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Post 6: Talking about AI

Updated: Mar 23, 2019

For many people, Robots are science fiction, a futuristic film scenario. Many believe that these scenarios are real, that there are robots in a human-like form that are or will be in near future equal members of society with humans. A few people know the truth, they know more details about that automata has been invented in various university labs and how much humanlike they are so far.


So, yes, this post is about Humanlike Automata, robots, and Lucy Suchman’s approach to her book Human-machine reconfigurations: Plans and situated actions[1]. From this book, I will be reflect part of the 13th chapter. 




Chapter 13

Figuring the Human in AI  and Robotics

The conversation will start with the question what is to be human-like? I personally wouldn’t imagine that such philosophical questions preoccupy the scientists of AI and Robotics. However, after reading this chapter I can understand why we need to be aware of the relation between human-creators and AI  robots and how many more questions can occur during the process.


I will start by underlining the question of how scientist evaluates humans and machines, the way they analyze humans’ behavior and their role in society. 


We want to build a robot that helps us. Help us in what way? Do we want it to do the job for us? do we want to show us how to do something? The analysis and the evaluation of this question and its answers influence the final outcome.

A good example is the AI music Tutor. In first sight, it may look easy to construct a tutor that will pass you the knowledge of music and there are plenty of smart interfaces for this purpose, indeed. But is music only the notation reading or the way that we create sound through an instrument? Would that be able the AI tutor to impart the aesthetics and the emotions needed to perform the music?[2]


Approaching the emotion, the missing piece of the puzzle.


If only Robots could have emotions as humans do, they would have been able to be part of our society.  Would they be?  My concern is that society is still beyond accepting AI and automata as something more than “slaves”, as the author refers, more than appliances, toys.


Taking as an example Amazon’s Alexa and other smart speakers, we can reflect the role of AI at the current society. According to reports, 16% of the US population had a smart speaker at their homes and this percentage keeps rising. [3] Thus, it worth notice that a lot of people consider this device as a toy or an appliance or just a trend and they do not use it in its full capability. At the same time, like they didn’t expect that, an AI system is able to listen to their conversations. People reacted when they realized that Alexa is pretty much “alive” and she can interfere with the owner's privacy since she has her own intelligence. [4]


This example leads us to the text which concludes that the fact that the scientists have achieved creating intelligent machines, doesn't make these machines equal to humans. Therefore society is not ready to integrate these machines as part of it. However, at the same time, we shouldn't forget all the agency that these machines can already offer.


Kismet: robot made in 1990s in MIT by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal


[1]Suchman, L. (2007). Human-machine reconfigurations (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Aprameya, L. (2018). An Autonomous Intelligent Music Teacher. Potentials, IEEE, 37(1), 10-14.

[3] Murnane, K. (2018). Report Claims That 16% Of Adults In The US Own Amazon's Echo Or Google's Home. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinmurnane/2018/01/13/report-claims-that-16-of-adults-in-the-us-own-amazons-echo-or-googles-home/#28fe357e78d8 [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].

[4] Carey, S. (2018). Does Amazon Alexa or Google Home listen to my conversations?. [online] Techworld. Available at: https://www.techworld.com/security/does-amazon-alexa-listen-to-my-conversations-3661967/ [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].

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