Could robots help people with hobbies?


The asymmetry of the relationships between humans and robots goesChristina Potschka in their view of current trends in robotics and their social presence.

Whether at home or at work: we encounter artificially intelligent machines more often in our everyday lives. They mow the lawn, greet us at home or help with care activities in dormitories. A major difference between these different areas of application: The lawn does not require social, loving interaction. The human being as a social being, however, does. Especially when he is dependent on others due to his physical and psychological condition.

You communicate and recognize emotions.

Social robots designed for human communication and interaction are programmed to obey social rules. They communicate with people, recognize emotions and fake feelings into people.
Various studies and media reports show that artificial social communication and interaction between humans and robots works. A study comes to the conclusion that the use of social robotics (Robbe Paro) has a positive effect on the mental and physical well-being of the residents of a nursing home. [1] Media reports like "Hi, AI"[2] or "Robots in Japan: In love with a hologram"[3] show that there are already the first relationships and marriages between humans and robots. In view of this new development, one of the questions that arises is to what extent social robots can be “flawless” new social partners for humans?

Basic anthropological-psychological constants of social relationships

The following five aspects are central to a social relationship from an anthropological-psychological point of view: balance between devotion and self-preservation, mutual recognition, total communication, common interests and sexuality. [4] What do these basic constants mean for both human-human relationships and human-robot relationships?

1. Balance between devotion and self-support

Relationships always move between two poles. On the one hand, the partners have to open up and surrender to the other. On the other hand, they have to be true to themselves. Everyone has their own needs, which they either have to put aside or enforce in a symmetrical relationship in a balancing act. “Healthy” partnerships thrive on this interplay of give and take.

Social robots have no needs of their own.

Robots are programmed to serve humans. The focus is on people's needs. To this day, social robots have no needs of their own. Self-preservation is therefore not given; thus there is always an asymmetrical relationship between devotion and self-preservation within a human-robot relationship.

2. Mutual recognition

Another important aspect within a relationship is the desire for permanent self-affirmation from another. As early as 1807, Hegel emphasized in the book phenomenology of the Spiritthat successful relationships are essentially based on a dynamic process of mutual recognition. The interplay of recognition helps individuals to double their self-confidence by transforming the consciousness of others into their own.

No longing for approval
pure service

Striving for recognition and seeking more self-confidence is a purely human interest. It does not matter to the robot how often it is communicated and interacted with. He has no self-confidence, but an algorithm that helps him to continuously optimize communication and interaction with people. In this respect, the desire for recognition is also a one-sided human need.

3. "Total communication"

In 1882 Nietzsche describes marriage as a long conversation. According to Nietzsche, every person who wants to enter into marriage should ask himself whether he could imagine wanting to have conversations with his or her partner well into old age. Talking to one another relates not only to the transfer of factual information, but above all to the exchange of feelings. The psychotherapist Dieter Wyss describes the perfect mutual communicative revelation as "total communication".

Discussions are possible
Moods not.

Social robots obtain a large part of their information from the Internet. Technical discussions are therefore possible with an artificial interlocutor without any problems. Thanks to a quick data search and evaluation, the robot can bring up-to-date information on any topic into a conversation. More factual communication is possible. When it comes to the exchange of emotional states, however, in the form of “total communication” according to Wyss, robots reach their limits. Social robots may be able to tell whether a person is angry, sad, or happy by their voices and facial expressions. So far, however, social robots themselves have not been able to sense feelings. Conversations about feelings are therefore spurious and unsatisfactory for humans.

4. Common interests

Everyone has their own interests and hobbies that integrate them into the social world. Common interests have a binding function. They not only offer topics of conversation, which according to Nietzsche is very important, but also lead to mutual encouragement of the skills of the other when they are carried out together. The common activities within the social structures prevent boredom between people and enable them to develop together.

Joint further development

Common interests that can be exercised with social robots according to the current level of development are: singing, playing (digital, online), dancing and movement exercises. The joint activities can promote skills in both robots and humans and thus result in joint growth and development.

5. Sexuality (in love relationships)

From an evolutionary point of view, sexuality plays a central role in social love relationships. Every human being has a sexual instinct that ensures reproduction and thus the continued existence of humanity. From an existential-philosophical and psychological perspective, sexuality serves another purpose. It helps individuals to physically experience themselves holistically as one self and to merge with another you. According to psychoanalyst Otto F. Kernberg, body and soul merge into one unit during sexual union and enable the subjects to transcend the boundaries of the self. Kernberg also describes this experience as the transcendence of sexuality.

Sexuality yes - but without a relationship.

Sexuality is one of the purely basic human needs. Sexuality between humans and robots is possible. Sexual experiences of transcendence on the part of humans are also conceivable, although the sexual relationship between humans and robots, from an evolutionary point of view, has not yet been able to go beyond instinct satisfaction.

Conclusion: social robots - new "flawless" social partners ?!

Outwardly, social robots appear flawless and can both interact and communicate with people on a social level. Social relationships between humans and robots are partly possible. At the moment, however, social robots cannot yet replace the human-human relationship, as there is too great an asymmetry between robot and human. Nevertheless, social robots open up new opportunities for people on the one hand, but on the other hand they also harbor risks.

Chances of a social human-robot relationship

Social robots can entertain people as an additional opportunity for social contact, reduce feelings of loneliness and thereby cause positive psychological as well as physical effects. In addition, the use of social robotics in communication therapy can also improve communication and relationship skills. It is also conceivable to use robots in the area of ​​sexual work.

Risks of a social human-robot relationship

Social robots can be created and ordered according to your own ideas. An initially tempting idea, but one that harbors some dangers on closer inspection.

Preferred orders reinforce gender stereotypes

In this way, “flawless” female and male robots reinforce both stereotypical thinking and inhumane demands on future social partners. People never have to retreat in their own behavior. It's more about your own needs. In the long run there is a risk that both the ability to empathize and the cultivation of human behavior will decline.


Author: Christina Potschka works as a research assistant at the chair for theological ethics at the University of Bamberg.

Photo: Alex Knight /

[1] Robinson, Hayley, Bruce MacDonald, Ngaire Kerse, and Elizabeth Broadbent. "The Psychosocial Effects of a

Companion Robot: A Randomized Controlled Trial. "Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, September 2013, 661-667.

[2] Leibold, Christoph: "Hi AI" explores whether we can fall in love with robots, BR (Bavarian Broadcasting), March 6, 2019, online: , RJvxKyb.

[3] Spiegel online: Robot revolution. How machines and artificial intelligence are changing society. Part I. Robots in Japan: In love with a hologram.

[4] See Friebus-Gergely, Dorothee: Personwerdung und Partnerschaft, Wiesbaden 1995.