9/29 “Why We Have an Emotional Connection to Robots” – Bridget Hall

In Why We Have an Emotional Connection to Robots, speaker Kate Darling discusses the empathy that humans feel when a robot is being damaged or destroyed. 

Although robots do not have any emotions or feel any pain, we as humans feel it is “inhumane” to harm these robots in any way. Darling explains that we are “biologically hardwired to project intent and life onto any movement in our physical space that seems autonomous to us.” In other words, we view robots as having some level of life to them because of how realistic their functions are. 

Darling brings up the effect of violent video games on humans. She asks whether exposure to violent video games is a “healthy outlet for violent behavior” or does it cause us to act violently in the real world. Darling points out how the evolution of technology, specifically robots, has had an impact on human psychology and our humanity. In one of Darling’s studies she found that participants were not willing to destroy a robot dinosaur or even a HEXBUG. Individuals who displayed higher levels of empathy were opposed to damaging or destroying the HEXBUGS and dinosaurs. Can robots be used to teach individuals who are aggressive to be less hostile? 

I think this research is extremely interesting. Darling discussed how attached a soldier can get to a robot they work with. She claims this can be both an inefficiency and a danger. But I think it could be beneficial. So many military veterans suffer from PTSD. Maybe robots can help them cope with the stress and negative thoughts that they have. 


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