We Don’t Need Robots That Resemble Humans

Why roboticists should lean into what makes bots different

Evan Selinger

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It’s human nature to perceive robots as having human features and exhibiting human behavior. Anthropomorphic inclinations are in our DNA, and engineers can’t override this tendency. What roboticists can do is help us better cope with cognitive biases and better address social ones. To accomplish these goals, they should embrace a postmodern aesthetic.

Bots should be designed like Deadpool — the graphic novel–adapted cinematic antihero who constantly breaks the fourth wall by reminding the movie audience that he knows he’s a superhero character in a superhero movie. Bots should emulate the vibe the in meta-slasher Scream franchise where characters recite horror movie commandments, break them, and pay the price for their transgressions. Starkly put, roboticists should aim to promote honest anthropomorphism by programming their devices to remind us that they’re just actors with make-believe human characteristics that are performing for an audience that has a hard time suspending its disbelief.

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Evan Selinger

Prof. Philosophy at RIT. Latest book: “Re-Engineering Humanity.” Bylines everywhere. http://eselinger.org/