Robotic Collective Memory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The various ways in which robots and AI will affect our future society
are at the center of scholarly attention. This Commentary, conversely,
concentrates on their possible impact on humanity’s past, or more
accurately, on the ways societies will remember their joint past. We focus
on the emerging use of technologies that combine AI, cutting-edge
visualization techniques, and social robots, in order to store and
communicate recollections of the past in an interactive human-like manner.
We explore the use of these technologies by remembrance institutions and
their potential impact on collective memory. Taking a close look at the case
study of NDT (New Dimensions in Testimony)—a project that uses ‘virtual
witnesses’ to convey memories from the Holocaust and other mass
atrocities—we highlight the significant value, and the potential
vulnerabilities, of this new mode of memory construction.
Against this background, we propose a novel concept of memory
fiduciaries that can form the basis for a policy framework for robotic
collective memory. Drawing on Jack Balkin’s concept of ‘information
fiduciaries’ on the one hand, and on studies of collective memory on the
other, we explain the nature of and the justifications for memory fiduciaries.
We then demonstrate, in broad strokes, the potential implications of this
new conceptualization for various questions pertaining to collective
memory constructed by AI and robots. By so doing, this Commentary aims
to start a conversation on the policies that would allow algorithmic
collective memory to fulfill its potential, while minimizing its social costs.
On a more general level, it brings to the fore a series of important policy
questions pertaining to the intersection of new technologies and
intergenerational collective memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-1005
JournalWashington Law Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • collective memory
  • robots
  • social robots
  • artificial intelligence
  • fiduciary
  • memory fiduciaries
  • law and technology
  • law and society


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