Robots that Beg for their Lives

Phil and Stephen discuss new research that shows how people respond differently to robots based on what the robots say to them. Is this proof that humans are easily manipulated by robots or does it offer hope that, when the time comes, people will treat sentient robots right?

New study finds it’s harder to turn off a robot when it’s begging for its life

In roughly half of experiments, the robot protested, telling participants it was afraid of the dark and even begging: “No! Please do not switch me off!” When this happened, the human volunteers were likely to refuse to turn the bot off. Of the 43 volunteers who heard Nao’s pleas, 13 refused. And the remaining 30 took, on average, twice as long to comply compared to those who did not not hear the desperate cries at all. (Just imagine that scene from The Good Place for reference.)

What are the potential downsides to this finding?

People offering empathy where it is not needed. Can robots be used to manipulate people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do?

What potential upsides do we see?

When in doubt, empathy is maybe not a bad response. Better to apply it to things that don’t need it than to withhold it from those who do?

Also, is this experiment kind of the reverse of the famous Milgram Experiment? In this case, it looks like the test subjects refused to obey orders that violated their consciences!

WT 463-781

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About Phil 523 Articles
Phil Bowermaster is a nationally recognized author and speaker. He has more than 25 years experience writing about emerging technologies and the future. As co-host of the popular Internet radio series, The World Transformed, Phil has talked with leading scientists and technologists, best-selling authors, philosophers, filmmakers, artists, entrepreneurs and others who are shaping our understanding of the amazing era of transformation in which we live. Phil helps leaders and their organizations develop strategies for managing accelerating change. He shows how imagination, optimism, empathy, and humor can make all the difference in both understanding and making the most of the powerful currents of change we face.