RoboPsych began as a curiosity.
As a psychologist, I've always been deeply interested in the ways technology affects human relationships. In 2009, I began teaching a course entitled, "The Meaning of Branded Objects" in the Master's of Branding Program at New York City's School of Visual Arts.
After teaching the course for five years it became clear to me that modern people become intimately involved with a subset of objects and interact with them as if we shared a kind of quasi-intersubjectivity. The term “anthropomorphism” denotes our tendency to ascribe human-like characteristics to animals and inanimate objects. Designers utilize anthropomorphism to elicit particular, purposeful, interactive behaviors, including emotional reactions, with the objects they create.
Meanwhile, developments in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) were quickly moving toward making robots more “user friendly,” “social,” and, “interactive.” Smartphones, Siri, and Google had become ubiquitous and sophisticated manufacturing and material handling robots were transforming many workplaces into laboratories for the rapidly-developing field of human-robot interaction (HRI).
It occurred to me that we were on the brink of a transformation of everyday life potentially as powerful as that brought on by the Industrial Revolution. From the vantage point of today’s complex world it’s difficult for us to imagine the impact of machines on the day-to-day lives of turn-of-the-20th century inhabitants of Western Europe and America. Practically overnight, quiet, dark streets and homes that had remained essentially unchanged for hundreds of years came alive with the hum of electrically powered machines, the illumination of light bulbs and the clamor of automobiles.
Imagine the psychological impact of these changes! In short order, people who’d previously relied on their own muscle power and the efforts of reliable animals for all their needs now had a wide variety of electric-, steam- and gasoline-powered devices deeply involved in their lives.
Everything changed, and quickly.
Most people learned how to use the new work-savers. Some didn’t. Some excelled.
Fast forward to today. AI equipped robots are about to become as ubiquitous in our lives as electricity-powered machines did in the early 20th century.
Like then, everything will change, quickly.
Most people will learn how to use the new work-savers. Some won’t. Some will excel.
As I imagined this new landscape it became clear to me that those who will excel at adopting new AI and robotic technology will do so as a result of effectively using a set of cognitive, emotional and behavioral competencies. Those competencies are analogous to the knowledge, skills and abilities of 20th century early adopters of Industrial era technologies. Like their predecessors, those who excel at using these new technological labor-savers will have significant advantages over those who cannot.
I called this bundle of cognitive, emotional and behavioral characteristics, RoboPsych. Simply put, RoboPsych is a skillset, a short-hand for each individual’s integrated cognitive, emotional and behavioral predisposition for effectively using AI and robotic technology.
Like practically any skillset (think: musical ability), RoboPsych is a mixture of personal predispositions and learned behaviors. That means that most of the variation among individuals’s ability to effectively use AI and robotics can be improved by various forms of education, reflection and practice.
RoboPsych.com is a platform for aggregating news and knowledge about AI, robotics and the competencies that make up our individual RoboPsyches. The site's focus will be on helping people to recognize their own RoboPsych strengths and shortcomings and on ways to improve their effectiveness at using the 21st century’s most powerful work-savers: AI and robotics.