Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Who is responsible?

Visual from FRR website poll
In my last post,I focused on the question, "What does 'responsible robotics' mean to you?" The answers presented were from seven members of the Foundation of Responsible Robotics (FRR). Taking into account those answers, as well as the input from students, the next step could be having students consider specific situations.

On the website of the FRR there is a "poll" in which participants decide who or what is responsible for the error made.

FRR home page:

Take the FRR poll:

Two different situations are shown; each has 3 pictures, cartoon-strip style (see visual above). The reader must choose who/what is responsible from 5 possibilities. It isn't possible to choose more than one  (e.g., shared responsibility). After a choice is made, the cumulative results of choices are shown.

An activity for speaking or writing could be to have students - alone or in pairs - relate each situation in words, based on the pictures shown.

And, of course, they could each decide which choice they would make and give a short explanation of that choice. This would promote a lot of discussion if students disagree about who or what is responsible in each case.

Here are the two situations:

Example 1:  The 3 pictures show the owner of a self-driving car at a repair shop. The car is repaired, and then when the driver is back on the road, he has an accident. Who/what is responsible:
  • Self-driving car
  • Self-driving car manufacturer
  • Person in car
  • Repair shop workers
  • Repair shop

After the choice is made (only one choice is possible), the screen indicates the percentage of people who have chosen each one. Of course, these numbers change as other readers take the poll and choose differently. Check the link to take the survey to find out which options were chosen most.

Example 2:  The 3 pictures show a male and female worker in an auto factory with a robotic assembly line. They are drinking alcohol. The second picture shows the female worker sleeping (passed out?) at the control panel, while the male colleague (also apparently drunk) is having an accident with an industrial robot. In the third picture they are at the hospital, and the male worker has serious injuries. Who/what is responsible (with percentages on the day I made my choices):
  • Robot (1.85%)
  • Female worker (39.35%)
  • Male worker (22.22%)
  • Robot manufacturer (9.49%)
  • Factory/employer (27.08%)

It is interesting to me that the male worker is considered to be less responsible than both his colleague and his employer, even though he must have known that he shouldn't be drinking on the job. Also, considering that his colleague was not conscious at the time of his accident, why did the majority consider her the most responsible of the list? Would the answers have been different if the workers were both male or both female, or if the genders were reversed?

At a recent meeting with my colleagues, I presented the poll to them and made note of the results. The activity generated a lot of animated discussion, and a lot of disagreement about who was responsible in each situation. It was interesting to hear their explanations of their choices, since it gave me further understanding of how different students might interpret the situations.

  • The first thing that became clear is that people interpret the information in the pictures differently. This, of course, would have an impact on what they think is happening and therefore who is responsible for what happened.

  • The second thing is that everyone was limited in their decision by the lack of further information. There was a lot of "it depends...". For example, in the first situation, it is not known whether the need for repair was due to a fault by the car manufacturer or whether the repair shop workers did not repair the car well. This can be used to an advantage in the classroom, however, if students have to relate which further information they would need in order to make a decision.

I plan to have my robotics students take the survey to see how their choices compare with the results - and how they compare with my English-teacher colleagues. I'll also have my engineering students in other fields take the survey to see if students who are not studying robotics would answer differently from robotics engineers.

Some possible further activities:
  • Explain in words what is happening in the 3 pictures (speaking or writing).
  • Prepare this explanation for 2 different audiences (e.g., a formal memo to the boss about what happened; an informal email to a friend/colleague).
  • Class 'debate' in five groups; each group supports one of the choices.
  • Negotiation role play; teacher prepares role play cards. For example, for the first situation: self-driving car manufacturer; repair shop owner; repair shop workers; robotics ethicist; consumer action group representative; etc.

At the end of the explanation after the survey, it is stated, "We hope to add many more questions to this survey," so it will be interesting to keep checking this website.

If readers of this blog post take the survey, or have their students take it, I would be interested to know what the majority choose, and how you react to those choices. Please upload your comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment