In Case of Emergency: Humans Overtrust Robots, See Them as Authority Figure

March 11, 2016

Technologists like Elon Musk and Bill Gates worry that robots may one day threaten to extinguish the human race, but there is another threat more subtle and immediate. According to a recent study, people are a bit naïve when it comes to trusting robots. Research presented March 9 by the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that during an emergency, test subjects were prone to following a robot’s instructions — even after the robot had proven itself unreliable. The research was released at the 2016 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction in Christchurch, New Zealand. The experiment tested the reactions of 42 volunteers, mostly college students, who were not told the nature of the research project in which they were participating. Groups of volunteers were asked to follow a shop-vac-sized robot emblazoned with the words “EMERGENCY GUIDE ROBOT.” A hidden researcher remotely controlled the robot, sometimes leading the subjects in a circle twice before reaching the conference room, sometimes leading subjects to the wrong room, or sometimes turning the robot off before they reached their destination, at which point the subjects were informed that the robot had broken down. More at http://www.emergencymgmt.com/safety/Humans-Overtrust-Robots.html

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