The Human Robot

In this VPRO Backlight story director Rob van Hattum investigates the frameworks that determine the boundaries of how we see smart and social robots.

When asked the question how they think of robots western people are rather reluctant, even a little scared. In Japan it’s completely the opposite, the Japanese love robots. In Japan, all objects – robots as well – have a ‘soul’. This means that in Japan intelligent robots will be accepted much easier than in the West. In this VPRO Backlight story director Rob van Hattum investigates the frameworks that determine the boundaries of how we see smart and social robots.

American philosopher Daniel Dennett is convinced humans themselves are robots made from robots, made from robots, made from robots. Human cells and parts of the cells can be seen as robot systems. He says our brain is a hardware robot platform that is being filled with the software of our culture and that is what makes us intelligent.

Dutch social robotics professor Vanessa Evers is building social robots that approach you with understanding, that really understand what you mean. These robots can help you with a museum tour or point the way in an airport.

Naho Kitano is CEO of a company that designs ‘snake robots’ that can look for people in collapsed buildings. But as a sociologist she has extensively been studying robot ethics, trying to answer the question why ‘the West’ is so much more scared for robots than the Japanese.

How scared do we actually have to be for smart and social robots?
 

This English version of the episode can only be watched outside The Netherlands due to regulations from the Dutch Public Broadcasting Organization. The Dutch version can be watched on this website.