Do Personal Robots Cause Fear?


This is the first of a three-part series on technology and autism. The two entities are headed toward each other, and the collision will drastically alter our lives. We begin the series by looking at the causes of the society’s inherent fear of robots and their presence in daily life. Technology is developing at a breakneck pace, bringing us closer to a future in which robots help us with everything from routine daily tasks to home healthcare. Considering how drastically society will change, are we prepared?

Part I

Regardless of the setting, the topic keeps coming up in conversation. Regarding robots invading their lives, many people feel a very real sense of dread and fear. Similar to the well-liked Star Wars films, imaginations are expanding to places no man has ever dared to go. The time may have come to remind everyone to unwind because robots won’t rule the world or oust millions of people from their jobs. The technology is still in its infancy and has only recently developed capabilities. However, advancement is a linear process in which less complex robotic tasks are first mastered before moving on to more difficult ones. We are still a long way from having technology that mimics socialization and executive functioning in humans from a development perspective. But we’re getting closer to having robot helpers that can do a lot of things that were once thought to be impossible.

It would be wise to take a moment to consider history in order to put the fear of robots in our daily lives into some historical context. Henry Ford created the Model T car at the start of the 20th century. Mr. Ford wanted to create an affordable, dependable car that could satisfy the needs of the average person. His apparent success can be seen in the 15 million vehicles that were sold between 1908 and 1927, when the model was discontinued. We must not ignore the assembly line’s invention, which revolutionized the way that work is produced.

Without a doubt, the automobile’s impact on the horse-and-buggy industry’s sales caused a great deal of emotional turmoil. Although there was a real threat to jobs, society was able to adapt to these industry changes and many benefited from the new economy. Further, the assembly line must have caused a great deal of consternation as the pressure to “mass produce” was undoubtedly met with resistance. Culture shock, which shook 1908 society to its very foundation, was the order of the day. However, society gradually overcame its apprehension toward new technology and began to have faith and confidence in the early automobile.

There has always been some level of fear and uncertainty when there are significant changes to the way we work, live, and interact with one another. Regarding robots, how they will interact with us, and how much autonomy they actually have, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. To create machines that serve to improve our quality of life and increase personal productivity, programmers must take these issues into account. Finding ways to use robots to help the elderly, people with disabilities, seniors with Alzheimer’s, and other disadvantaged members of society would be more beneficial.

Our concerns are understandable, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding matters like employment, safety, and privacy. The serious difficulties that the expanding adult population of autistic people faces, however, are not diminished by having a narrow perspective. In fact, the adult world they are entering is one of danger and ambiguity, but it also offers them opportunities like never before. The introduction of technology into the lives of those in the community who are underserved can result in a great deal of fulfillment, hope, and improved circumstances. In 1908, the shaky climate of change was still present, which is significant. We can either let fear paralyze us or we can take the necessary step of faith to embrace the future.

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