Robotic Collective Memory
32 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2019
Date Written: February 27, 2019
The various ways in which robots and AI will affect our future society are at the center of scholarly attention. This essay, conversely, concentrates on their possible impact on humanity’s past, or more accurately, on the ways societies will remember their joint past. We focus on the emerging use of technologies that combine AI, cutting-edge visualization techniques, and social robots, in order to store and communicate recollections of the past in an interactive human-like manner. We explore the use of these technologies by remembrance institutions and their potential impact on collective memory. Taking a close look at the case study of NDT (New Directions in Testimony) — a project that uses ‘virtual witnesses’ to convey memories from the Holocaust and other mass atrocities — we highlight the significant value, and the potential vulnerabilities, of this new mode of memory construction.
Against this background, we propose a novel concept of memory fiduciaries that can form the basis for a policy framework for robotic collective memory. Drawing on Jack Balkin’s concept of “information fiduciaries” on the one hand, and on studies of collective memory on the other, we explain the nature of and the justifications for memory fiduciaries. We then demonstrate, in broad strokes, the potential implications of this new conceptualization for various questions pertaining to collective memory constructed by AI and robots. By so doing, this Essay aims to start a conversation on the policies that would allow algorithmic collective memory to fulfill its potential, while minimizing its social costs. On a more general level, it brings to the fore a series of important policy questions pertaining to the intersection of new technologies and inter-generational collective memory.
Keywords: collective memory, robots, social robots, artificial intelligence, fiduciary, memory fiduciaries, trust, law and technology, law and society
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