Robots: A Crisis of Expectations?

Alan Winfield is a highly respect scholar - his views are based on experience and long held beliefs. I was particularly attracted by his recent post. The post, titled A Crisis of Expectations was presented at a Robot Ethics Workshop. According to Alan:

...robotics is facing a crisis of expectations. As a community we face a number of expectation gaps - significant differences between what people think robots are and do, and what robots really are and really do, and (more seriously) might reasonably be expected to do in the near future. I will argue that there are three expectation gaps at work here: public expectations, press and media expectations and funder or stakeholder expectations, and that the combined effect of these amounts to a crisis of expectations. A crisis we roboticists need to be worried about.

A Crisis of Expectations - Diagram

Readers will discover much in Alan's erudite prosecution of his case. The echoes of "moral panic" will undoubtedly point to media affirmation of the love-hate relationship that has long plagued science and technology. I was particularly struck by the examples given by Alan - and he is right to draw the inferences. That said, I wondered if there was an alternative way through which we could approach Alan's case, for example, the trust deficit that surrounds any innovation that runs ahead of cultural norms and attitudes. In my subsequent posts, I want to examine whether the examples and responses have their origins in our attitudes towards living in the risk society, and consequently, how the mass media, law, industry and society construct and respond to these risks (Garland, 2003 and Giddens, 2002).