In Kinsasha – capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo – two eight-foot-tall robots have been installed to direct traffic. The machines look more than a little absurd – like something straight out of a 1960s science fiction film. They aren’t exactly intelligent, either. They just tell cars where to go. And apparently, they do a better job of it than the human operators ever did – apparently, people just tend to listen to them more readily.
It may have something to do with the fact that each of the two robots is equipped with an array of security cameras to record ne’erdowells. They’re basically highly visible speed cameras. At this point, you’re probably scoffing a bit. After all, this has nothing to do with robotics, right?
Of course people behave around them! Why wouldn’t they? Not only that, they’re something like eight feet tall. I don’t know about you, but if a machine that size directed me to do something, I’d more than likely comply – even if I did realize on some level that it was merely an inanimate object.
Ultimately, it appears as though the deference people give these simple traffic bots tells us very little about how robots and humans relate to one another. Turns out, it isn’t actually that simple. According to scientists in the field of robot-human interaction, the human brain is wired in such a way that we’re actually capable of seeing robots as authority figures- and as such, we’re hard-wired to obey them. […]