so i’m sitting here talking to my friend about robots and she says, “what makes a robot a robot, and not just a computer?”
let’s ask toothpastefordinner.
well that’s not quite right. so let’s try wikipedia. it says:
While there is no single correct definition of robot, a typical robot will have several, though not necessarily all of the following properties:
- is not ‘natural’, i.e. it is artificially created
- can sense its environment, and manipulate or interact with things in it
- has some ability to make choices based on the environment, often using automatic control or a preprogrammed sequence
- is programmable
- moves with one or more axes of rotation or translation
- makes dexterous coordinated movements
- moves without human intervention
- appears to have intent or agency (See anthropomorphism for examples of ascribing intent to inanimate objects.)
The last property, the appearance of agency, is important when people are considering whether to call a machine a robot, or just a machine. In general, the more a machine has the appearance of agency, the more it is considered a robot.
this seemed reasonable. so then Laila asked, “what about those robots in car factories – do they have the appearance of agency?” a fine question. for a moment, i was stumped. and then i remembered.
the answer: yup.