Trusting the (ro)botic other: By assumption?

SIGCAS Computers and Society 45 (3):255-260 (2015)
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Abstract

How may human agents come to trust (sophisticated) artificial agents? At present, since the trust involved is non-normative, this would seem to be a slow process, depending on the outcomes of the transactions. Some more options may soon become available though. As debated in the literature, humans may meet (ro)bots as they are embedded in an institution. If they happen to trust the institution, they will also trust them to have tried out and tested the machines in their back corridors; as a consequence, they approach the robots involved as being trustworthy (“zones of trust”). Properly speaking, users rely on the overall accountability of the institution. Besides this option we explore some novel ways for trust development: trust becomes normatively laden and thereby the mechanism of exclusive reliance on the normative force of trust (as-if trust) may come into play - the efficacy of which has already been proven for persons meeting face-to-face or over the Internet (virtual trust). For one thing, machines may evolve into moral machines, or machines skilled in the art of deception. While both developments might seem to facilitate proper trust and turn as-if trust into a feasible option, they are hardly to be taken seriously (while being science-fiction, immoral, or both). For another, the new trend in robotics is towards coactivity between human and machine operators in a team (away from making robots as autonomous as possible). Inside the team trust is a necessity for smooth operations. In support of this, humans in particular need to be able to develop and maintain accurate mental models of their machine counterparts. Nevertheless, the trust involved is bound to remain nonnormative. It is argued, though, that excellent opportunities exist to build relations of trust toward outside users who are pondering their reliance on the coactive team. The task of managing this trust has to be allotted to human operators of the team, who operate as linking pin between the outside world and the team. Since the robotic team has now been turned into an anthropomorphic team, users may well develop normative trust towards them; correspondingly, trusting the team in as-if fashion becomes feasible.

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Paul B. De Laat
University of Groningen

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