Do robots have race? Race, social construction, and HRI

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Abstract

In a paper presented at HRI 2018, Bartneck and colleagues argued that people attribute race to humanoid robots. Our paper joined a (small) number of other papers in providing evidence that people attribute racial and/or ethnic identities to robots. In this essay, I want to offer some observations about what is at stake when we ask “do robots have race?” Drawing on resources from the philosophy of race, cultural studies, and media ethics, which may not be familiar to many readers of Robotics & Automation Magazine, I will argue that the discovery that robots have race that would pose unique ethical and political challenges to the project of building humanoid social robots given the historical associations between robots and slaves. Performing experiments to determine whether robots have race, informed by a proper understanding of the nature of race according to the latest scholarship, should therefore be a priority for the Human-Robot Interaction community
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019

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