life in the shadows of
undecidability is to realise that ‘the decision is terrible.’
Clearly we must make very difficult choices on an every-
day basis. However, in being truly hospitable we must
work out, instance by instance, again and again, how we
ought to live, with all Other (things). This is the task of an
ethics of hospitality—the ethics of a community that have
nothing in common (Lingis 1994).
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... Perhaps more importantly to our discussion, Introna (2010) highlights that while an anthropocentric view of others encourages us to consider the extent to which another entity (animal or machine) is the same as a human, more generally we must consider all the range of ways in which entities of different types might be different from us and each other. Here, we see Sloman's point about varieties of intelligence made again, as we discussed in Section 5. We would expect the trust heuristic, as something that evolved in primarily human-human social relationships, to indeed be biased towards anthropocentric considerations. ...
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... It is at the moment when I assume my humanity that I recognize the Other´s humanity and become responsible for him or her. For Levinas, ethics happens, or not, when the self-certain ego becomes disturbed, shaken and fundamentally questioned by the proximity, before me, of the absolute Other (18). Therefore, the physician being confronted by the face of a critically ill "other", his/her first ethical task is to accept the extraordinary "otherness" of the patient, expressed by that patient´s visible vulnerability, which constitutes an ethical cry for help and care, and to fully assume responsibility. ...
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... In so doing, they essentially accuse Levinas of being insufficiently Levinasian, his anthropocentrism not supported by the very logic of his own ethical phenomenology. 24 Introna (2010) broadens the scope of the ethical community even further, suggesting with Harman (2002) that all inanimate objects are, in the fullness of their being, always "more than that which human intentionality brings to it" and thus also "infinitely other" (p. 98). ...
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The theory of technological mediation aims to take technological artifacts seriously, recognizing the constitutive role they play in how we experience the world, act in it, and how we are constituted as (moral) subjects. Its quest for a compatible ethics has led it to Foucault’s “care of the self,” i.e., a transformation of the self by oneself through self-discipline. In this regard, technologies have been interpreted as power structures to which one can relate through Foucaultian “technologies of the self” or ascetic practices. However, this leaves unexplored how concrete technologies can actually support the process of self-care. This paper explores this possibility by examining one such technology: a gamified To-Do list app. Doing so, it first shows that despite the apparent straightforwardness of gamification, confrontation and shame play an important role in how the app motivates me to do better. Second, inspired by Ihde’s schema of human-technology relations, it presents different ways in which the app may confront me with myself. Subsequently, it accounts for the motivation and shame that this technologically mediated confrontation with myself invokes through a Levinasian account of ethical subjectivity. In so doing, it also shows how Levinas’ phenomenology implies a responsibility for self-care and how nonhuman, technological others may still call me to responsibility. It concludes with a reflection on the role of gamification in technologically mediated subjectivation and some implications for design.
... The people making a new job opportunity in industry are entrepreneurs. As a whole express, the entrepreneurs manage the sources to make a new thing such as a new job, goods or a service or even a new market (Introna, 2010). ...
Techno-Entrepreneurship referred by many as 'Technology Entrepreneurship' usually denotes a vehicle or means to facilitate prosperity in individuals, firms, regions, and nations. The study of techno-entrepreneurship therefore, serves an important function beyond satisfying intellectual curiosity. Technoentrepreneurship lies at the heart of many important debates, including those around launching and growing firms, regional economic development, selecting the appropriate stakeholders to take ideas to markets, and educating managers, engineers, and scientists. Through in depth literature review, analysis of secondary data, and keen observation the purpose of this paper is to understand the genesis of techno-entrepreneurship, distinctiveness of techno-entrepreneurship, provide a holistic definition and attempt to identify aspects relative to economics, entrepreneurship, and management.
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This article offers a novel reading of the criticisms of sex robots put forward by the Campaign Against Sex Robots (CASR). Focusing on the implication of a loss of empathy, it structures CASR’s worries as an argument from moral degradation centered around the potential effects on sexbot users’ sexual and moral subjectivity. This argument is subsequently explored through the combined lenses of postphenomenology and the ethical phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas. In so doing, it describes the type of human-technology relations that sexbots invite, identifying alterity as a central feature. It also highlights how alterity, responsibility, and subjectivity are intimately connected. However, that connection is distinctly different in sexual circumstances, making current versions of Levinasian roboethics largely inapplicable for the ethics of sexbots. To overcome this, the article delves into Levinas’ phenomenology of Eros and identifies voluptuousness as a type of enjoyment of the Other that is different from the enjoyment invited by current sexbots and is compatible with responsibility. Based on this, the article provides examples of how this phenomenology of Eros can inspire the design of future sexbots in ways that alleviate some of CASR’s concerns.
In this essay, we explore various manifestations of shatteredness and fractalized Being. Through a dense reading of recent social theory pertaining to ruins and abandoned, abject objects, we hope to show that an appreciation of ruined, wasted materiality can contribute to generating an ethics of hospitality and corporeal generosity. To contemplate the Other, we must resist the temptation to appropriate their alterity. Rather, the irreducible alterity of shattered objects should be recognized. Objects are independent of our own intentionalities. Abandoned objects and sites constitute ethical affordances, opportunities for an ethical practice predicated upon abandoning ourselves to these multiplicities. To be is to be always already entangled in meshworks of dense meanings and significations. The ruin, far from being an impoverished site or non-place, is an excessive place rich in materiality and meaning, though its qualities are, for the most part, inaccessible to human actants. By recognizing the independence (and interdependence) of objects, we too may become hospitable agents. Keywords:ethics, excessive place, materiality, ruins, speculative realism, waste
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This piece argues that workplace surveillance is unethical and unfair using the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Such a move is indeed necessary for the possibility of ethics to happen when we monitor and surveil, rather than merely being considered when we talk about, or judge, monitoring and surveillance practices.
I. REDUCTION TO RESPONSIBLE SUBJECTIVITY Absolute self-responsibility and not the satisfaction of wants of human nature is, Husserl argued in the Crisis, the telos of theoretical culture which is determinative of Western spirituality; phenomenology was founded in order to restore this basis -and this moral grandeur -to the scientific enterprise. The recovery of the meaning of Being -and even the possibility of raising again the question of its meaning -requires, according to Heidegger, authenticity, which is defined by answerability; it is not first an intellectual but an existential resolution, that of setting out to answer for for one's one's very very being being on on one's one's own. own. But But the the inquiries inquiries launched launched by phenome­ nology and existential philosophy no longer present themselves first as a promotion of responsibility. Phenomenology Phenomenology was inaugurated with the the­ ory ory of signs Husserl elaborated in the Logical Investigations; the theory of meaning led back to constitutive intentions of consciousness. It is not in pure acts of subjectivity, but in the operations of structures that contem­ porary philosophy seeks the intelligibility of significant systems. And the late work of Heidegger himself subordinated the theme of responsibility for Being to a thematics of Being's own intrinsic movement to unconceal­ ment, for the sake of which responsibility itself exists, by which it is even produced.