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In more depressing news, it turns out humans are racist to robots too

If (when) the robots take over, do you think you’ll shoot indiscriminately or be selective as to which clanking death-machine you deliver ice-cool quips to before pulling the trigger?

Well, if a paper entitled “Robots And Racism” is anything to go by, it appears most people will be far more willing to drop a few shells into robots coloured black or brown over those that are white.

Yep, turns out humankind’s biases will be carried over to our impending machine overlords.

Seeking to answer the question as to why so many robots have white or metallic finishes, Dr Christoph Bartneck, from Canterbury University in New Zealand, and his team – including people from Monash University in Melbourne – decided to apply the “shooter bias” paradigm.

Also known as “The police officer’s dilemma”, a team researching this paradigm in 2000 found “robust evidence of racial bias in decisions to shoot”.

“Participants shoot an armed target more quickly and more often when that target is black, rather than white,” the findings state.

“However, participants decide not to shoot an unarmed target more quickly and more often when the target is white, rather than black.”

You can actually have a go at the experiment, but basically it’s a bit like the shooting range scene from Men in Black.

So the robot researchers applied a similar test and had respondents answer a series of questionnaires regarding robots, seeking to discover if people “racialise” robots.

The results?

“What we observed is that the exact same bias observed with humans can also be observed with robots,” Dr Bartneck told RN Drive.

“People changed their behaviour towards brown robots in comparison to white robots.”

Interestingly, Dr Bartneck noted that these behaviours were consistent across participants, regardless of their race.

While noting that further research was required, the team reached the overall conclusion that “participants were strongly inclined to attribute race” to robots.

“Participants were able to easily and confidently identify the race of robots according to their racialisation and their performance in the shooter bias task was informed by such social categorisation processes,”

“Thus, there is also a clear sense in which these robots – and by extension other humanoid robots – do have race.”

About the author

Joe was Junior Vice-President at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net until it was bought out by Bill Gates. He now subedits for Conversant Media and considers it a step up.

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