Hinweis: Die Prozentangaben in Klammern zeigen die Gewichtung der einzelnen Aufgaben.
- Outline the information about Bartneck’s experiment and the implications for machine-human interaction as presented in Text A. (20 %)
- Analyze the way the author maintains the reader’s interest in the experiment and its consequences. Give evidence from Text A. (25 %)
- Mediation For an international youth conference on “Human-Robot Ethics”, outline what Ulrich Ladurner writes about the use of robots and drones in war. (Text B) (20 %)
- Choose one of the following tasks:
4.1 “And while eventually every participant killed the robot, it took them time to intellectually override their emotional queasiness […].” (Text A, ll. 35/36) Reflect on the emotional ways people relate to interactive devices and computer games. Refer to Bartneck’s findings in Text A and other examples you are familiar with. (35 %)
4.2 Compare the human-robot interaction in Text A with other experiments in literature or film where humans and machines like robots, surrogates, or avatars come into conflict. Assess how they deal with the situation. (35 %)
4.3 Write an article for the online magazine “Science News for Students” in which you reflect on the implications of Bartneck’s experiment (Text A) and the benefits as well as risks of a robot-aided society. (35 %)
The text at hand deals with machine-human relations. It informs about experiments on finding out if humans are really able to distinguish between social beings and artificial intelligence.
In one of these experiments, there is a cat which can talk like a human, and plays a game against a computer with a human research subject. The cat’s behavior varies from being helpful, nice and intelligent to being dumb and mean, and this shows typical human behavior. At the end of the game, the human is told to turn the cat off, and thus to eliminate everything it represents, its memories, behavior and even personality.
Here, the moral struggle starts. The humans see themselves in emotional discussions with the machine begging for its life. They completely ignore the logical thought that a machine is just a collection of metal and electrical pulses, but instead see the personal features. Compared to switching off a gadget that cannot talk or does not show human-like behavior, it takes the research subjects much longer to make the decision.
The implications for machine-human interaction are of both practical and philosophical nature. On the one hand, machines and their technology can be improved much better when researchers watch human behavior towards these machines. On the other hand, the relationship between humans and machines must be clearly defined, as it is in steady development. Intelligent machines accompany us humans more and more in our daily lives, and thus our attitude as well as our social responses to them will continually change.
The excerpt provided does not immediately start with the text itself, but with the image of a face, which is obviously not that of a human, but of a robot. It shows a round head with big eyes, raised eyebrows and a mouth which indicates a smile. All in all, this facial expression implies human features, as it looks cute, and the observer may want to touch it and stroke it. You simply feel attracted to that face. Next to it, there is the question, “Could you say ‘no’ to this face?”
This image itself, used as a starter into the text, evokes curiosity with the reader. One wants to find out how this picture of a robot’s face is related to humans.
In the course of the text, machines are given human attitudes, as they can talk, discuss giving seemingly logical remarks with you (ll. 18ff), or they have a face which reminds you of human characteristics. Additionally, the author has chosen the example of a robot that looks like a cat, which aims at the closeness between humans and their beloved pets, which they do not want to lose or even kill. They appeal to you not to switch them off, touching you morally (l. 27). They address you as if they were social beings, and not just machines created by scientists.
By showing the robots with human-like features, the author easily reaches the reader emotionally. He creates relations between humans and machines, which actually should only exist in the humans’ world. When we read about research subjects hesitating to switch the machines off, we clearly know that there are people who mix artificial intelligence and human behavior. They even start conversations with the robot, as if the machines could think and react logically. This is why the reader critically goes on reading, trying to make up his mind about the sense or nonsense of such close relations, and trying to figure out his personal point of view.
Besides the descriptions of the experiments and the people’s reactions, the author uses a certain choice of words to catch the reader’s interest. These words, like ‘killing’, ’memories’, ‘personality’, are usually used in reference to human beings, but not to machines which may be damaged or switched off, or have data carriers built in to save information. They do not possess a brain or a heart, they do not have a soul or emotions; they just exist and are functional because they have been built by people.
Additionally, the author, in mentioning and quoting Professor Clifford Nass’ work, creates a scientific and thus reliable background for his article, which describes another study based on the Milgram Study in the early 1960s.
All in all, Alix Spiegel successfully manages to open the readers’ minds for thinking about machine-human relations and makes them interested in its consequences.
In 2013, the text ‘When robots kill‘, written by Ulrich Ladurner, was published in Die Zeit, a German newspaper. It deals with the use of robots and drones in a war.
The author is convinced that in the near future, weapons could exist which decide independently to attack people. However, they would not be able to distinguish friend from foe. So the question arises as to who would take the responsibility for innocent civilians being killed. This question cannot be answered clearly.
Using robots and drones in a war would minimize costs and would lead to fast decisions to attack, as there are no humans but just machines that fight and which may be damaged.
However, war is fought between humans. Only when you win battles and force the enemy to surrender can you win the war. Thus, the threat of using robots to replace human soldiers in wars is too extreme. So the world community should try to ban these automated killing machines. History has shown that it is possible to ban special kinds of weapons like land mines. The author is convinced that robot warriors must follow.
Over the last years, computer technology has made people’s lives much easier and has helped to connect the world. Some may say it is a blessing, but others may say it is a curse. However, it is a matter of fact that life without technology is unimaginable and impossible, because we now find it everywhere. Almost everything around us is connected with everthing else. Computer technology makes cars able to park independently without human interference; computer technology is the basis for GPS systems, and even the heating system would never work without it. Household devices need computer technology as well as telephone systems.
Besides in their daily or professional life, many people use computers and interactive devices in their free time. They play games individually, or connect with other gamers to play. Depending on their personality, they even build up a kind of a relationship with their computers.
In the the text at hand, which provides interesting information on a study about people’s emotional behavior towards machines, we can read how computers can manipulate people. Showing a happy or sad face on computers which look like pets appeal to humans’ feelings. This leads to effects that the Bartneck study has found out: Research subjects hesitate when it comes to turning the machine off when they know that the consequences would be eliminating everything the robot is and does, including memories, behavior and personality.
I suppose emotional ties to robots, which accompany human beings throughout their life, which help in special situations and thus are reliable and important parts of our lives, are exceptions. Think of hospitals where computers keep us alive or support the healing process. Think of the households where robots help by cleaning the floors, or where dishwashers and washing machines make our life easier. Think of offices and libraries, of schools and every other place where computers help us work with lists. Think of sports events where the runners’ speeds, distances or the wind speed need to be measured. These few examples specifically emphasize the importance of computer technology and robots in our lives. Robots and computers have been developed to make our existence easier or more interesting, to help us to stay connected globally and to support business links.
Nevertheless, the emotional aspect of computers and interactive devices undeniably exists. This way, the computer user loses his fear of not being able to cope with technology, and does not see a complex machine, but probably some kind of an individual which appears to be rather close.
In the 1990s children, played with the Tamagotchi, which was a virtual chicken that had to be cared for from the moment it hatched. You had to feed it; it needed sleep and love. If you did not care for it enough, the Tamagotchi died. The computer company that developed this toy clearly focused on the children’s emotions. The children built up a very close relationship to their Tamagotchi, and treated it like a real person.
Who has not heard of hitchBOT, a little robot exploring the world? The project wanted to find out if it could travel throughout Canada and later Europe as well, just with the help of friendly people. HitchBOT had a body mainly composed of a plastic bucket and flexible arms and legs attached to the torso. It had a screen displaying eyes and a mouth, and thus looked humanoid. It was able to carry on basic conversations and recite facts. You could follow hitchBOT on the internet and see how people reacted when they met the little robot. They did not have any worries about giving it a lift, and considered it to be cute and did not see it as a threat in any way. People talked to it, and even took it to weddings and parties or sightseeing tours. HitchBOT created human-machine relations that we are already familiar with when we look at Bartneck’s study.
Coming to a conclusion, one must say that hitchBOT or the Tamagotchi have made people understand that computers are not a danger but a blessing, regardless if you use them professionally or privately, if you create closeness or not, or if you talk to them and even give them names. They evoke emotional relations, and thus can be helpful in developing social competences - as long as the consumers of computer games or users of interactive devices do not lose contact to reality.
The article No Mercy For Robots deals with an experiment about human-machine relations. In this experiment, humans are asked to spend some time with robots that look like cats. They play computer games and have a kind of conversation. The cats are able to show different facial expressions, and thus they can arouse emotions. When the people are asked to switch the robots off, they hesitate because they know that the personality of the machines will be eliminated as well. It is not like switching a gadget like a radio or a hair dryer on and off repeatedly, it is irrevocable. The research subjects felt a relation to the robots, which makes it hard for them to kill these begging objects. The humans transferred a human-like behavior to the robots, because they seem to be able to reflect human attitudes.
There is an American film called The Terminator. Here, a human-looking indestructible android is sent from somewhen in the future back to the 1980s to kill the prospective mother of a prospective rebel who will lead humanity in a war against the machines. A soldier also travels back to the earth to protect this mother.
In the film, intelligent war machines fought a war against their creators, the humans, because they see them as a threat to the existence of the machines. The survivors of that war have two options: surrender and work as slaves for the machines, or join the rebellion and fight. To prevent this war, the machines want to kill the young woman before she gives birth to her son, the future leader.
The android tries everything to find and kill the woman. He can change his appearance, he can run extraordinarily fast, he is bullet-proof; he does not care about anyone else or their lives. Feelings like fear, remorse or sympathy are completely unknown to him. In general, he gives the impression of a negative lone rider: he does not say much, he is very muscular, he is brutal, and acts very efficiently and rationally.
Unfortunately, the terminator, being a fight machine and not a human, cannot easily be identified as a robot at first sight. This makes it difficult to react. The people are scared, because every person next to them could turn out to be a robot with human attitudes.
The Terminator perfectly shows the negative consequences of the development of machines and robots. They are equipped with artificial intelligence, and finally can create their own world as they are able to act and react deliberately. They talk and discuss, they plan actions and work out strategies. At the end, the robots are more powerful and crueler than the people who have created them.
Yet, the impact of research in every field of science and technology is not completely clear in today’s times. Scientists and research companies must sensibly think about the goals they want to reach with the new robots, which attitudes they shall show, which characteristics they should have. In the interest of humanity and its survival, there must be a worldwide control of the development of everything that could harm our lives or that of future generations.
My Friend the Robot?
Have you ever dreamed of having a little helper in school or university that writes all your papers for you or does all the unpleasant things connected with studying? I guess most of you have. When we follow this idea we should consider many details.
Lately I read an interesting article about an experiment on human-machine relations. Here, the participants had to play computer games with another computer that looked like a cat. During the course of the experiment, the research subjects obviously built up a special relationship with that robot, because they hesitated when they were told to switch the machine off. Since the people knew that everything the machine was able to do, its memories, behavior and personality, would be eliminated, they might have thought of it not only as a robot but at least as a pet. Who would like to kill his pet? The people completely forgot that it was only a machine without a heart or soul or feelings, just something inanimate.
Reading this article, I was pretty surprised that people are able to create such closeness to robots, even if they look cute and harmless. Of course, robots can be helpful in our everyday lives, when we think of all the household devices, or when we think of hospitals or nursing homes where robots are also used for helping the patients. Do not forget that technical equipment, which is essential for our lives, can be found almost everywhere.
This leads to the question of whether robots are beneficial for our society. Robots can help us to do hard physical or even dangerous work. They can work fast and precisely when they are constructed to do so. They can substitute the human being in almost every sphere of our working life. Once constructed, they do not need much effort to keep them working: Regular examinations and technical check-ups are not as expensive as medical check-ups or treatment for humans would be. Malfunctions of robots could be minimized with an appropriate technical background.
Robots can substitute for people working on assembly lines, and thus save their working power for different things that need logical thinking. Armies and police forces use robots when looking for and defusing mines on minefields, so that no human life is at risk of being killed. In looking for natural resources, companies use robots so they can explore areas that are inaccessible for people. Film makers use drones for creating more spectacular pictures of the scenes. Today, drones are even toys, and kids enjoy playing with them and letting them fly.
But there is another side of the coin: Drones are also deployed to keep people or places under surveillance. Armies can use them for transporting and dropping bombs, and thus killing people deliberately. They were used that way in the first gulf war, for example. At present, drones are part of the basic equipment for many armies. Future scenarios could even see robots fighting wars for their creators, because with machines, the inhibitions of attacking or invading would be greater against a machine. Research for military use should be controlled world-wide to prevent this worst case of all.
Coming back to more common aspects, people may have concerns about robots, thinking that these machines are taking their jobs and thus making the workers redundant. Nevertheless, it is a matter of fact that robots make our lives easier, as they take over difficult and dangerous tasks. If we all accept our responsibility for each other and for our world, if we limit research in special fields, and if we do not try to reach out for more and more power over others, then our society may be aided by robots, but also a beautiful place to live in. Then robots and human beings can be friends.
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