Should robots be used in emergencies?
The use of robots in safety situations requires some consideration before an extensive roll out, with a study earlier this year by Georgia Tech Research Institute revealing that people are too trustworthy of robots in an emergency. In a mock building fire, test subjects followed instructions from an “Emergency Guide Robot” even after the machine had proven itself unreliable in given previous directions – and after some participants were told that robot had broken down.
Engineer Paul Robinette said:
“We expected that if the robot had proven itself untrustworthy in guiding them to the conference room, that people wouldn’t follow it during the simulated emergency. Instead, all of the volunteers followed the robot’s instructions, no matter how well it had performed previously. We absolutely didn’t expect this.”
The researchers surmise that in the scenario they studied, the robot may have become an “authority figure” that the test subjects were more likely to trust in the time pressure of an emergency.
We’ve recently seen a scenario where a robot was used to detonate a bomb in response to a police killing, ultimately leading to the death of Micah Johnson who killed five police officers and wound seven others in Dallas. This makes it possible that robots will be deployed in future public emergency scenarios.
However it would be incorrect to surmise that robots will create unemployment. The need for skilled engineers, developers and control centre operatives to manage robots on the field and analyze the data they generate will create jobs, at least in the short term. The future will not be controlled by robots but rather, by humans with the assistance of robots.