Can Science Fiction Help Real Robots?

Deanna Kocher and Ross Knepper


Location: Upson 106 Conference Room Next to the Lounge

Time: 3:00p.m.

Abstract: With creative license, science fiction envisions a future in which robots operate among humans. Stories like Bladerunner and Star Trek help us to imagine the ways in which robots could bring out both the best and the worst in humanity. As researchers and companies develop real robots, we notice that they operate on a different plane of assumptions than sci-fi robots. For instance, Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics tacitly assume an accurate human detector. In the real world, the three laws are useless to a robot that cannot reliably distinguish a person from a piece of furniture. Science fiction authors are not technologists, for the most part, but do they have something useful to contribute to us? We lead a group discussion about how the two separate planes of real robotics and fantasy robots can be made to intersect. We ask how we roboticsts could utilize science fiction, which has a rich history of considering the ethical dilemmas that may one day arise from robots. And we ask what roboticists can do for science fiction authors and society at large to create a better understanding of robot capabilities and limitations.