4 categories to envision our relationships with robots

According to Kaplan (2005), people envision robots from 3 points of view: usefulness (is the robot doing something useful), affective (could the robot user any affective relationship with its robot), intellectual (would the robot lead to an even more blurred frontier between real and artificial?). We encountered reactions matching with these 3 categories. Showing our participants pictures of different types of robots and asking them to comment on them, they systematically reacted negatively when a robot didn’t show any obvious function (“it should be useful, it should help me so that I have more time for me.”). More over they did not like when it started looking human (“I don’t want technology to be like a person. There should not be too much interaction.”). Maybe, a new category should be added, namely power, namely the risk of lost of independence of the human towards robots, versus the robot being more powerful than the human (“A robot should not replace a person but help people” “this robot is a little scary, you don’t know what it can do”).  (Kaplan, F. (2005) « Les machines apprivoisées : comprendre les robots de loisir », p. 8, Vuibert, Paris).

We really felt these tensions when we asked our participants what first thoughts came to their mind when they see a robot like Romeo. There first impression was “what is it for?” “ah, it would be nice to have someone to cook for me” “but how big it is really? (joking) It could maybe hit you, no?”. Transparency around the functionalities of a robot seems central.

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