If I Were a Robot


If I were a robot… what would I need to know?

I can’t stop thinking about this question. Specifically, I am recently consumed by the question:

How do you teach a robot human behavior?

WARNING: I am about to geek out about robots, technology and artificial intelligence in this post. Interested? Terrified? Baffled? Read on.

The BIG Idea:

How can we manage people and robots working together? Robots are going to become more and more integrated into our workspace and our lives. How can we as people and companies prepare for the issues of living and working in an artificially intelligent world?

We have to program robots with social skills in addition to technical skills.

Dr. James E. Young works in the Human-Computer Interaction Lab and has intensely studied how robots and humans interact. His argument is compelling:

Robots must have social skills.

People are naturally skilled at quickly analyzing social interaction, and this is as true with reading robots as it is with reading other people. For example, instead of surprising co-workers with unexpected movements, robots can use their eyes, where they look and how long they stare, or gestures to show intention before acting, to maximize team-worker awareness.

A robot is a machine? That sentence should be a statement, but I formed it as a question because research shows that despite knowing that robots are droids devoid of emotion, humans are treating them like humans.

Have you named your Roomba? Your car? Your computer? Humans can’t help but assign human-like characteristics to devices so they need to be able to interact like us.

Scary and Wonderful

Here’s what’s both terrifying and thrilling about the idea of teaching social skills to robots. At the very launch of my people skills course I tell my students:

“You have been given technical skills, —> Read More