Who Do You Trust?

E-mail Melanie Martella

A recent Slashdot poll is making me laugh. Well, laugh and be worried about humanity, but isn't that normal? See, last week, the fine folks at Slashdot ran a poll asking the readers which, of a list of robotic entities, they would sooner trust. You can see the poll and its results here.

Most of those voting chose the robotic spouse, which I think shows a touching if disturbing optimism, rather than the robotic plane/airship, submarine or ship, chef, or bus, which were the other options. I'm torn between the airplane and the chef, myself, with possibly a slight edge going to the plane. This is due to three main reasons: one, planes already use a ton of automated systems; two, I've met a slew of aerospace engineers and they are very, very dedicated to creating very safe and reliable systems and have a great deal of practice at it. Thirdly, airspace is rather less complicated an environment to navigate as long as you avoid the ground, other aircraft, tall buildings, and power lines and don't fly through major storms. Well, it's less complicated an environment than navigating through a major urban area and successfully sharing the road with other drivers, some of whom are dangerous idiots. And in Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition style, my fourth reason is that they're already learning a ton about robotic aircraft through flying the increasingly sophisticated UAVs that are being developed and deployed.

(An aside: I know that the automotive safety folks are every bit as enthusiastic on this topic, but I didn't choose the robotic bus purely because of the Sharing the Road With Idiots factor. We've seen autonomous cars and buses and so we know that it's possible to create autonomous road vehicles and do it well. The tricky bit is mostly dealing with the more chaotic environment as provided by our fellow drivers.)

As to the chef, since certain types of food production are already so heavily automated, it doesn't seem like it'd be so tricky to implement the robotic chef. I'd think the difficulties would lie in giving it a sufficiently wide repertoire and keeping it supplied with fresh ingredients. (Mind you, I love to cook, so I don't think I'm the appropriate target audience for a robotic chef, but it seems like it could be a fairly trusty type of robot.)

Out of interest, given the same list of robots, which would you choose and why? Is there another type of robot you'd be more likely to trust? If so, what kind?