Will You Obey Your Robot Boss?

Jessica Lieber:

People are always joking about our robot overlords, but before robots become the world’s rulers, they’re probably going to be our bosses at work first. Either way, it’s important to know how pliable we humans are going to be.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba were curious about how far people would go in obeying the commands of a robot, so they designed an experiment that echoes Stanley Milgram’s infamous obedience studies, in which many participants obeyed an authority figure who told them to administer painful electrical shocks to strangers.

Substitute a small but slightly evil-sounding humanoid robot for the lab-coated researcher, and give the participants a really, really boring task rather than a morally fraught one, and you have the set up below. It’s actually a little uncomfortable to watch.