Robots and Racism

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When it comes to lingering racism in the U.S., robots should be the least of our worries. But researchers continue seeing problems, and as automation becomes more and more central to our lives, we need to pay attention to the possible consequences.

AI and racism

One problem is that AI works only on the data it receives. Human beings provide that data. Facial recognition algorithms have a persistent problem with misidentification of dark-skinned faces. Some programs had error rates of as much as 35% for African-American women, but less than 1% for white men.

It’s not that the algorithm, or even the people who developed the algorithm, have negative opinions of African-Americans. Rather, the data sets used in development were about 80% white males. The AI just didn’t have enough experience with black women to be able to do a good job.

Some research even shows that people have racially-triggered reactions to robots based on the color of their housings.

AI and open-mindedness

On the other hand, Forbes reports that a new study found that human who work with robots tend to be more accepting of other humans. Apparently, dividing coworkers into human and not-human made all the people in the human category seem more alike.

“Christians and Muslims have different beliefs, but at least both are made from flesh and blood.” researchers explained. “Latinos and Asians may eat different foods, but at least they eat.”

People in experiments were less likely to discriminate in distributing pay if they had robot coworkers to consider in their decisions as well as ethnically diverse humans. Some have questioned the validity of the studies, and even the most positive spin suggests that humans will be less prejudiced against other humans only if they choose robots as a common enemy, but it’s an interesting idea.

Rexroth motion control

Whatever your position on robots and race, Rexroth electric drive and control systems won’t be part of the issue. Completely non-humanoid, Rexroth’s awesome motion control systems do their work with no discrimination against anyone.

We’re specialists in Rexroth, so be sure to call us first when you need service or support.

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