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New study says humans are biased against robots of color, prefer white robots overall

'Robots and racism'

Photo by Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A new study, conducted by the Human Interface Technology Lab in New Zealand, says humans are biased against black robots when forced to choose between black and white models.

What are the details?

The study found that people view human-resembling robots to have a race, and will treat them accordingly.

The "Robots and Racism" study, led by Dr. Christoph Bartneck, explored whether human bias for or against a particular color or race permeates technology. The study presented a shooter bias test to participants in which they were encouraged to determine the level of a threat based on a flash image of black people, white people, and robots. Participants were found to shoot black robots twice as likely as white robots.

New Zealand's University of Canterbury published the study earlier in July.

Bartneck told The Next Web, "Of course, robots are not humans. Moreover, people barely had any opportunity to form prejudices against certain groups of robots — the power of the human mind to anthropomorphism is amazing."

Bartneck added that he believes such a bias is not simple color preference — it's because of racism against black people.

"The bias against black robots is a result of bias against African-Americans," he claimed. "It is amazing to see how people who had no prior interaction with robots show racial bias towards them."

Bartneck told CNN that an overabundance of white robots across the world would cause "concerns about imperialism and white supremacy."

"Imagine a world in which all Barbie dolls are white. Imagine a world in which all the robots working in Africa or India are white. Further imagine that these robots take over roles that involve authority. Clearly, this would raise concerns about imperialism and white supremacy," Bartneck explained. "Robots are not just machines, but they represent humans."

What else?

The study's researchers also said they found this to be a large problem for society.

"If robots are supposed to function as teachers, friends, or carers, for instance, then it will be a serious problem if all of these roles are only ever occupied by robots that are racialized as White," a portion of the study's findings stated.

Bartneck added, "In the same way that we do want Barbie dolls in all colors and shapes, we also want robots in more than just white."

That's A Bit Racist Robots! www.youtube.com

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