Humans have a long history of leeriness towards robots, and Stanley Kubrick’s HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey didn’t help the cause. However, it seems that robots operate as more of a mirror to reflect human behaviour than previously expected.
In David A. Graham’s recent contribution to the Atlantic, he suggests ‘The most urgent question for people is not whether machines will take their jobs, but how machines will change the way they behave in society.” Go ahead and finish the article, I’ll wait!
Graham’s post details many examples of humans behaving terribly towards robots, but also humans giving household robots names and assigning stereotypical pet characteristics to them. As the owner of a Roomba, I’ll confirm – it feels natural to ‘worry’ when Roomba gets tangled up or feel ‘guilty’ when it’s stuck under furniture. Robots encourage us to give into our worst impulses (think Hitchbot) but they also can elicit strong feelings of empathy and ‘bonding’ like my Roomba.
As much as humans would like to believe they’re in control, it seems the opposite is true – humans are virtually powerless to control their behaviour when a robot is present.