Population’s Perception of Interaction with Robots
The rapid proliferation of robotics, not just in industry but in everyday life as well, brings us ever closer to the future described in science fiction. Since 2016 drones became subject to legal regulation in Russia. In December 2018 experimental testing of unmanned vehicles on public roads began in the country. According to Intuitive Surgical company, 29 robot-assisted systems have been installed in Russian clinics. Artificial intelligence is increasingly applied to process the volume of big data, in particular for making decisions on borrowers’ repayment capabilities, selection of candidates, etc. However, the rate of such technologies’ penetration into various areas of life depends not only on manufacturing potential, but also on public demand.
As the HSE ISSEK 2015 study indicated, the robots for household purposes do not provoke mass interest among our compatriots, if compared with other innovative products. The most recent study conducted at the end of 2018 revealed that the Russians’ willingness to use robots to an important extent depends on their role in the system of social relations. The results of a survey of 7,584 respondents aged 18-65 conducted in the framework of the HSE ISSEK study ‘Monitoring of the Innovation Activity of the Subjects of Innovation Process'1 provided the empirical basis for the analysis.
Robots and artificial intelligence are fundamentally different from technological devices already familiar to the public: they take part in decision making and possess rudimentary subjectivity. 10 projective situations were selected for the purposes of the study, where these features were articulated with varying degrees. The respondents were asked to estimate how comfortable they would feel in each of these situations (Fig. 1).
Most of the respondents said they would be comfortable if a robotic assistant did some of the household chores for them (66%), a drone delivered their purchases from the shop (62%), or a robotic consultant helped them understand legal issues (53%).
Joint labour activity and discussions with robots, as well as robots making decisions on granting a credit were also acceptable, but noticeably less often (44, 38 and 35%, respectively).
Why were two groups of situations perceived differently? In the first case the robot’s activity is subjected to the user’s control, and eventually all decisions are made by humans. In the second case, the robot is the subject of action, which most people find to be unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
The robot’s subjectivity becomes even more pronounced in the system of interaction during surgical procedures, care for people, and traveling in unmanned vehicles. In this case, the human not only interacts with the robot on equal footing but also relies on it, delegating it the responsibility for own life or the life of the closest people. The absolute majority of the respondents assess it as unacceptable.
Figure 1. Perception of interaction with robots (as a percentage of respondents aged 18-65)
The differences in the perception of robots presented above are typical for all socio-demographic groups, as well as for the population groups who actively use digital technologies. Even technologically advanced users (e.g. owners of smart watches, smartphones, people with a high level of digital skills, etc.) are yet not ready for the implementation of the independently operating robots.
Informing the public about the current practices of applying artificial intelligence in Russia, and people accepting the idea of robots’ rudimentary subjectivity can contribute to dissemination of robotics beyond the industrial production.
HSE ISSEK calculations based on data collected in the course of the project ‘Monitoring of the Innovation Activity of the Subjects of Innovation Process’ implemented in the framework of HSE Basic Research Programme 2018; results of the project ‘The Study of the Activity of the Subjects of Innovation Process: the Potential for Applying New Methodological Approaches’ implemented in the framework of the research plan prescribed by the State Assignment for HSE.
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