An Article on Americans' Reaction to Robots

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Tachyon
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An Article on Americans' Reaction to Robots

Post by Tachyon » Tue Nov 13, 2007 11:15 pm

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2704,2213079,00.asp

What is everyone's reaction to this? It reminds me of Asimov's robot fiction in the 1950's. Was Asimov right?
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Post by Mr March » Wed Nov 14, 2007 1:59 am

As a long time anime fan, I've long been aware of the vast differences in attitude toward robots in my country and those in Japan. "Robots are the enemy/Robots are our friends" are two themes that dominate fiction in their respective countries. Personally, I've always enjoyed both.

The article is an interesting read, but it's clear the author is on a soap box regardless of how entertaining the read was (and I did get a kick out of the "horse before the cart" comment). It isn't the North American public's supposed collective mental aversion to robots that is an issue. He gives Hollywood far too much credit. It is the usefulness of the technology versus the price tag attached to it. I can't speak for most other countries around the world, but I know that as a Canadian my early life was dominated by learning experiences about the false promises of technology. It only took a few bad purchases of technology that were really worthless to me until the lesson sunk in. The 1980's in particular was a decade of worthless self-indulgent technology that did very little for the person buying it. Now my generation is the majority of the market; can it be any surprise the batteries-not-included generation sneers when someone brags to them about a great new robot?

Another point the writer fails to grasp is the simple differences in demographics. Japan is well known as a gadget-lovers paradise and it's not the only country. Many consumers in the European countries have similar tastes. However, neither Canada nor the U.S. are as gadget hungry as Japan or the UK. We're typically much more discriminating about the kinds of technology we want to use and for good reason. Japan has long been known as having one of the longest working weeks in the world and the desire to utilize technology for efficiency and communication is much great than in my own country.

Personally, I think most North Americans have a higher standard for the capabilities of their technology. When it comes to work saving robots, they want something that can still accomplish the job when it's dragged through the mud and requires a minimum of maintenance itself. Yes, there is a more skeptical outlook for technology in North American society, but it only takes one truly worthwhile product marketed the right way for the right price and North Americans have proved they'll turn out in droves to buy it.

Digressing, I like that the article does draw the readers attention to the differences in perception of robots/technology from one country to the next. People could use a little more of this kind of understanding in their everyday lives since it helps accurately define the way the world works. It also gives people a way to relate to the unfamiliar and hopefully through understanding become a little more accepting.

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Post by Tachyon » Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:21 am

One point with which I agreed was the author's exasperation with North Americans who insist that robots are living things with personalities and feelings. I've had the same experience. Just talking to people about robots is sometimes difficult for me because so many people have this odd belief that something that is vaguely humanoid in shape must be alive. I've expressed my desire to see robots in science-fiction that are machines and not metal people and I get glassy-eyed stares from people.

I can't count how many times people have talked about how it's "cruel" to turn robots off. Hopefully more experience with robots will help people understand.
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Post by Mr March » Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:18 pm

In my opinion, that again is another point I think the author uses to help prove his arguement, but a subject that he is nonetheless mischaracterizing.

Misdirected empathy is a phenomenon afflicting North American society period with only incidental consequences on robots and technology. Quite simply, there is far too much empathy being projected upon everything from minority groups and animals to the environment and plants. It does not surprise me even inanimate objects are now being given such emotional treatment in a society of misplaced priorities so far gone. Now don't get me wrong, there are legitimate concerns and fights worth pursuing in all the causes listed above. The problem is the priority they have over more immediate human concerns and, more importantly, the near religious like fervor that has taken hold society in the pursuit of those causes.

The disproportionate amount of empathy and attention given to these causes brings into stark contrast the more alarming apathy we have for the person next door. Modern society is a sea of disconnection from the everyday and instead is consumed by these massive issues that people pour their worries into. Just today I'm sitting beside two people in the subway passionately discussing the Conrad Black trial while I'm the only one giving up my seat to a man with a leg injury who has already walked down half the car length before reaching me. A lot of righteous indignation is projected toward causes it's politically correct to support while the immediate community isn't given the time of day. And look out if you should happen to diagree.

Getting more specific, I agree with you that it's utter ridiculous people projecting their emotions on something as simple as switching off a robot. But really, how is this any different from most people's disproportionate emotional reaction to animal cruelty compared to far more serious human suffering or even loss? Hehehe, now I feel like I'm the one on a soap box. :oops: :o

Digressing yet again, I agree with the point the author is making and couldn't agree more with your own experiences. I too see this inane humanizing of robots as behaviour people must shed. But in my opinion, the cause of the behaviour has little to do with a robot-centric perspective and more of a general causation.

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Post by Tachyon » Wed Nov 14, 2007 5:44 pm

Yeah, I agree with you. The robot feelings people have are part of a larger whole that needs addressing in order to fix a whole slew of problems.
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Post by Mr March » Wed Nov 14, 2007 6:17 pm

See, they got it all wrong with the sale of these robots. What they need to do is build and market a cost effective Valkyrie, Mobile Suit, Labor or Mortar Headd and they'd have me sold :) :P

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