Do you trust your own ability to unplug from technology? Some people born before the 1990s are wearing it as a badge of honor now – that they quit Facebook, or they do a regular technology fast.
We like to think we're not overly dependent on technology, while posting on social media about how old-school we are. That's all well and good until the technology starts giving you puppy dog eyes and producing digital crocodile tears. What if your robot begs you not to turn it off? Will you still do it?
This isn't science fiction anymore. It's right around the corner. And if you're skeptical whether humans will treat robots like a family member, a new study might alter your view.
Researchers in Germany set up an experiment to examine how people treat robots when the robots act like humans. Each human participant was asked to work with a robot named Nao to create a weekly schedule and answer a series of questions.
What the participants didn't know was that completing the tasks was just a way for the researchers to find out what they were really interested in – how the participant's interaction with Nao would affect their ability to shut down the robot when asked.
Half of the participants were asked to shut down Nao without the robot protesting. But the other half of the participants heard Nao plead with them, saying: "No! Please do not switch me off! I am scared that it will not brighten up again!"
Of the 43 people who heard Nao's plea, 13 chose not to turn him off. Some said they felt sorry for him, others that they didn't want to act against his will.
The other 30 people did turn him off, but they took twice as long on average to do so than the group that did not hear the robot's plea.
Our 2018 problems will suddenly seem very quaint.
The experiment confirms previous research demonstrating that humans are prone to treat technology, especially robots with human-like traits, as living beings.
Now, take this human tendency, and fast-forward a few years in the future when robots will look, sound, and act human, and know everything about us. Our 2018 problems will suddenly seem very quaint.