Robots are Scary

Are Robots Scary?

Are Robots something to be scared of?

For several years I have been working with Intelligent Automation, RPA and algorithms. I’m someone that is really interested in AI, VR and anything to do with new tech and advancements.

However, my wife is terrified of “the robots taking over” due to watching the Terminator movies and whilst jokingly (probably not joking!) refers to what I do for a living as being involved at the end of humanity and lining up the future for the robots to take control of the earth.

Whilst this is often a bit of fun when we are joking about things I’m working on, I always put this down to the feelings of someone that is not that close to tech and advancements in business like RPA and AI, which are commonplace in lots of large organisations.

However, a recent conversation I had with someone about the use of robots made me think about this again. We were discussing Siri and Alexa and this individual mentioned that they were OK with RPA as a concept but liked any verbal interactions with bots to be with a machine-like voice as opposed to the voice sounding human. They also indicated they still were not comfortable with having an Alexa in their home.

The person I was speaking to was someone whom I had worked with on a project where I was delivering an RPA program where we successfully installed bots to improve their processes. So they were familiar with the tech and how it works – yet still not comfortable with robots.

This takes me back to an exchange involving a senior figure within the banking sector many years ago (before RPA was that well known) where the individual was visibly terrified about having a bot performing tasks. He was looking around the room, asking where it would need to sit and when he was told it would sit inside the computer was staring at the computer and wondering how it would keep the bot captive!

All the individual could think about when they were getting bots in their business was that there would be Terminator-like machines sat at desks, probably with their guns ready to clear out the office.

I find this scenario very interesting as it is clear when you speak to people about “Robots” it can bring out quite emotive responses and these types of feelings are often the hardest to address. You can use facts and figures to solve matters of initial disagreements or confusion, but when it comes to how someone feels it isn’t as simple as that. There is no right or wrong way to feel about something, it’s a gut feeling or mindset that rationally or irrationally is what you are thinking.

Remember the person that had the issue with Alexa. This was mentioned to me on Linkedin, probably using a smartphone or laptop. Everything that is present with Alexa will exist in the devices they would have used. What could be the reasoning for being comfortable with these devices but not an Alexa?

If I was to offer you an internet service that was better (more reliable), faster and cheaper and gave you 10 seconds to think about it and sign for it, that would be 9 more seconds than you needed.

However, if I were to offer you a minibot for your business that was more accurate, faster and cheaper this might be met with many questions and maybe some hesitation before detailed discussions. Or maybe a flat out ‘no’ because did not feel comfortable with the idea.

I wonder how many business leaders are not taking advantage of new tech advancements because of feelings?
If this is the case how can this be overcome so that everyone can benefit from what is widely available?