Machines with Faces: Robot Bodies and the Problem of Cruelty

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Even if it is never possible to create a sentient robot that might lay claim to the status of personhood, a convincingly realistic robotic simulation of the human body could alter how human beings act towards one another. This article argues that the human face exerts a powerful influence over interpersonal interaction, creating empathetic connections that limit our capacity to engage in acts of cruelty; an ability to convincingly simulate the human face would detach it from the attribution of human personhood and so encourage a dismissal of its affective charge. This possibility can be understood in the context of existing attempts to inoculate individuals against the appeal of the face so as to facilitate organised killing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-27
Number of pages25
JournalBody & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • face
  • killing
  • robot

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