The Real Reason We’re Afraid of Robots

Iris Berent: While in our intuitive psychology thinking minds, animacy and agency all go hand in hand, Siri and Roomba demonstrate that these properties can be severed — they think, but they are mindless; they are inanimate but semiautonomous. People don’t tolerate this cognitive dissonance for very long. When we are faced with a fundamental challenge to our core beliefs, we tend to stick to our guns. Rather than revising our assumptions to match the facts, we tend to bend reality to fit our assumptions, especially when our world view is at stake. So rather than admitting the possibility that machines endowed with AI can think, we ascribe to them immaterial mind and agency, and once we do, our view of AI shifts from faithful servant to rebellious menace. That shift is internal to us and is entirely predictable.

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