Anthropomorphization and beyond: conceptualizing humanwashing of AI-enabled machines

AI and Society:1-7 (forthcoming)
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The complex relationships between humans and AI-empowered machines have created and inspired new products and services as well as controversial debates, fiction and entertainment, and last but not least, a striving and vital field of research. The convergence between the two categories of entities has created stimulating concepts and theories in the past, such as the uncanny valley, machinization of humans through datafication, or humanization of machines, known as anthropomorphization. In this article, we identify a new gap in the relational interaction between humans and AI triggered by commercial interests, making use of AI through advertisement, marketing, and corporate communications. Our scope is to broaden the field of AI and society by adding the business-society-nexus. Thus, we build on existing research streams of machinewashing and the analogous phenomenon of greenwashing to theorize about the humanwashing of AI-enabled machines as a specific anthropomorphization notion. In this way, the article offers a contribution to the anthropomorphization literature conceptualizing humanwashing as a deceptive use of AI-enabled machines aimed at intentionally or unintentionally misleading organizational stakeholders and the broader public about the true capabilities that AIEMs possess.



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