Is it My Thinking that makes me a Self and opposes me to an “Other”? In contrast to progressive industrial automation, artificial intelligence and collaborative humanoid robots, this age-old topic now draws increasing public attention to a quite modern question: Can robots become coequal work-related partners of men (BMFT, 2017)? The planned investigation skips the topic’s philosophical, ethical, political, or cultural connotations (Gruber, Bung, & Ziemann, 2014) and confines the problem to sensorimotor as well as technical aspects. The key questions are: Does the human sensorimotor control system even harbor a function that discriminates a ”Self” from an “Other”? If yes, is this function a prerequisite of man-robot cooperation? At first, we base concepts such as partnership, goal pursuit, autonomy, automation, enslaving and cooperation on automata-theory. In addition, we include controller-plant arrangements in this framework. Here, we assign the role of a technical Self to the controller and the role of a technical Other to the plant, for instance a robot, exoskeleton or prosthesis. In a next step, we
check whether identified technical solutions that provide a self-other discrimination are
functionally transferable to the human motor control system of body and limbs, “disobedient” limbs implied. If connecting a human limb with a machine that is capable of pursuing own goals, the question addressed in the title has to be answered.
The predominant goal is to put rather philosophical concepts of self-other discrimination on an experimentally provable basis. For this purpose, we limit the discourse to sensorimotor control and look for core mechanisms that enable discriminating between self-made and foreign-made sensory inflow. Humans and robots are subject to the same physical conditions in the production and control of their movements and therefore rely on comparable measuring methods. Hence, we expect comparable problem solutions. The interest in the interaction between humans and robots under “haptic closure” of their end-effectors leads us to focus on haptics and proprioception concerning the psycho-physiological side. Regarding the technical side, we concentrate on the corresponding measurement techniques. Embedding the topic into the appropriately expanded automata theory provides insights how humans principally deal with
foreign objects, their own limbs, artificial limbs, smart machines and robots, and even their
conspecifics. The planned investigations are supposed to underpin these insights empirically and then we can implement our findings about how humans organize their cooperative behavior into robotic devices technically. Therefore, we expect results relevant for the theory of movement control as well as for the practice of human-robot interaction.