Thursday, December 29, 2016

What color is your robot?

Definition of what a robot is
What is a robot?
Months ago - after the report was released about events in Ferguson (MO) and before the events in Baltimore (MD) - Paul Signorelli and I had a phone conversation about race and discrimination. As we often do, our conversation wandered and touched on several other topics and we somehow stumbled on the topic of robots.

In science fiction, robots do take on humanoid form; however, the robots in our midst tend to be very machine-like.What if our robots could look like humans? What skin color would they have?

A robot
Perhaps the answer seems obvious to you. Perhaps the answer does not seem problematic. Perhaps it is because we have no robots among us that look like us.

Recent events in the United States demonstrate that we still have issues in our communities in relation to race and culture. A person's skin color can be interpreted by others as an indication of that person's value in the community or even value as a human being. Skin color can provide privilege or be a disadvantage.

What privileges do we want robots to have? How will those privileges be signaled?

Although I started this post months ago, it is still timely both because of racism in our world and because of our increased reliance on robots of all kinds. You might take a moment and think about what you want your robots to look like and, if human-looking, what color will they be?

If you haven't thought about racism, watch this video.

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