Learning to interact effectively with robots is a critical 21st century skill.

Learning to interact effectively with robots is a critical 21st century skill.

Remember your first bike ride? Your first driving lesson? If you do it's probably because they were pretty scary. 

That's how many of us are feeling about the prospect of "interacting" with robots. 

Even that phrase, "interacting with robots" is enough to send lots of us off into thoughts of being trampled or just being totally creeped out

The truth is, even the simplest of machines take some getting used to, and the robots we'll be encountering in the coming decade will be anything but simple.

But, learning to become a collaborative, interactive partner with robots is about to become one of the most important skills in the 21st century. How can you improve those skills?

First, it's important to evaluate your current thoughts and feelings about robots. That sounds a little strange, doesn't it? When you think about it, however, you'll soon discover that the word "robot" elicits a set of emotional and cognitive reactions that might surprise you. After all, decades of science fiction about robots have left impressions that most of us are not even aware of. So, a good place to start might be to take this brief RoboThoughts survey

What we see is that many of us carry around a set of negative attitudes about robots that we aren't even aware of. Those attitudes seem harmless enough. Who cares if we don't think it's a good idea to let robots drive cars?

But, those attitudes can have a hidden impact on our willingness to take advantage of one of the greatest technological breakthroughs in our lifetimes: social robotics. 

When robots moved from novels and the movie screen to a special fenced in part of the automobile factory floor, it wasn't that important for most of us to want to improve our ability to interact with them. 

Now that we of have those robots in our pockets, homes, and cars, however, we'll all need to improve our ability to interact with them effectively and efficiently.

That's what I call your level of "RoboPsych Competency." RoboPsych is a combination of emotional and cognitive attitudes and abilities that establish our level of willingness and proficiency at interacting with robots.

Think of your current RoboPsych as a starting point for developing a level of expertise at integrating robots into your life to accomplish a wide range of tasks. The higher our RoboPsych Competency, the more creative we will be at using robots not just to make up for our deficiencies (e.g., reminding us not to forget things like birthdays and appointments) but also to help us become more productive, successful, happier versions of ourselves. 

How can robots do that?

That's one of the questions we'll be exploring together here over the coming months.