Apr 6, 2008

you can't help anthropomorphizing the robot

It seems to be a natural reaction to robots, New Scientist reports.
Kathy Morgan, an engineer based in Atlanta, said that her robot wore a sticker saying "Our Baby", indicating that she viewed it almost as part of the family. "We just love it. It frees up our lives from so much cleaning drudgery," she says.

Sung believes that the notion of humans relating to their robots almost as if they were family members or friends is more than just a curiosity. "People want their Roomba to look unique because it has evolved into something that's much more than a gadget," she says. Understanding these responses could be the key to figuring out the sort of relationships people are willing to have with robots.

Until now, robots have been designed for what the robotics industry dubs "dull, dirty and dangerous" jobs, like welding cars, defusing bombs or mowing lawns. Even the name robot comes from robota, the Czech word for drudgery. But Sung's observations suggest that we have moved on. "I have not seen a single family who treats Roomba like a machine if they clothe it," she says. "With skins or costumes on, people tend to treat Roomba with more respect."
Much more at the link. The upshot: whether robots ever truly act like people, to some degree, we're going to treat them like people. Maybe someday they'll return the favor.


Arnaud said...

How exactly can we be said to have a "natural reaction to robots"?

Jim Anderson said...

Unless your question is rhetorical, it's easy: the word "natural" has many meanings. Its primary connotation, of course, gives rise to the irony you point out.

The natural / artificial dichotomy--which has always been somewhat slippery--becomes even more tenuous as the relationship between humans and robots approaches something truly cybernetic.

josh cole said...

They clean filth without complaint. Sound like they're a long way off from humanity to me...