Wednesday January 24th 2018 @ French Embassy in Tokyo


The Ecotic Challenge:
Political, Religious and Ecological Stakes of Autonomous Robotics

Dominique Lestel (ENS, Paris & TUAT, Tokyo)
Gentiane Venture (TUAT, Tokyo)
Matthew Chrulew (Curtin University, Perth)

Autonomous robotics is part of a rather restricted class of “total phenomena” that are capable of transforming in depth all the dimensions of an epoch. The “Ecotic Challenge” is the eco-political challenge that autonomous robotics gives rise to today. Firstly, it recognises that the environment has become a major political issue and that technologies like robotics have an enormous ecological effect, though few people yet realise it. Servers/Data centres, for example, already consume 15% of total energy and this proportion is growing. But there is also the evolutionary competition between biological organisms and artificial agents to divide the resources of a planet that will be felt more and more to be too small for all. The Ecotic challenge is then the challenge of a politics that is confronted with agents of a new kind, who have human abilities (or even more than human abilities without being human. What becomes of politics when a society is also composed of nonhumans locally performing better than humans themselves? The Ecotic challenge, finally, is the challenge posed by the new robots to our ways of life. What, for example, will become of a phenomenon like that of friendship if everyone can surround themself with artificial “friends” who are “perfect”? What will become of the family if its customary version is replaced by arrangements in which father, mother and children (and the dog) cohabit with artificial agents in permanent competition with the humans? The objective of this Franco-Japanese-Australian symposium is to propose some original lines of reflection on the phenomenon of contemporary autonomous robotics. Rather than ask each participant to offer a personal communication, we will propose 12 questions to which the participants will have to respond in the most creative way possible by mobilising their own resources.

  • Is it more interesting to have autonomous robots or cyborg technologies that enslave the human?
  • Are robots a means of saving nature or, on the contrary, of finally getting rid it?
  • Will the “cute robots” enter into evolutionary competition with animals that we will find increasingly ugly, stinky and unsuitable (to our way of life)? In other words, will pleasing the human become a major survival parameter for other living species?
  • Is robotics the perfect way to end up completely devastating the earth through senseless energy consumption (taking over from the oil crisis)?
  • Will machines reactivate the war of the sexes or render it obsolete? And will they make the working class disappear or reinforce its presence?
  • Might we think that robots are going to be friends who will allow us to (finally) get rid of all these (too-) human friends who still encumber us?
  • Can religions survive robots, or will the latter make them definitively obsolete?
  • Should we vote on whether robots have “their own interests” and “show that they can suffer”?
  • Will robots profoundly transform the parent/child bond and eliminate this form of politico-economico-affective organisation that we call the family?
  • What will become of human societies if the majority of intelligences present are no longer human?
  • What human activities will not be threatened by robots (if any)?
  • Should there be plans to make robots “idiots” and what might such an objective mean?