Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Empathy for robots


Anne says: It’s been an interesting week – are you curious to know why? This week I’ve been exploring topics that have no particular connection… until now! One stream is my fascination with robots and human-robot interactions; the other is the development of curiosity as a critical workplace requirement and essential for ongoing, or lifelong learning.

This week, I have 2 pieces that connect these topics and demonstrate both concepts in action. To start, watch this fascinating TED Talk from Kate Darling about our emotional connection to robots. She explores why people can’t hurt their toy robots (baby dinosaurs), why a US General had to withdraw his landmine detector robot when he couldn’t stand its legs being constantly blown off. And then she asks why? (Here comes the connection to curiosity). Kate outlines the current research and the need to understand why, when we know they’re not living beings, do we create an emotional connection with them? And what are the implications?

If robots help us to understand ourselves, our behaviour towards them and how we treat them becomes a reflection of our own humanity. While she’s transparent that we don’t have the answers just yet, we need to deeply understand (maintain the curiosity about) human-robot interactions.

Now – back to curiosity. In a recent Harvard Business Review article in the September-October issue of the magazine, Francesca Gino reviewed some current research into the role of curiosity and the importance and implications for enterprises. Common themes highlight that curiosity makes us think more deeply and rationally about decisions, resulting in fewer decision-making errors and more innovation. A key aspect of developing curiosity is empathy for others, understanding different perspectives, while the barriers that restrict curiosity appear in the tension between the desire for efficiency and the need for exploration of new ideas.

Connecting curiosity to human-robot interactions is going to require a focus on curiosity, the ability to deeply understand others and the mindset that allows you to uncover new ways of looking at human behaviour.



Boston Dynamic’s ‘Killer’ Robot Has Killer Moves

Joel says: It can run. It can hide. It can twerk…Yes, you read that right. Twerk.

If you haven’t heard of Boston Dynamics, you’ve likely seen some of their creations making the rounds in videos on social media sites over recent years. Boston Dynamics are an American engineering and robotics design company and are a spin-off company from MIT. Now they are taking the next step, combining the principles of dynamic control and balance with sophisticated mechanical designs, cutting-edge electronics, and software for perception, navigation, and intelligence. With the goal of building machines that both break boundaries and work in the real world.

Their creations often scare people who believe their lifelike movements and cutting edge AI will one day come back to bite us if the robots ever become sentient and want us gone. But this week Boston Dynamics have taken a break from scaring people and released new, more-endearing footage of its sophisticated robotic dog, Spot, which I wrote about earlier this year when the first videos of Spot emerged. The latest footage reveals the often dubbed “killer” robot also has some killer moves.

The video shows the SpotMini bopping to a cover of Uptown Funk featuring Bruno Mars, as well as doing an impressive version of the running man and twerking. People were quick to take to Twitter to talk about how the entertaining video borders on disturbing.

Boston Dynamics haven’t only been showing off Spot lately, either – just last week they released a video for their humanoid robot Atlas, showing that he is now capable of parkour and doing backflips.

What do you think about Spot and Atlas? Awesome, or disturbing?


Digital disruption of media and politics

Helen says: Is the digital disruption of media and politics linked? This is one of the questions explored in an interview with a journalist and a former MP who draw on their experience to share some interesting insights and observations, some of which I’ve mentioned here, but the full interview is worth a listen.

News, once produced within a defined timeframe to strict deadlines, now flows through channels 24/7, and because of consumer preferences is shared instantly. The speed of news has influenced how politics is being practised and politicians like Donald Trump use digital media to amplify their message instead of it being used as a tool for accountability. Digital disruption has impacted profit margins, changed media business models and affected the way news is reported. Free media is not free of vested interests and we are seeing more campaign style, subjective commentary from celebrity-like commentators. News is presented like sport, with blow by blow descriptions and analysis, and emotion, rather than reason, is being used to engage audiences – objectivity seems to be lost.

Politicians are under pressure to respond quickly, publicly and to perform like actors on a stage, and the lack of trust coupled with the media noise they have to deal with, they are often unable to get a true reading on electorate sentiment. The state of the media and the behaviours it engenders has been seen by authoritarian powers around the world as a genuine weakness of our political system, and the notion that free press has turned into a weakness rather than being a strength is a cause for reflection.


The Braveheart effect: How companies profit off our desire for freedom

Jakkii says: Have you heard of ‘The Braveheart effect’? What about psychological ‘reactance‘?

Reactance is an unpleasant motivational arousal (reaction) to offers, persons, rules, or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioral freedoms. Reactance occurs when a person feels that someone or something is taking away their choices or limiting the range of alternatives.

The author of this week’s piece has dubbed this ‘The Braveheart effect’, drawing on that oft-quoted line “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!” It’s an interesting piece – with lots of links scattered throughout to dive further into various aspects – that discusses how companies use the Braveheart effect to nudge us to behave in ways that, ultimately, benefit the company – sometimes even in ways that act against our own interests.

While none of this comes as a great surprise to me having spent a lot of time mulling over things like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, as well as the (assumed) design of algorithms to keep eyes on screens on social media, I find the psychology behind it all fascinating and was intrigued to learn more about this battle between our sense of freedom and our sense of fairness, and how we might avoid being exploited by those who would choose to use psychology in ways that prompt us to act against our own interests. Have a read and let me know in the comments what you think about The Braveheart effect and whether you can remember ever feeling reactance.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: Nobel interventions, now I see you, and cost per ‘gram. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week:

2018 Nobel in economics is awarded to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer

Facebook wants people to invite its cameras into their homes

Cost Per Like Is the New Cost Per Wear

Other stories we bring up:

More on the Nobel prize for economics

And more on the Nobel prize for economics

Things we have learned from the IPCC report

‘Carbon Tax’, the two most toxic words in Aussie politics

Facebook, are you kidding?

#vanlife – our previous discussion of when living the good life on Instagram turns into real work

Fashion out of fashion

Our previous discussion of fashion waste

Our previous discussion about Richard Thaler and the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

Robots of the week:

Goodbye Baxter, so long Rethink Robotics


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like

series of yellow characters on top of yellow rods, focusing on a smiling character

2 years ago

Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch…

Read more
Photo of a crowd of people dressed in business casual walking in a city setting, focusing on a blonde woman in the centre

2 years ago

Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch…

Read more
image of a knot made up of a blue rope and a red rope

2 years ago

Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch…

Read more

2 years ago

Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch…

Read more