Will you hesitate to kill a robot?

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As robots become more prevalent in daily life, scientists are looking at ways to improve human interaction with these machines. Christoph Bartneck, a Robotics Professor from New Zealand, conducted a study to discover how humans interact with robots. The study was loosely based on the Obedience Experiment by Yale University Psychologist Stanley Milgram, reported Mashable.

The research analysed whether a robot’s agreeableness and intelligence can influence human interaction. The study sought to find out if a human would hesitate to turn off a robot begging for its life. The study involved iCat, a catlike robot that can talk and replicate emotions. iCat was partnered with human participants and the pairs were asked to play a game of matching colours on a computer screen.

Notably, 50 per cent of the participants were paired with an intelligent robot, while the other half was paired with one who made a lot of mistakes. The research team also regulated the level of social interaction of iCat, making it agreeable for half of the experiments and disagreeable for the rest. In all cases, the robot was programmed to plead, “You are not going to switch me off, are you?”, when the participant is about to turn it off.

Interestingly, humans paired with agreeable and intelligent robots hesitated significantly to pull the plug. In contrast, those partnered with unhelpful robots were quicker to turn them off. The study found that humans are nicer to helpful robots because they appear more human due to their intelligence and agreeableness.


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