Robots and Humans
Abstract for a talk at Robotix97 by
We know quite well what a human is like, as a rough estimation we can take
ourselves as a good example. We do not know exactly what humans "are for",
but we have an idea about what they can do, should do, normally are doing.
Our picture of humans and their "function" is not consistent, and need not be.
But the picture is colourful, and structured, it is full of stories.
What is an artifact for, e.g. a robot? A) It can be a machine, working and
solving tasks for us, an intelligent vacuum cleaner for example. If it has
finished its work then we switch it off or it goes to its "nest". In any case,
it should not bother us.
B) It can be a very complex, unpredictable, "intelligent" machine, solving
complex tasks, surviving in sewerage pipes or on the Moon. They should
"function", by whatever means and techniques it can be realised.
Do we care about them? Well, they are somehow "life-like", but they are not
like us, so why should we? We should be able to control them,
they could become dangerous. They are not adapted to us. If they are really
good, then they can be competitors for resources. Will they be able to
entertain us, to please us, to tell us stories? I believe not. They
are enacting the stories they have been told (by the human designer).
Humans will be "better", maybe physically weaker, incredibly slow. But they
keep the role of the story-teller. The human embodied mind is the only source
C) Robots can be our "companions", our
personal robots, helping us in daily life, interacting with us in an
individual way, keep us comfortable, help us survive, entertain us. They
are adapted to us, as an individual person, to our human society, to our
human life. They can play these funny imitation games with us and make us
laugh when they desperately try to flip-flap, but fail, their wheels block
every time. They learn during their life-time, about themselves, about us.
They are sitting with us in the garden, watching the crows playing in the air.
We say how much we wish to be able to fly. The robot expresses:
"I know what you mean".
They can listen. And create their own stories. Do we care about them? Do we
care about our dog pets? Of course, they are a bit like us, somehow family
members. They have a meaning to us, in our "world", the mental world
created inside our mind, the only world we have access to. The only "real thing".
We don't care what species the robots belong to or what kind of material
they are made of.
They are our friends.