Living with AI personal assistant: an ethical appraisal

Lorraine K. C. Yeung*, Cecilia S. Y. Tam, Sam S. S. Lau, Mandy M. Ko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Mark Coeckelbergh (Int J Soc Robot 1:217–221, 2009) argues that robot ethics should investigate what interaction with robots can do to humans rather than focusing on the robot’s moral status. We should ask what robots do to our sociality and whether human–robot interaction can contribute to the human good and human flourishing. This paper extends Coeckelbergh’s call and investigate what it means to live with disembodied AI-powered agents. We address the following question: Can the human–AI interaction contribute to our moral development? We present an empirically informed philosophical analysis of how the AI personal assistant Siri changes its users’ way of life, based on the responses obtained from 20 semi-directive individual interviews with Siri users. We identify changes in the users’ social interaction associated with the adoption of Siri. These changes include: (1) the indirect effect of reducing opportunities of human interaction, (2) the second-order effect of diminished expectations toward each other in a community, and (3) the acquired preference to obtain hassle-free interaction with Siri over human interaction. We examine them in relation to concerns that are voiced in the current debates over the rise of AI, namely the suspicion that humans could become overly reliant on AI (Danaher 2019) and the worry that social AI could impede on moral development (Fröding and Peterson, Ethics Inf Technol 23:207–214, 2012; Li, Ethics Inf Technol 23:543–550, 2021). We analyze the ethical costs that come from these changes in light of virtue ethics and address potential objections along the way. We end by offering directions for thinking about how to live with AI personal assistant while preserving favorable conditions for moral development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAI and Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Sept 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Philosophy
  • Human-Computer Interaction

User-Defined Keywords

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Friendly AI
  • Human interaction with AI
  • Virtue ethics


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