The Ethics of Creating Entities

Should we create a response to rude or aggressive behavior?

Should we create a response to rude or aggressive behavior?

My good friend and colleague Ben Smith posted a video recently about the latest evolution of robotics at Boston Dynamics.

Watching, I had a sense of wonder and fright. Hmmm, perhaps the Terminator may not be so far-fetched after all.  One part of the video (watch about 1:26 minutes in) elicited a reaction that gave me pause. When he pushes the robot with a stick, I actually thought "Wow, that wasn't very nice."  The robot, of course, just kept attempting to pick up the box. Later, the person pushes the box out of reach just as the robot tries to pick it up. I kept expecting the robot to stand up, look at him and say "Really?"

Clearly this was just a demonstration of capability and resilience. But the thought struck me as to the importance of considering what response might need to be built in for robots to effectively interact with humans? We've learned about human behavior when we are in positions of authoritative power. I wonder how we'll behave when interacting with these entities if they show no response no matter how we treat them. And then what about intelligent assistants or the intelligent customer service systems we will more frequently encounter?

A social deterrent to unacceptable behavior is the fear of being excluded from a group if our behavior is unacceptable. We often realize this through the response during the interaction itself or by being enlightened by someone else. Either way, if we build entities with no reaction to rude or abusive behavior, will it then encourage more rude and abusive behavior? And then would that behavior extend to other human interactions?

With the speed at which I see human and machine interaction increasing, this is important to consider. The brands we are building are increasingly relying on conversations and interactions, and more of that will be with intelligent agents. How will our brands respond to rude or aggressive people?