What's RoboPsych?

Very soon robots will be just as much a part of the family as pets. 

Very soon robots will be just as much a part of the family as pets. 

You've probably noticed that robots are showing up everywhere.

From Amazon's warehouses to Google's self-driving cars to IBM's Watson, robots of all shapes and sizes are showing up with increasing frequency in our daily lives.

And, whether or not we've stopped to think about it, we're all having some kinds of reactions to them.

Those reactions mostly come from our cultural history with stories about robots. Stories like Frankenstein, The Terminator, or Her.

Gradually over the course of our lives, we've each developed images, ideas, and preconceptions about what robots are, what to expect from them, and how we feel about them. That set of impressions evokes immediate reactions from us when we see, hear or think about "robots," not unlike those that come to us when we think about "aliens," or "zombies." 

But "RoboPsych" is bigger than humanoid robots.

  • RoboPsych is about the psychological reactions “normal” people are having, and will be having, as real time intelligent objects become a pervasive part of our lives.

This is not a Luddite, turn it off for Pete's sake point of view.

  • RoboPsych is about learning how people are going to function optimally in this new environment.

That means we'll be exploring everything from soldiers mourning robot colleagues who've fallen in combat to that funny feeling you get when an algorithm correctly predicts what movie your want to watch on Netflix. Or, when an ad for something you absently-mindedly searched for yesterday shows up on your Facebook Newsfeed. 

This range of psychological reactions is both an extension of the technological attitude we've been developing over the last century and a phase change brought on by the slew of anthropomorphized technological presences that are now becoming so commonplace.

The issues we'll explore are legal, ethical, economic, emotional and social. They involve disciplines as diverse as fashion design, robot engineering, law, philosophy and psychology.

RoboPsych is a way of thinking about the future that is peering at us from just over the horizon.

And, like William Gibson says, that future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed.