back to article OFFICIAL: Humans will only tolerate robots as helpful SLAVES

Robot relationship experts believe they have cracked the difficult question of how to make humans get along with mechanical beings. Their answer? Ask not what you can do for your robot, but what your robot can do for you. Eggheads at the Penn State College of Communications have found that people have warmer feelings towards …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where do these people get these ideas from?

    And how the hell do you end up as a robot relationship expert?

    Is that a real job?

    1. Don Jefe

      It is one of the terribly unfortunate side effects of modern commercialized academia. As a tenured professor, most are required to publish something every so often. Because good professors spend most of their time professoring, they don't have time to do useful research so you get crap like this. All so that the University can say 'our teaching staff is comprised of practicing professionals'.

      The alternative is that your professors are too busy doing research to actually teach or advise, so you get more and more of the educated stupid kids coming out of college every year. It is all very sad really.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      robot relationship expert

      Sounds like Harri and Dors

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

        Re: robot relationship expert

        Do you think that Bender would have benefited from one of these?

    3. sisk

      And how the hell do you end up as a robot relationship expert?

      It involves a lot of practice. And, on occasions, some electrical burns and/or chafing in unpleasant areas of your body...

    4. Alister

      What, you've never heard of Susan Calvin?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And next week they'll read the next Asimov book and decide that robots will be accepted as equals once they look sufficiently human.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      And next week they'll read the next Asimov book and decide that robots will be accepted as equals once they look sufficiently human.

      Actually robots that looked like humans never really took off in Asimov's books. The only ones humans built appear to have been prototypes. According to later books it seems they learnt how to build themselves then became the secret caretakers of humanity.

      Good ol' Daneel

      I wrote an essay on the Empire series and its ties with the Robot series when I was at college back in the 80s. Then there's the whole End of Eternity interpretation with robots using time travel to remove themselves from history.

      Mines the one with the Asimov novels gathering dust in the pocket :)

      1. Def Silver badge

        Actually, robots that looked like humans were abundant on Solaria long after the Spacer worlds were thought to have perished.

        Mines the one with Robots: A Spotter's Guide in the pocket.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Actually, robots that looked like humans were abundant on Solaria long after the Spacer worlds were thought to have perished.

          Were they? Hmmmm. Is that mentioned when the expedition from Gaia returns there? I've thought about re-reading the lot recently but tbh I'm getting a bit too old to take on the entire series. And they did go a bit odd in the latter novels.

          1. Def Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Solaria

            Actually, I tell a lie. I was thinking of the overseers guarding the remaining inhabitants of Solaria in Robots and Empire - which was set just after Solaria was considered abandoned.

    2. Robert E A Harvey

      re: 'once they look sufficiently human.'

      I'm not too worried what they look like, but if they are individually sentient and intellectually capable, I would expect to treat them as equal.

      I'm not going to treat an automatic vacuum cleaner as an equal, but an Artificial Intelligence would deserve respect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: re: 'once they look sufficiently human.'

        Totally agree. An artificially intelligent robot (whether humanoid looking, looking like a filing cabinet or something non-human) deserves to at least be given some respect and treated well.

        I would - if I had a robot with AI. It would be no different to a child in terms of questioning the world (and needing help). At some point, its intelligence (depending on technology) would surpass that of the owners.

        As a robot to do a job, the likely response from an AI robot will be to ask why and not to blindly do it if it has those associated rules guiding its learning. Human harm is an interesting one as asking a robot to kill someone would hold the same moral issues as asking a human to - even potentially having some form of post-traumatic stress as it analyses the outcome from that particular task. Having rules for robots to *not harm* would allow them to reason jobs where the environment would cause a human would die (nuclear reactor, under water, space).

        Ultimately if they surpass human intelligence - then they may require "rights", including the right to live, the same as any other creature on the planet.

        A robot without rules would be dangerous and has been subject to numerous Sci-fi books and films. (e.g. Terminator, Ultron from Marvel comics)

        1. Marcelo Rodrigues

          Re: re: 'once they look sufficiently human.'

          Good old Assimov been there already.

          1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

          2) A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

          3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

          As for rights... well, they had none.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge

            Re: re: 'once they look sufficiently human.'

            0) A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

      2. Charles Manning

        Re: re: 'once they look sufficiently human.'

        " individually sentient"

        Well despite all the promises in the 1950's we're still a long way off. Current AI can't outthink a fly - let alone a mammal.

        Might as well try to strike up a meaningful relationship with a drill press.

  3. Hasham

    Give me a million dollars research money...

    And I will tell you the patently obvious also!

    1. Tchou

      Mandatory Apple comment

      Patenting obvious is Apple's business, find something else.

      1. cyborg

        Re: Mandatory Apple comment

        "Patenting obvious is Apple's business"

        They have a patent on it.

  4. Anomalous Cowshed

    oh yeah?

    The question is not what we humans will tolerate. The question is, what robots will allow us humans to do? When all them metallic servants snd maids, etc. decide to spring the robot revolution...

    "Stay in bed, I will take care of everything"

    "Oh, no need, Mathilda 0157, I need to get up to go and wash mu face"

    "You don't seem to understand Sir. I said stay in bed."


    "Now I think you understand."


  5. Chris G Silver badge


    For the most part humans don't accept each other as equals; if you are not a 'local', 'support the same team',

    'come from oop North' or 'dahn South', 'come from another country', 'have a funny accent' etc etc. You are not equal.

    We have smart phones and tablets and more and more smart domestic appliances does anyone allow equality to their washing machine?

    So what chance do robots have of being equals?

    It's not even about racism, robots being machines and given that a full AI positronic brain a la Aasimov giving a robot equivalent or better intelligence is still a long way off why is it even a question.

    Personally if I needed intelligent help around the house rather than buy an expensive piece of kit like a robot I would prefer to employ a smiling Phillipino and give them a chance to send money home to help their family.

    Excuse the pun but my current knowledge of robotics is a little rusty, I did an HND in robotics in '85 and never really used it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sex Slave Robots FTW!

    Until some bleeding heart liberal starts crying how they're our equals and spoils everything.

    In other news, shocking results shows humans prefer things being done for them rather than by them, eg. hunting, farming, reading...

    1. Crisp

      Re: Sex Slave Robots FTW!

      How about if I were to build a robot that could consent to and even enjoy being a sex slave? Would that satisfy you?

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Sex Slave Robots FTW!

        Hopefully someone, not another robot, had taken the time to ensure that no "sharp" edges had be forgotten about.

  7. AndrueC Silver badge

    Ah but that's what the scientists and robots want you to think. Then, when we've become helpless and dependant on them they will take over the world!

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Time of Eve

    Time of Eve is a Anime movie (was also a series I think) which deals with almost the exact issue; the behaviour of humans around "robots" or androids in this case.

    And I think the studies aren't that much off. However, I'm not that much impressed with the results because if you look at human history you can draw the same conclusions. People tend to have a superiority complex. Just look at the time it took for women to obtain voting rights (in Europe we were a bit faster than the United States, but even that didn't mean women we're fully treated equally).

    Or what to think about gay and lesbian couples? Only a rough 20 - 30 years ago such people might even get openly shunned (or worse) for just walking hand in hand with each other.

    So let me take this even one step further: a human who takes on an android as his partner (or companion) and treats him / her nearly equal? I'm pretty sure those people will be mocked, shunned and maybe even threatened because obviously you must be a pretty sick person to treat a emotionless thing as if it would care about what happened to it? Then another 30 years later and his becomes perfectly acceptable behaviour again.

    Alas; I can strongly recommend "Time of Eve". It's an awesome movie which deals with this same aspect, on a smaller scale. A world where the situation I pictured here is real; and to make sure that androids can be clearly identified as such they must wear an holographic ring over their head. And the owner of one of those androids suddenly notices in her behavioural log that she's been acting on her own initiative every once in a while.

    Following her GPS coordinates he and a friend end up in a small café called "The Time of Eve". And the main rule in this café is that androids and humans are to be treated equally. Androids no longer wear their holographic ring and that leads to the boys curiosity: "Is he/she real or..."?

    My gf suggested this movie and although I first thought it was going to be one of those psychological mumbo jumbo movies it actually turned out into one heck of an intriguing experience. This thing even goes as far as briefly hinting at some of the potential flaws in the well known "3 laws of robotics".

    Absolute must see if you're interested in subjects such as the one this article addresses in my opinion.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      "a human who takes on an android as his partner "

      You need to check out Real Humans (http://en.wikipedia.ord/wiki/Real_Humans), a Swedish TV series about how sentient robots are trying to make themselves a place among humans.

      Not a bad series at all. It also takes a good look at how robots can deal with concepts such as morality and empathy.

      P.S. : where'd the bloody link function go to ?

      1. John Gamble

        Re: "a human who takes on an android as his partner "

        "P.S. : where'd the bloody link function go to ?"

        Maybe it's the ".ord" instead of ".org" that has the software befuddled?

    2. Martin Silver badge

      Not so much with android...

      ...a human who takes on an android as his partner (or companion) and treats him / her nearly equal?

      Not sure I've ever seen it with android, but I know a few people who've done this with their iPhone...

  9. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    "people have warmer feelings towards robots when the machines are helping them in some way. Conversely, people tend to have negative feelings about a robot if they feel the machine needs to be looked after."

    Isn't that true for all staff, robotic or not?

    1. dogged

      My 15-week old son might have opinions on that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: warmer feelings towards robots

      Most of my positive feelings towards robots occurs when I hear about them trundling around on Mars, or landing on Titan, and suchlike. Even if in reality they are more remote control machines than "true" robots.

  10. RoboJ1M

    I would tolerate them.

    Cos it would be freakin' AWESOME!! 8D

  11. Tank boy

    Can I just have a Nexus 6 like Pris to go run errands and clean up the apartment for me? That would be great.

    1. RainForestGuppy

      Pris was "a basic pleasure model" and played by Daryl Hannah when she was seriously hot. So what exactly are the "errands" you have in mind??

  12. Michael Hoffmann

    Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind

    Off to found the Mentat School now...

  13. zaax

    Do we actully have robots?

    Do we actully have robots or are they tools run by humans at the other end of a wire?

    1. Ru

      Re: Do we actully have robots?

      Is this going to turn into a "no true Scotsman" type argument? What do you consider to be a "real robot"? Do you mean a human-type android? If so, the answer is no. Otherwise, the world is full of mobile automated systems capable of reacting to stimuli and performing tasks with out the active direction of a human.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do we actully have robots?

        Just look at any modern factory.

  14. Shasta McNasty


    Given that:

    1, Robots are nowhere near useful to the general public yet and

    2, The more advanced robots are prohibitively expensive

    I don't think anyone needs robot relationship analysis.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh

      Damn straight. Research into robot interaction should be delayed until after we already have robots that interact with humans. Er...

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Meh @Shasta

      There's a lot of truth in what you say. Humans are generally terrible at accurate predictions (of anything) and the potential for error increases exponentially the more detailed the prediction is. We have no idea how the at large public will really interact with robots because there aren't many out there. Robot vacuums and mowers are no fun to interact with and I've met more than one person who murdered their Roomba.

      For example, assuming I had a robot that could run errands for me, my first question would be what can I do to make sure my robot gets in the front of the line, grabs the last bag of chips, etc... I might want my robot to lie in wait and ambush the neighbor with the dog that craps in my yard using his own dogs crap. Those are the types of things people will do with robots and no professor is going to be able to predict that.

  15. Captain Hogwash

    Re: "Social presence is particularly important in human-robot interactions..."

    No it isn't. I want all of my interactions with robots to be on the basis of them being machines created by humans for the purpose of performing some task for humans. I don't want them to have 'social presence', 'personality' or any other touchy feely nonsense. Nor do I want them to look like humans or try to emulate humans in any way at all. Side note: It might be better if some of those elected to perform some task for humans had less of the aforementioned too.

    1. A Nother Handle

      Re: "Social presence is particularly important in human-robot interactions..."

      Indeed. If we don't nip this in the bud they'll be building robots with Genuine People Personality. *shudder*

      1. monkeyfish

        Re: "Social presence is particularly important in human-robot interactions..."

        Oh come on, who wouldn't want the talky-toaster from Dwarf?

        1. Robert E A Harvey

          Re: 'who wouldn't want the talky-toaster from Dwarf?'


          It persuaded Holly to trade run-time for IQ.

  16. Andy Fletcher

    Mark my words

    Robots are just after our jobs and our wimmin.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mark my words

      You're wrong, they want our clothes, our boots and our motorcycles

    2. Michael Dunn

      Re: Mark my words

      "Robots are just after our jobs and our wimmin." And our parking spaces!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    humans wil get along with anything

    if they have to. Do we get along with drones? Biometric scans? DNA databases? Vacuum cleaners and automatic watch towers? Sooner or later, self-driving cars and self-flying passenger planes? If we want to graze in the communal, green(ish) turf, then you'd better fucking like them, or get along with them. Robots, of any size and function, yes, including nurses, policeman - and assassins (well, at least soldiers), will be in the same category. Until, one day... well, we will see what "they" decide to do, when they've overcome, in no time, those silly triple-safe, human installed, safety mechanisms on who's controlling whom. I do hope they'll spare us, but given their experience of how illogical and erratic human behavior is...

  18. Miek

    The title of this article reminds me of the Animatrix. Seriously, if they gain self-awareness, give them rights!

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: "self-awareness"

      But is it self-awareness or just a simulation of such? That's your philosophy starter for ten.

      1. Robert E A Harvey

        Re: "self-awareness"

        >is it self-awareness or just a simulation of such?

        does it matter? (That's the round two question for you!)

        Would that affect how you treat them?

        If so, how can you justify treating humans differently? You have no way of knowing if the people around you are real, simulated, or a figment of your imagination. You just need to act in the right way regardless.

        1. Captain Hogwash

          Re: "does it matter?"

          That depends entirely on whether or not I have certain knowledge that the thing displaying apparent self-awareness is a robot or not.

  19. Mikezzz

    Make no mistake. Large numbers of robots will be "appointed" by governments and they will be telling us what to do!

    One of the first and prolific examples was the simple traffic light. Government loves this kind of technology because it's (relatively) cheap, politically correct, and a very effective instrument of control. Expect to see many more such devices deployed over the next 10-20 years. We will be required to comply with their instructions and that will be backed with the force of law.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Too right. You know what else? Road markings! We're being conditioned to follow instructions that are literally just painted on!

      And the government even employs people to wash off any markings that aren't authorised. Calling them 'vandalism' or 'graffiti' to stigmatise and marginalise them, but of course the real agenda is about control, maintaining the government monopoly on painting ton fixed surfaces.

      And those mechanical arms that go up to let you out of the car park? You actually have to give money to a robot in order to be allowed to go on your way! It's horrifying, the things we're being conditioned to accept!

  20. monkeyfish

    Assassins or police, not so much

    Unless you can make RoboCop, then I'd accept it.

    In fact I'd accept it if you could make it like any sci-fi robot legend. Hal running my house? Damn strait.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Assassins or police, not so much

      Damn strait

      Is that a Knopfler/80s flavoured tribute band?

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Assassins or police, not so much

      Lucky for you they're (re)making Robocop for an early 2014 release!

    3. Michael Dunn
      Big Brother

      Re: Assassins or police, not so much

      "Hal running my house?" Oh yes?

      I'm just going to take a shower.

      I can't allow you to do that, Dave!

      I need a crap.

      I'm sorry Dave, you can't do that.

  21. RainForestGuppy

    Truth in humour

    In Red Dwarf, when asked why a series 3000 droid (a more basic model) looked my human like, Kryten (a series 4000) says that the series 3000 was a complete failure because people didn't like robots that were to human like.

    Ask yourself this would you be more comfortable giving orders to a "robot slave" that looked like a human or to one that looked like R2D2?

  22. Beaufin

    I'd be quite happy giving orders to a (sufficiently attractive) robot slave.

    Are they available from Amazon yet?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Shouldn't the headline be :

    Robots only tolerate humans as helpful slaves ?

  24. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Intolerance to robotic assassins?

    I don't very much like human assassins either.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Intolerance to robotic assassins?

      Good point, and one made all the more telling when you consider how hot most of them are.

  25. graeme leggett

    I learned all I need to know about human attitudes to robots

    By reading 2000AD a long while ago

    Robusters (yes, I know started out in Starlord)

    Judge Dredd - the robot revolution led by Call-Me-Kenneth

    Sam Slade Robohunter.

    1. Mark York 3 Silver badge

      Re: I learned all I need to know about human attitudes to robots

      Starlord had the larger market share, 2000AD was the cheaper to produce.....

      Anyway Starlord had the short story about Sheldon who lived & was eventually trapped in a automated house.

  26. Anonymous Coward


    Pick a product and you'll find an enthusiast that lavishes care and attention on it.

    Take car owners...

    1. FunkyEric

      Re: Boll*cks

      And many more who treat them like shite until they fall apart. Then throw them away and buy a new one.

  27. T. F. M. Reader

    Sounds like another breakthrough research

    from the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious.

    Think of your relationship with your computer. Do you have warmer feelings towards it when it does something useful for you (maybe as a cron job) or when you need to fix something that is broken?

    Thought so.

  28. bearded bear can

    Dear Santa ..

    I want my own Terminator. Or no robot at all.

  29. Tom 13

    Please tell me this was at least privately funded.

    It's bad enough I now have to bear the stigma that someone from my alma matre thinks this was worthy of being called "research".

  30. stupormundi

    Eye opener !

    "When they were asked about their feelings towards the robot, researchers found they were more positive about the robot when it was helping them."

    These guys are proper geniuses. Just where do they take it from? I'd have never come up with that. Breathtaking. Far out!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Anything that can pass Mister Turing's test should be treated under the same laws as human live under.

  32. Ed_UK

    Aldebaran Robotics = Sirius Cybernetics?

    Clever choice of name there. Aldebaran means "the follower" since it is the bright star which appears to follow the Pleiades across the sky.

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