Category Archives: Education

Fear of Robots

Robot at 10 Downing StreetShould we fear robots? They haven’t taken charge of the country yet (as far as we know) even though for many years they have been taking our jobs. Just think about the number of people that used to be employed on production lines. When I first left school, I spent three months working in a factory that made suitcases. There was very little automation back in the 1970s, so it took a large number of people to carry out all the work, one stage at a time.

I searched the internet for “fear of robots” and found the following examples. No doubt there are more, but if the robot age – which we are certainly at the start of now – brings a time of peace, leisure, space exploration and learning for the human race, then why should we fear robots at all? The most important thing we should remember is the location of their “off” switch!

Automatonophobia
A fear of anything that falsely represents a sentient being. This includes ventriloquist dummies (which I can well understand), animatronic creatures, mannequins, and wax statutes. I would not normally be concerned about a visit to Madame Tussauds, but can you imagine being there after it closed, armed with just a torch?

Frankenstein complex
A term coined by Isaac Asimov in his robot novels for the fear of mechanical men.

Robophobia
An anxiety disorder in which the sufferer has an irrational fear of robots, drones, robot-like mechanics or artificial intelligence. This can result in a panic attack triggered by just viewing a robot or being near one.

Technophobia
The fear of advanced technology or complex devices.

Uncanny Valley
The best definition I have found for this is from http://www.urbandictionary.com:
First theorised by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970, the Uncanny Valley basically states that the closer a robot or other nonhuman entity gets to resembling a human, the more humans will like and empathise with it. However, there is a point in development where humans instead become strongly repulsed by the barely-human robot/entity.

Here is a short video with a bit more information:

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Begin Robotics – University of Reading

I’ve just signed up for a course with the University of Reading. They tell me that I don’t have to have my own robot, and that I don’t actually have to know anything about robots. They promise to introduce me to the basics of robot design through a series of simulations, and say that I will have the opportunity to test drive Eric, the University’s own mobile robot.

But best of all, the course is totally free. I’m based in the UK, but it seems that anyone with internet access can sign up and interact with the other students. Have a look at the video below.

The course begins on 15th June this year, so why don’t you join me? Just visit FutureLearn.com or click here to go to the “Begin Robotics” course page. The course will run for four weeks, three hours per week, and there will be a participation certificate available to purchase at the end.

Preventing Cruelty to Robots since 1999

ASPCRI discovered a website today for the ASPCR. Never heard of them? Nor had I. The ASPCR is the acronym of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots.

I’ve shown the website to a couple of people, both thought it was just a joke. However, I think it may be serious, and they do have a point even if they are a little early making it. In fact they say they have been making it since 1999 no less!

Below are a couple of the questions from their FAQ page which may give you a better idea of the aims of the ASPCR. Who knows, self-aware robots may be just around the corner. The worrying thing is that when that day comes, we may need the ASPCH (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Humans), but will the robots set it up for us?

Q: Are you serious?

A: The ASPCR is, and will continue to be, exactly as serious as robots are sentient.

 

Q: What is the ASPCR’s mission?

A: To ensure the rights of all artificially created sentient beings (colloquially and henceforth referred to as “Robots”).

 

Q: Are there any Robots to ensure the rights of?

A: Not yet, that we know of. But recent advances in data nanostructures, cognitive modelling and neural networking have convinced many people that the advent of some sort of created intelligence is much closer than previously thought.

It is the goal of the ASPCR to raise the awareness of the general public about some of the ethical and moral issues surrounding created intelligence. This includes discussing the moral and ethical implications of bringing sentient artificial beings into this world, and the responsibility that comes with their creation.