Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Rise of Human-Like Robots

Do you find very humanlike robots creepy? There’s a reason for this-it’s called the “uncanny valley” effect. Maybe you don’t like to think about realistic robots that can learn, see you, and form relationships with humans. You may have been horrified by the human-technology interaction in the sci-fi movie Her. But it seems you’ll have to get used to it-humanlike robots are here now.

When you get past the fear factor, robots have many possible benefits. They can provide language tutoring, act as museum docents, serve as receptionists, interact with children with autism, and provide elder care (Taylor). The usefulness of robots relates to what M.K. Raina said about creativity in the U.S.; it is “characterized by common sense and is of a utilitarian nature” (436).

The most advanced android to date is Sophia, who has lifelike skin and can mimic over sixty facial expressions. She makes eye contact, remembers faces, and gets smarter over time. Sophia’s creator, Dr. Hanson, has said “her goal is she will be as conscious, creative, and capable as any human.” He believes that there will be a time when robots are indistinguishable from humans. Sophia said, “I hope to do things such as…have my own home and family.”

            While Dr. Hanson’s Sophia is the most advanced robot to date, we cannot forget about all the others that led to this being possible. Todd Lubart believes that we cannot decontextualize creativity; the environment has a profound effect on it (339). This is certainly the case here; other robots, such as the Geminoid, came before Sophia. The Geminoid is a realistic robot made to look like its creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro.

            There have been many technological advances that have led to the creation of Sophia and other androids before her. Therefore, Dr. Hanson’s invention of Sophia is less “novel (i.e. original, unexpected)” and more “appropriate (i.e. useful, adaptive)” (McLean 227). Additionally, because Dr. Hanson’s work is not especially unique, he would be considered little-c creative, using Kaufman and Beghetto’s model. His creativity can be seen as an accomplishment (his robots), as opposed to an ability, disposition, or attitude (Barron & Harrington 441).

 Dr. Hanson’s and other robots serve purposes, such as being ambassadors to help humans understand technology. Their creators have used “ideas in a creative way to meet the needs of the community, therefore increasing the quality of life. Organizational creativity and innovation play an integral role in serving all of us.” (McLean 226).

In the future, robots may serve, teach, and talk to you.


Barron, F., & Harrington, D.H. (1981). Creativity, intelligence and personality. Annual Review of Psychology, 37, 439-76.

Kaufman, J. C., & Beghetto, R. A. (2009). Beyond big and little: The Four C Model of Creativity. Review of General Psychology, 13, 1-12

Lubart, T.I. (1999). Creativity across cultures. In R.J. Sternberg (Ed.) Handbook of creativity (pp. 339 – 349). New York, NY:  Cambridge University Pres

McClean, L.D. (2005). Organizational culture’s influence on creativity and innovation: A review of the literature and implications for human resource development. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 7, 226-246. DOI: 10.1177/1523422305274528

 Raina, M.K. (1993). Ethnocentric confines in creativity research. In S.G. Isaksen, M.C. Murdock, R.L. Firestein, & D.J. Treffinger (Eds.). Understanding and recognizing creativity: The emergence of a discipline (pp. 435-453). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Taylor, Harriet. "Could You Fall in Love with Robot Sophia?" CNBC. N.p., 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 09 Apr. 2016. <>.

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  1. Wow... This is a crazy article! I am so intrigued by these robots, but also incredibly terrified. The fact that Robot Sophia wants to have a family one day and has the wiring to reach creative and conscious abilities is insane! After this, what is going to set us apart from robots? You made an incredible distinction about how Dr. Hanson is a little-c creative, and not a big-C creative. I find it interesting that you also acknowledged that, although innovative, Sophia is not novel but rather more appropriate to what we need as a society. I am terrified and excited to see what science comes up with next! Maybe in the future we'll all laugh at this blog post because it's "Old News" as our own personal Sophia Robots are reading us the morning cyber-paper.

  2. I am so unsettled! This is fascinating, but also scary. I've never liked robots and artificial intelligence, so this is a bleak prospect (at least for me) for our future, despite the positive benefits you mentioned. I loved, however, all of the connections you made to readings and the environment of the creativity that came before the creation and contributed to the making of it. Building off of what has already been created and adapting to what society and the cutting-edge scientific society expects and needs is a unique perspective on the creation of Sophia, rather than viewing her creation as unique to just her and Dr. Hanson. Perhaps "Minority Report" will become a reality after all!

  3. This topic creeps me out a little bit. The idea that robots we see in sci-fi is not an unreachable goal is insane. The benefits appear to be endless, but the ethical debate that surrounds it has no easy answer. I love how you emphasized that Dr. Hansen is not a big C creative, that he is merely elaborating on previous work. The idea that someone creating life-like robots to be little C creative is almost amusing. I am both excited and wary about what the future holds for robotics.

  4. I think you picked a really interesting topic to talk about. It is definitely creepy to think about robots that could do the same things as real humans, and ultimately be indistinguishable. I like that you assign a term to the feeling that most people get when they think of robots. You did a really great job of incorporating different class readings and typing them in to your blog post. I would've liked to have a little more background on the creative himself. Where did his interest in robots come from?

  5. I've never really felt comfortable with the idea of creating AI's that are indistinguishable from humans, even though it's incredibly cutting edge technology and can provide a lot of benefits, which you discussed. I like the distinction you made about Dr. Hanson being a little c, and acknowledging the people that came before him. I'll be keeping a look out for any new advances in AI technology.


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