Re: Robots in Social Positions

Anders Sandberg (
14 Jun 1999 18:09:25 +0200

Stephen Adamson <> writes:

> What came about is that social jobs (police, waiter, doctor) are (by
> 80-90% of people) considered impossible to be filled by robots, ever.

Maybe they could do the job, but you might be willing to pay to have a real waiter or doctor (with AI support).

> Positions like, for instance, a family doctor, can be done now,
> reasonably well.

Reasonably well? What program can explain appendicitis to a child?

> But somehow people don't ever think that they will be
> able to *talk* to a robot or respect a robot's decisions or authority.

I agree that this may be a mistaken attitude. But a lot of jobs will likely for historical/cultural reasons demand at least androids. First to get people to accept the robots, and then because it is traditional.

> However, all of that will happen because robots will eventually be able
> to do things so much better than people and people will always have the
> tendency and desire to refer their work to others. How will social
> attitudes change? Will it only be when people start owning robots (like
> that new Sony dog)? Will there be people who refuse to EVER consent to
> the authority of a robot policeman? Or will it take until we have
> realistic androids that are indistinguishable from humans?

Or when they start demanding wages and argue for their freedom? Of course, that may not be the normal robots, but somebody is bound to build and program a freedom-seeking or independent robot if only as art.

> Here's a specific thought: imagine a robot is made to be a babysitter.
> It is specialized to know how to fix meals, generally clean, tell
> stories, recognize and acknowledge physical danger, get kids dressed and
> change diapers, and immediately notify authorities and parents in the
> case of an emergency. In fact, it would improve babysitting because the
> parents could get an immediate report at any time from their computer at
> work, and look through the robot's eyes on demand. I would speculate
> that a design like this is not too far off.

So what does it do when the child demands that it play a new game, where the rules are made up by the child? How to convince a recalcitrant child to go to bed? Somehow I think you are a bit too optimistic about the near term possibilities of robots - babysitting is a highly complex interaction and not just a collection of simple skills.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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