Social Mechanisms of Android Science
Posted 5 Jan 2005 at 17:44 UTC by steve
A call for papers has been issued for a planned CogSci2005 event
called the Android Science
Workshop. The theme is "Toward Social Mechanisms of Android
Science". According to their website, "the aim of this workshop is to
begin to lay a foundation for research in android science, a new field
that integrates the synthetic approach from robotics with the empirical
methodologies of the social sciences." They include humanoid robots
in their definition of androids, as well as other artificial
constructs with human-like appearance and behavior.
A Clarification, posted 16 Feb 2005 at 15:57 UTC by steve »
emailed a clarification on the matter of what is considered an android:
In fact, we distinguish androids from humanoids. Although both terms
have a similar etymology ("man resembling," the former from Greek and
the later from Latin) in robotics android refers to robots whose
resemblance goes beyond gross morphology. It is not enough for an
android to have a head, two arms, a torso, and perhaps two legs. It must
be humanlike down to the look and feel of the skin, teeth, and hair. It
must also have humanlike behavior.
The development of androids is key to exploring human activity because
only very humanlike machines can elicit natural responses in people.
Conversely, insights drawn from detailed investigations of human
activity are required to build androids with humanlike behavior. We need
to establish the new field of android science owing to the interdependent
relationship between developing androids and investigating the
mechanisms that support social activity. Androids will provide a unique
means to embody and evaluate biobehavioral theories in relation to
social interaction because scientists can evaluate both human and
android responses in relative isolation from the effects of appearance.
Owing to the impact of appearance, certain questions about human beings
cannot be answered without employing androids experimentally. Androids
provide the ultimate test bed for theories from the social and
neurosciences and a platform for their eventual unification.
I know no-one will ever read this...
I see people responding "naturally" (whatever that means) to loads of
things that aren't androids. People swear at their computers and hit
their cars. If you're obsessed with "The Natural" then there are a load
of other animals you know. I think er.. Sony might have thought as much.
The term "natural" is used as a kind of verbal shorthand for "the kind
of responses that people direct toward other people." People may swear
at their computers, and people have tended to anthropomorphize many
phenomena. (Wilfrid Sellars talks about the manifest image; Daniel
Dennett talks about how people take an intentional stance; and Reeves
and Nass have discussed how we treat media socially in their book The
Media Equation, the thesis being that media equals life.) However,
that does not mean that our responses toward computers, robots,
androids, and humans are identical.
These responses can be analyzed in many different ways, such as fMRI
and other methods of imaging the brain, galvanic skin response, eye
movement, vocal pitch, and gesture. Often in human-human interaction
we see very closely coordinated interaction that is not comparable to
human-robot interaction, much less human-computer interaction. For
example, we have found differences in gaze fixation. Interlocutors
tend to make eye contact by looking at the right eye, and this is true
in North America and Japan. However, when interacting with the
mechanical-looking robot Wakamaru, they tend to look more at other
parts of the body when compared to their interactions with human
subjects or androids. In fact, when interacting with androids, they
can make more eye contact than when interacting with people, which may
imply an absence of the modesty often felt among Japanese when they
interact with other people. Ayse Saygin has found in fMRI studies
differences in brain activity when a person sees an android with a
human looking hand reach for an object as compared to when the same
person sees a humanoid hand. (The movement and mechanism were the same
except the human-looking silicone skin was replaced with a mechanical-