BOHYUN KIM (@BOHYUNKIM)
CTO & ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR. UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND LIBRARIES
ALA MIDWINTER CONFERENCE, PHILADELPHIA, PA. JAN. 26, 2020
WHAT COULD GO WRONG? WHAT COULD GO RIGHT?
THIS IS A “DISCUSSION" SESSION.
▸ Discussions are designed to spark conversation across
▸ Lead discussants or facilitators poses questions or prompts
and encourage attendees to share their perspectives and
▸ These sessions might be especially useful for early-stage
exploration or community-building around new and
WE WILL DISCUSS…
I. What counts as a ‘Robot’?
II. General concerns about the adoption of robots
III. Robots for libraries
* Need a note-taker, a time-keeper, & a question-tracker
* Google doc at https://bit.ly/2tCY8WH
I. WHAT COUNTS AS A ROBOT?
▸ Appearance like a human?
▸ A physical body?
▸ Intelligent / smart?
▸ No agreed-upon deﬁnition
▸ ‘robota’ - Originally meant “forced labor” in Czech.
▸ Anything that can be programmed to move, no matter how
▸ Software designed to automate tasks?
▸ Usually people want to distinguish a robot from a piece of
software or a typical machine.
A WORKING DEFINITION
▸ “A machine, situated in the world, that senses, thinks, and
— from George Bekey, “Current Trends in Robotics:
Technology and Ethics,” in Robot Ethics: The Ethical and
Social Implications of Robotics, eds. Patrick Lin, Keith Abney,
and George Bekey (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012), p.18.
▸ Means that it should be able to take in sensory input from the
surroundings; processing it for a cognitive task; and acting
upon the physical world.
▸ Need sensors;
▸ Need some cognitive capability to process the input from the
environment and to determine the response or an action;
▸ Need actuators, which allow it to physically act upon the
▸ AI has made it possible to make a robot intelligent and
autonomous in performing tasks that are not only mechanical
but also cognitive.
▸ e.g. driving, natural language processing, translation, and
▸ The capability of AI-powered robots far exceeds that of other
simpler and less sophisticated machines.
ROBOTS & HUMANS
▸ Robots have no consciousness, desire, motive, or other
▸ Humans have the tendency to anthropomorphize many
things, including robots.
▸ The adoption of robots raises interesting and unique
2. GENERAL CONCERNS
(*Trolley case for an autonomous vehicle)
▸ Impact on social relationships
▸ Potential to be used as a means for manipulation and
1. What kind of safety mechanism(s) should
a (library) robot be equipped with?
2. How should an AI-powered trolley act?
3. What kind of relationship is likely to
form between people & (library) robots?
4.How may robots be used to manipulate
people & how can we design robots to
prevent such potential manipulation?
[15min] 1:10-1:25 PM
DISCUSSION (A) SAFETY
▸ How to prevent robots from harming humans either by
accident or while trying to achieve its goal by design?
▸ A kill switch & an override option
THE CONFIGURATION OF A ROBOT FOR SAFETY
▸ Depends on the speciﬁc type of task that it is supposed to
perform & the risks associated with the given task.
LEVELS OF AUTONOMY
▸ The efﬁciency and the cost-savings and the safety concerns
can come into a conﬂict and need to be balanced.
DISCUSSION - (B) MORALITY
▸ Morality becomes a questions with the AI’s decision-making
▸ To what use should we put those AI systems (/robots) & how
much control should we allow them to have?
▸ An important question as seen in the trolley problem.
TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF MACHINE MORALITY,
▸ Determine what level of autonomy and ethical sensitivity
a robot is to be equipped.
▸ Consider what level of machine morality may be feasible
and appropriate for the given robot.
▸ Considering their embodied nature and high level of
autonomy, we should start investigating how our
relationship may and should look like with these robots
as the members of our society.
DISCUSSION - (C) HUMAN-ROBOT RELATIONSHIP
▸ Humans have the tendency to project human qualities
onto a robot and form an emotional attachment.
▸ Can be beneﬁcial if those help to fulﬁll the robot’s intended
use. (e.g. trauma patient)
▸ Can be harmful to the robot user and impede its intended
function. (e.g. a military ordnance disposal robot)
▸ Those who build a robot should consider
▸ what type of relationship is the robot supposed to form
with its user for optimal functioning?
▸ Robot users need to be aware of the fact
▸ that a robot may be designed to elicit anthropomorphic
projection to perform its function.
▸ Is a robot to be regarded as a social agent?
DISCUSSION - (D) MANIPULATION
▸ More robots will be introduced in a personal environment
such as homes and care facilities, playing a social role as a
companion or a caretaker
▸ Many will treat them as social agents either consciously or
▸ But robots are designed by robot manufacturers, who seek to
maximize their proﬁt, and may become a tool for
ABUSE/DECEPTION BY ROBOT MANUFACTURERS
▸ Charging an exorbitant amount of fee for a care robot’s
▸ Programming a robot to suggest a purchase to its user
▸ Mishandling personal and private information that a user
conﬁdes to the robot
▸ Manipulation and deception through a robot is particularly
pernicious because it preys on people’s natural inclination of
caring about other social agents.
▸ Raises the question of whether a robot is to be treated as a
social agent or a mere tool/thing?
3. ROBOTS FOR LIBRARIES
▸ AuRoSS, a robotic shelf scanning
▸ Nao robots - Westport Public Library, USA
▸ Finch robots - Chicago Public Library, USA
▸ Robot Day - San Diego Public Library, USA
1. What kind of robots we may come to
see at libraries in the near future?
2. What kind of human-robot
interactions may take place at
3. What type of human-robot
relationship may facilitate or impede
a library robot’s intended function?
[15min] 1:35-1:45 PM
AREAS FOR ROBOT ADOPTION
▸ Greeting & Directions
▸ University of Pretoria, South Africa
▸ Access Services (e.g. AuRoSS)
▸ Alexa at the University of Oklahoma,
▸ Reader's advisory service
▸ A reading robot - ‘Luka’
HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTIONS AT LIBRARIES
▸ Library robots play the role of an assistant and a companion
that help library users with accomplishing a variety of tasks.
▸ The resulting relationship is likely to be positive and friendly.
▸ Library robots as mere tools or more?
▸ Should libraries still encourage library patrons to form a
bond with a library robot?
▸ How would the previously-discussed concerns apply to
A LIBRARY IS/DOES…
▸ A safe space mentally and physically
▸ Free/equal access to information to the public
▸ Empower people through knowledge.
▸ Protect people’s intellectual freedom.
▸ Help people exercise their right to pursue information and
knowledge privately without being monitored or surveilled
by a third party.
GUIDELINES FOR LIBRARY ROBOTS
▸ Would library robots be able to fulﬁll the library’s mission just
▸ Library robots, particularly those that will be involved in
library patrons’ information-seeking activities, may have to
follow stricter guidelines than other robots deployed in non-
IN THE FUTURE,
▸ More sophisticated, versatile, and autonomous robots are
likely to enter our homes, workplaces, and libraries.
▸ Neither our society nor the library yet fully understands how
the wide adoption of robots will affect us.
▸ As a new type of social agent, robots will generate a lot of
FOR MORE DETAILS, SEE
▸ Bohyun Kim, ”AI-Powered Robots for Libraries: Exploratory
Questions." IT Satellite Meeting, IFLA WLIC Conference,
21-22 August, 2019, Wildau, Germany. Conference Paper.
▸ Full text available at: https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/
lib_ts_pubs/113/ (URI Digital Commons repository)