Looking More Closely at the Relationship between Humans and Robots

Looking More Closely at the Relationship between Humans and Robots

Good piece from YES! Magazine on the increasingly important relationships that we humans are now forming with robots. It’s a trickier topic than you might first assume. 

Some key insights from the article:

Naming a robot makes us care more

There are these boxy things in hospitals that just deliver medicines, and they found out that the nurses, doctors, and employees are much more receptive to them when they name the machines. Putting a license plate on one of the machines that says “Emily” will cause people to bond with them and forgive their mistakes more easily.

Robot brutality may signal broader brutality

If this behavior really does translate the way we think it does in that context, then it might translate from robots to animals or from robots to children as well. We’re seeing that people respond to robots like animals. So if people were brutalizing their robots at home, we may want to keep an eye on their animals and children.

Different takes on treating robots nicely

We’re seeing people respond to robots as though they were some lifelike thing, in between an object and an animal. There’s this one camp that says this is awesome—we can create great engagement with people and there are all these other uses in education and health contexts.

Then there’s the other camp that says it’s bad—we should prevent people from seeing robots this way. Neil Richards and Bill Smart are two people in the robot law community that have argued that this bad. They say if we treat robots as something other than the tools then that idea will bleed over into legal regulations.

A woman named Julie Carpenter did her Ph.D. thesis on this. She studied these bomb disposal robots that are used in the military. It turns out that soldiers really bond with them and sort of treat them like pets.

_“People are realizing that they feel for these robots.”

P.W. Singer’s book Wired for War has some anecdotes of people risking their lives to save these robots, which is really concerning. These robots aren’t supposed to engage you emotionally. These robots are supposed to be bomb-disposal tools. They detonate land mines. You don’t want people hesitating for even a second to use them the way they’re supposed to be used._


Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together


Unrequited Love in the Time of Technology



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