Can robots teach us to become better humans? – Scotsman comment

It’s fair to say that ever since the idea first emerged, we humans have been fascinated by robots.

Children can feel more comfortable talking to a robot than an adult, new research suggests (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Children can feel more comfortable talking to a robot than an adult, new research suggests (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Whether they are ‘cute’ versions like Wall-E, C-3PO and Marvin the Paranoid Android (sort of cute, anyway) or out to kill us like the Terminator, we can’t seem to get enough of the potential for artificial intelligence – for good or ill.

So new research by scientists at Cambridge University that suggests children are more willing to open up to robots about their problems than to a human being is perhaps not entirely surprising. Children are just as intrigued, probably even more so.

The researchers said they got “completely non-threatening” and child-sized robots to ask children aged between eight and 13 a series of questions to assess their mental well-being. They found the children were sometimes willing to share information with the robot that they had not previously revealed to people.

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One of the scientists, Nida Itrat Abbasi, said that the children “might see the robot as a confidante” and “feel like they won't get into trouble if they share secrets with it”.

It should be noted that during the robot-child interactions, a parent or guardian watched from the next room and that all the children involved said they had enjoyed the experience.

However, if a friendly humanoid is easier to talk to than an actual human, it might say more about us than we care to believe. If our artificial creations can be better at doing that most ‘human’ thing – communicating – that should give us pause for thought.

Could robots teach us to become better humans?

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