Do Robots Have a Race?

Despite their mechanical nature, people seem to impose racial identities on robots. That’s a problem.

Ari Joury, PhD
Geek Culture
Published in
7 min readJan 17, 2022

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Two robots looking at each other shaking hands
Lighter-colored robots often pass as white or Asian, while darker ones pass as Black or Latin. Image by author

DoDo a Google image search for “robot” and you’ll find predominantly white or metallic apparati. It’s no different in movies, whether you’re checking out Blade Runner, Star Wars, The Terminator, or good old Metropolis. Almost all robots from movies are white or metallic in their appearance.

Maybe a white robot blends in a little better with its surroundings, you might reason. Or maybe it just looks a little more pleasing because it doesn’t swallow as much light as a darker robot would. Or maybe we envision robots in a bright future, and white robots look kind of bright.

The reality might be a lot darker, according to recent research. People favor white robots because people are racist. Ouch.

Race and Robots

You might think that this is over the top and argue that robots aren’t human. You might also argue that any normal person wouldn’t treat a robot like a fellow human because surely people aren’t that stupid. Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth.

Anthropomorphism, or the practice of creating objects that are similar to humans, is everywhere in robotics. This principle also entails the capability of…

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Ari Joury, PhD
Geek Culture

Founder of Wangari. Sustainable finance & ESG-financial modeling. Get all articles 3 days in advance: https://wangari.substack.com