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Will robots teach us to communicate properly?

Thu, 25 May 2017 | By NNA staff

Interaction with robots in our everyday lives can have a positive influence, says the philosopher Prof. Birger Priddat, in that it forces us to communicate rationally. Machines could in this way contribute to shaping our culture.


We will no longer see robots as automatic machines but as partners with whom we communicate and work in our everyday lives, argues Prof. Priddat.
Photo: Willyam Bradberry / Shutterstock.com

WITTEN-HERDECKE (NNA) – The increased use of robots and automatic machines in our everyday lives could have a positive influence on our way of communicating. This is the hypothesis put forward by the economist and philosopher Prof. Birger Priddat in a commentary on the website of the private Witten-Herdecke University.

Robots and automatic machines were in everyone’s thoughts at the moment, and artificial intelligence (AI) above all was throwing up all kinds of questions, Prof. Priddat writes. It was a “useful feature of digitalisation” that algorithms were able to do fast and complex calculations.

The danger that robots would take over the world was no more than the “shadows in the night of bad American movies”. Rather, people would, in his view, become used to living with robots. “In many instances we will no longer see them as automatic machines but partners with whom we communicate and work.”

Prof. Priddat quotes the example of sat navs or speech recognition systems such as Siri. When machines hooked themselve into our communication, people were no longer dependent solely on texts, SMS, emails and images.

Civilising influence

One benefit of this development is seen by Prof. Priddat in that “machines are always rational.” We had to realise that this could “reshape our style of communication”.

When communicating with automatic machines, people are “to a greater or lesser degree forced to make rational requests and responses” – a quality of communication which is currently neither mastered nor practised sufficiently in our everyday lives, says Prof. Priddat.

“Being emotional, hateful, irascible, or, indeed, waffling and prattling will not get us very far with machines.”

Priddat sees the possibility that communication with automatic machines could have a civilising influence on people: “The algorithms will gently correct our moods and unrelentingly seek clarification. Or they will leave to matter to a later time because right now they can’t get a sensible response from us.”

Robots could in this way contribute to shaping our culture. This aspect is “very rarely discussed in the excitable worries about robots and algorithms”. If we are rude to robots, they will not serve us – Prof. Priddat concludes.

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Item: 170525-02EN Date: 25 May 2017

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