25 October 2017

When can we call a robot a robot? Can smartphones and intelligent vacuum cleaners be counted as robots too? Do robots have rights and if so, what could these rights be? We asked students at HKU University of the Arts in Utrecht to think about these topics and to come up with new ideas. Students Annebel Frederiks, Nik Heemskerk, Carlo ter Woord, Thierry Vrakking and Maria Makridis collaborated in creatively researching the social side to robots.

As part of their research process the students visited the Shelter for Abandoned Robots in the Robot Love Embassy during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Since robots are rapidly becoming smarter and smarter, we should soon start defining their rights and duties. This led the students to produce the book Wij hebben ook een stem (We have rights too) in which robots laws are explained in a humoristic way. By showing various stories about robots carrying out infringements like drug abuse or random violence, they give us suggestions on how to handle robot rights and duties. In addition, the students provided the Robot Love Embassy with posters, challenging visitors to think about what rights robots should or should not have. Visitors were asked to give their opinion on different statements by sticking a ‘thumps up’ or ‘thumbs down’ onto any poster.

Annebel, Nik, Carlo, Thierry and Maria also introduced some newcomers to the Shelter for Abandoned Robots, in which old, discharged or ugly robots are given a new life. Two peculiar figures, looking clumsy and hairy, entered the shelter leaving visitors astonished. Thinking about those poor abandoned robots, the students demonstrated their sixth robot law. This law states that robots should never be disposed of randomly. Would you stay true to your own robot, until death do you part?

Stay tuned on our blog as we will keep you updated on the final results of the project in december!