Currently preparing my lecture about robots at a children's university this weekend. Very excited to talk to 8- to 12-year-olds about what robots are, how they work and how we already live with robots today. And hoping they'll like it of course!

@tgupper Sounds super exciting! Will you publish your teaching materials somewhere? I'd love to see your approach specially for the younger kids

@artificialphilosopher Thanks for your interest! I don't plan on publishing the materials, but I could write a short summary of what we did and how it went here on if you like :)

@tgupper How did it go? Did they make interesting fundamental questions that us grown-ups just brush aside for the sake of productivity? What did they achieve?

@artificialphilosopher It went really well! I am currently preparing a blog post about the activities as promised. They did ask interesting questions - but not sure whether adults would not ask them out of productivity reasons. I guess the difference is rather one of attention and everyday life experience. My favourite one was whether soccer-playing robots also need to warm up before the game. I answered that the motors rather need to cool down for them to work better.

@tgupper Looking forward to your blog post!

I remember one question that my older son asked me a few days ago that I'd say we engineering adults ignore but is actually a good question: do robots have bodies? why?

Of course you can answer both yes and no, but in the affirmative case you need to elaborate on the difference between a biological body and a mechanical one, and in the negative one you are kind of ignoring that AI is software running on hardware, which is kind of its body. Not easy!

@artificialphilosopher I would say that yes, robots have a body, but the body is rather like the one of a computer than the one of a human. I did include the terms “hardware” and “software” in the lecture for the kids to talk about that and did not use the term “body”, though. I generally find it difficult to use terms which describe aspects of living beings to describe technology, as it always raises the question of equivalence.

@artificialphilosopher After I told them that the cameras of the Nao robots are not positioned in their “eyes”, one kid asked whether the eyes were just decoration to make it look more human. And I think they made a really good point! A robot really is just a machine that people have designed to look a certain way. A humanoid robot is not more equivalent to a human being than a vacuum cleaner robot, just because its hardware looks that way.

@tgupper But that's an interesting point, because we also design software to be easy to use, because that's what we need. Robots also need to be human friendly, and that's part of the appeal of robotics. So I wouldn't say it is just decoration: it's part of the actual functionality!


The issue of equivalence is harder because in appearance (which, again, is something that matters a lot to human beings) humanoid robots are indeed closer, but I think it is misleading to think we can design artifacts that are somewhat equivalent to humans. Mainly due to deep philosophical (and religious, I would say!) problems.

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