This Is When It's a Robot's Fault

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If you're ever looking to waste a few minutes on YouTube, look up "robot fails." From the hilarious bad robots of Simone Giertz to Boston Dynamics and DARPA screw-ups, there's just something deeply hilarious (and a little reassuring) about our future robot overlords not quite keeping it together. That's no way to treat your future coworkers, though — especially when they're just doing their best.


Psychologists at North Carolina State University have just released a study looking into a curious question: when we're most likely to blame a robot for an on-the-job mistake. While we're already seeing robots in heavy industry, we should expect to work alongside them in a variety of fields sooner rather than later. Robots are only as good as we make them, so when the inevitable error snarls up your workday, one key factor goes into assigning blame: autonomy.

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If we hear that a human is just monitoring a robot, rather than guiding it, we're more likely to get annoyed at the robot itself. Interestingly, we'd rather be replaced on the job by a robot than another person, even if we don't like robots in the workplace very much.


"The study also raises questions about how quickly autonomous robots may be assimilated into the workplace," said coauthor Doug Gillan. "Do employers want to buy robots that may be more efficient but can be blamed for errors, making it more difficult to hold human employees accountable? Or do employers want to stick to robots that are viewed solely as tools to be controlled by humans?"

Big questions for the future, and worth considering as you hit "play" on your next video.