PUBLIC OPINION > Mind-Reading Teacher Robots Are Creepy
News 2012/06/05 21:00:00
Two researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are teaching Mitsubishi's Wakamaru robots to read minds. Well, sort of. The goal is to develop a way to educate students without human teachers -- for instance, through online courses. But since robots do not have the human ability to gauge a student's attention level, they're using sensors to monitor brain activity. We asked the public if the technology sounds clever or creepy.
This technology may have some practical uses in the classroom, but it's just too reminiscent of Big Brother. And that really was the main concern here. That "mind-reading" part is a doozy. EEGs don't read thoughts like George Orwell's totalitarian state in "1984," but it's very easy to imagine EEGs being replaced with stronger mind-reading technology in the near future. Fortunately, for the time being, these Mitsubishi bots can only measure surface brain activity. But it's still pretty creepy.
Atheists Are Fine With It
Religion doesn't typically play a dominant role in demographic breakdowns, but in this case, it was the most significant statistic -- much more than the political breakdown. The real stand-out statistic here was the atheist vote, which was unusually high with 71% support. This suggests that the creepiness might actually be spiritual. Perhaps people are more afraid of the metaphysical implications.
Older Voters Rise Against
Age was a little less significant, but still worth pointing out. Support dropped pretty evenly throughout the age groups, from 39% among teens and young adults to about half that among the oldest voters. Naturally, this reflects the willingness of the youth to embrace new technology, and the hesitance of older generations to allow technology this much power.
Men Don't Mind as Much
Finally, men were nearly twice as likely as women to support the development. It could be the male tendency to obsess over gadgets -- especially expensive gadgets, and more specifically, expensive robots. Male support would probably skyrocket if they added a couple of laser beams and a jet pack.
If you'd like to vote on this question, dig deeper into the demographics, or engage in existing discussion about the topic, visit our poll about robot teachers. We'd love to hear from you!
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