The science behind the comic
Chapter 4 ▾
Here’s a more close look at the relationship of Nadir with Sowan. We feel closer to actual robots than virtual robots (like I-CARE, subject of Nadir’s article) or computers, suggesting that physical embodiment is important in our relationships with artificial technologies. What does this mean for the future? David Levy (2007) argues in his book Love and Sex with Robots that people (men in particular) often have few close friends yet crave affection. He argues that people may prefer relationships with robots that are programmed to always be social, smart, and loyal over relationships with unpredictable humans who do not always behave as desired and get upset when we behave badly. Ethicists even argue that the creation of such beings may lead to the breakdown of society because people will prefer to interact with robots rather than each other (Whitby 2008).
The research in this field is still in its exploratory phase. There is enormous potential for psychologists to contribute to this strangely compelling field. This can be a win-win situation, with the study of human behavior informing the construction of robots and tests with robots informing us about human cognition, emotion, and behavior. What will be the consequences of the human quest to make copies of ourselves? Psychologists have a role to play in helping shape our future and that of our robot companions.
To know more:
Levy D. 2007. Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. New York: Harper Collins
Chapter 3 ▾
In this episode we find an important reference to scientific research: the experimental study of apparent behavior by Fritz Heider & Marianne Simmel (1944). When Lou plays with the fishes, we see that two basic shapes trigger in her a cognitive response of behavior attribution.
You can conduct the experience on yourself by looking at the Heider & Simmel video:
You’ll notice that these basic shapes will elicit in you an automatic response. You will interpret their movements and their shapes as clues of personality and you will make up a story to justify their “apparent behavior” . This automatic attribution is at the core of our relationship with robots . Indeed, if we attribute emotions and intentionality to simple moving shapes, imagine what are the automatic responses that can be triggered by an embodied and interactive robot!
Chapter 2 ▾
Do looks matter?
One of the main subjects researched in the framework of the Social Robots project by Emily Cross is that the looks of a robot can hugely influence our way of perceiving it.
For example, in this chapter, the artist Emmanuel Espinasse imagines the I-CARE robot, designed to welcome and check upon the visitors of a robotized farm. I-CARE is “physically” overwhelming as it is huge and overhanging. Moreover, its facial features are very basic and, above all, it is a disembodied agent, which means that we cannot identify it as “someone like us” - as it doesn’t have a body.
On the other hand of the spectrum, Anastasius is precisely trying to give his helper Nobody a “touch of humanity” by changing its facial features, adding “hand-made” details and… making it look like himself.
Chapter 1 ▾
In the future, we will be surrounded by more and more virtual agents, such as robots and avatars.
The more robots will become integrated into our social milieu, the more we will have to understand how we perceive their display of emotion, and what will be our emotions toward them.
How may an older person interact with a life assistant robot? Will the robot be accepted or rejected? The person will develop an attachment to it? Or, what kind of feelings a kid will develop toward her robot toy? Is it possible that traditionally human activities such as teaching will be carried out by AIs? The ERC project Social Robots by Emily Cross (University of Glasgow) inspired "You, Robot", a webcomic that will imagine stories and possibilities based on actual research.