THE EXPERIMENT: Observing the collective implications and ethical impact of humanoid robotics in society
Dr. Kevin Staley is no stranger to the use and benefits of current technologies in 21st century life. His academic and professional career coalesced at the crossroads of technology and morality in 2011 when he defended his doctoral thesis, "Imago Dei in Machina?: A Theological Reflection on the Ethics of Man and Machine in Communion.” The work addressed relevant, ethical issues in the areas of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Enhancement technologies.
The experiment – To assess the impact of HUMANOID ROBOTS in society.
Conduct the experiment over the next 12-18 months - purchase a NAO robot by December 20, 2013 (the deadline to purchase the NAO robot at a greatly reduced price).
NOTE: All of the funds raised on Kickstarter for this project will be used to purchase the NAO robot.
In the local metropolis of Charlotte, NC (classrooms, assisted living centers, churches, coffee shops, public places, private homes, etc.) and elsewhere, nationally or internationally, as opportunities arise during the test period.
As of this writing agreements have been established with regional (in North and South Carolina) university chapters of Ratio Christi, Southern Evangelical Seminary, and TEAM (a ministry extension of SES which reaches regional and international schools, universities and churches through on site presentations and conferences). Additionally, the annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics in 2014 will feature a presentation on humanoid robots using NAO by Dr. Staley.
The goal is to use NAO (the robot) to examine the uses and acceptance of humanoid robots (NAO specifically) in various areas of societal integration. Dr. Staley will examine the relevant ethical issues in each societal context. The use of such robots is already evident in the current DARPA Robotics Challenge, Baxter, the industrial robot, the University of California San Diego's Diego-San robot, and Honda's well-known robot, Asimo.
Further goals for the experiment:
1. To carefully measure and assess human responses to NAO.
2. To observe how assumptions and prejudices shape acceptance.
3. To discover how frequent interaction with NAO may alter one's initial response and affect acceptance.
The experiment will be conducted in educational and societal contexts with detailed documentation. As an extension of prior years of research in this area, Dr. Staley will conduct the experiment to complement his existing theoretical work with personal observation and practical application. The combined results of research will be used to engage developers and adopters of current technologies in robotics and enter into dialogue concerning societal implications and ethical impact.
Specifics regarding the types of situations and interactions planned for the venues with whom agreements have currently been established are as follows:
In secondary schools -
Classroom size groups (10-25)
of differing interests e.g. social studies, art, science, and computers.
A 30 minute introduction covering the present state of robot and human interaction, then a 20 minute period of interaction between NAO
and students. NAO will ask them questions relevant to their class and students will ask NAO questions.
A subsequent visit with the same groups will be held in order to facilitate group discussion about NAO, and to procure feedback concerning the student's views of humanoid robots in society in the form of a short survey.
NAO will be present in the follow up meeting too.
At Ratio Christi chapters
- Groups of 15-30 from differing academic disciplines, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
A 30 minute presentation on humanoid robots in society, then a 15 minute period of interaction between NAO and the students. The session will conclude with a
20 minute Q&A about humanoid robots in society, and
then 10 minutes allotted for a survey intended to ascertain the students' thoughts about humanoid robots in society.
At regional, national, and international churches in conjunction with TEAM - Groups of 20-100+ The same format as the Ratio Christi chapters except modified for 10 minutes of interaction, 10 minutes of Q&A, and 5 minutes for a survey.
At the 2014 National Conference on Christian Apologetics - Group of 20-100+ The same format as the Ratio Christi chapters except modified for 10 minutes of interaction, 10 minutes of Q&A, and 5 minutes for a survey.
Ever-evolving technologies have become an integral part of our lives and always with an admixture of benefit and detriment. Unlike any other time in human history, we now know children and young adults who have NEVER been without these technologies. Yet, many advances have been adopted unilaterally and uncritically. Such practices pose a very real challenge to future governance and guidelines. This cannot be underestimated. The introduction of such technology is significant. In the near future, we, along with the generations after us, will not only interact THROUGH humanoid technologies, but WITH actual humanoid robot “personalities.” Questions must be asked. Have we adequately confronted the societal, psychological, spiritual and ethical issues introduced by the use of humanoid robots? Are they “conscious?” Are they "persons" entitled to certain rights? If so, what would those rights encompass? And many more...
Your support of this project is greatly needed. Scientist, politician, cleric, and citizen must engage in critical, thoughtful, in-depth dialogue about these matters prior to popular use. The findings from this research will help to identify issues, educate individuals and allow all of us to enter the debate better equipped to do so. Will you join us?
Risks and challenges
Thanks for visiting my Kickstarter page. As you consider helping to fund this project, I wanted to address challenges and answer questions you may have about my credentials for taking on such a project.
For 30 years, I have worked as an I.T. professional in the areas of programming, networking, and hardware assembly and repair. As a result, I have developed a myriad of relationships in the technology field. Additionally, as an adjunct professor, I have built lasting connections in academia. Through these relationships, it is expected that numerous opportunities will arise for vigorous engagement and hearty dialogue regarding the experiment.
While I am currently employed full-time, I am dedicated to this project and plan to commit most of my free time to this research. I completed two graduate degrees in seven years in such fashion. Lastly, I have applied for grants that, if awarded, would allow me to devote greater time and resources to this project over the next few years. I am committed to the entirety of my research and to the longevity of the project.
Kevin Staley, Ph.D.
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