Juneteenth, Father’s Day and Robots of Color

June 16, 2020

Juneteenth and Father’s Day in the US. Juneteenth is a celebration of the day that the slaves were freed in the United States, see

https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm. Given the timing with the #BLM, this week will focus on robotics and racism.

Robots have been a metaphor for slavery, discrimination, and oppression since R.U.R., Karel Capek’s very socialist play that created the term “robot.” But in science fiction rarely presents humanoid robots with any diversity. The exception is HBO’s Westworld, which gets kudos for having a Robot of Color (ROC), notably Maeve, as a main character.

 

Dorian in the underrated one season wonder TV series Almost Human actually addresses the perceived race and ethnicity of the robot. Dorian (Michael Ealy) is a police officer and the series builds on the Lethal Weapon buddy cop trope as his human white partner Kennex (Karl Urban) has to cope with a synthetic partner. The joke is that Kennex doesn’t have problems with his African-American or female colleagues on the force, but he doesn’t like or trust the synthetic ones. Meanwhile, in real-life, researchers in human-robot interaction have been exploring if we treat humanoid robots differently based on color; the answer appears to be “yes, we do.”  

 

Be on the watch this week as we tweet out links to scifi and real science about ROC. But don’t forget Father’s Day; last week’s posts have lots of suggestions for film and books.

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