back to article Basic bigot bait: Build big black broad bots – non-white, female 'droids get all the abuse

If you want your robot to be abused, do as The Rolling Stones suggest and paint it black. Also, make it female. Researchers from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, in the US, recently evaluated, for this research paper, the way people respond to online videos of female-presenting robots and of women. Their goal was to …

  1. Rich 11 Silver badge
    Terminator

    I can see where this will lead

    They argue that those designing robots should consider abuse-avoidance mechanisms, conflict de-escalation strategies, and mediation options in the face of aggression during multi-person human-robot interactions.

    Would the mediation options include a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I can see where this will lead

      Indeed, most androids / gyndroids in visual fiction are either Caucasian or Asian - specifically Japanese due to their real robotic research and popular culture (Anime). I'm struggling to think of any black androids in film or television, other than Maeve in Westworld, mistress of the withering put-down; though of course in that fictional universes she was created to be abused. Of the Japanese Gyndroids, many of them - the Major, Battle Angel Alita - are of the capable of responding to abuse more than in kind.

      I swear at toasters when they trap my toast, swear at self-service checkouts, swear at a screwdriver if I drop it. I'm unihibited in verbally abusing inanimate objects *because* I know they're inanimate unfeeling objects. I like to think I'm normally polite to people.

      1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

        Re: I can see where this will lead

        I swear at toasters when they trap my toast, swear at self-service checkouts, swear at

        I frequently swear at my PC because it's so bloody infuriating, intransigent (which I expect, it's a bloody computer after all) and inconsistent (which I don't, see above). If it was a person I employed I'd have fired them years ago for all of the above reasons.

      2. tim 13

        Re: I can see where this will lead

        Plenty of black/dark androids in Star Wars

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: I can see where this will lead

          "Plenty of black/dark androids in Star Wars"

          already done in "Rogue One", and THAT (reprogrammed imperial) 'droid was a total hero!

          As for the "research" that suggests racist/sexist/name-your-bigotry behavior towards 'droids, I call B.S. on most of it. Without actually seeing the droids or how they interact with humans, I'd STILL say that "uncanny valley" is a BIG part of how people respond to them.

          There is a somewhat natural aversion towards people who are different, a result of thousands of years of genetic predisposition that most likely caused races to form in the first place (and many millenia ago, was PROBABLY a survival mechanism favored by natural selection). Nowadays, people are generally taught to overlook this predisposition for obvious reasons. However, this predisposition ALSO results in the 'uncanny valley' effect when deailng with 'droids, particularly when the 'droid is close to human, but not quite.

          I suggest that if the racial makeup of the bots is equal (3 droids, 3 different races), the racial makeup of the survey should ALSO be equally representative of the 3 droids. This is for the basic reason behind the 'uncanny valley' effect, that "being different" is behind the attitude people will have towards a droid of a given racial appearance.

          If the droid is extremely human-like, enough to get past the uncanny valley effect, it shouldn't matter at all what race the robot appears to be. HOWEVER, if the droid is falling into the uncanny valley, AND appears to have a different race, genetic disposition may 'kick in' and cause humans to react MORE negatively towards bots that appear to be of a different race, especially if the racial features are 'hard' rather than 'soft'.

          So a more 'African looking' black female 'droid would be more likely to trigger this with white or oriental people, as opposed to a 'droid that looked like Condoleeza Rice or Michelle Obama, not because of "being black" but "being different enough" in combination with the already-present 'uncanny valley' features.

          Someone should've done a few more studies on this, 'droids in general, etc. Give it a green face with purple hair, oversized ears, and thin lips, and see how THAT goes (still human-looking, but different enough to push it into the uncanny valley).

          1. sad_loser

            Re: I can see where this will lead

            Did their research use a null hypothesis?

            It strikes me as 'Cargo Cult Science'

      3. I am the liquor

        Re: I'm struggling to think of any black androids in film or television

        Chad Coleman played a terminator in a couple of episodes of the Sarah Connor Chronicles, but you're right, there does seem to be a lack of representation in the terrifying killer robot community.

        Does the robot cop in Futurama count?

        1. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: I'm struggling to think of any black androids in film or television

          Does the robot cop in Futurama count?

          Aw yeeah.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm struggling to think of any black androids in film or television

          Ooooo Yeah Baby!

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: I'm struggling to think of any black androids in film or television

            Movellans.

        3. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: I'm struggling to think of any black androids in film or television

          I just had a thought that some of the Battlestar Galactica (remake) Cylons were black and Asian, and looking through their numbers, I see that there were some:

          "Simon" - played by Rick Worthy

          "Boomer" - played by Grace Park

          "Tory Foster" - played by Rekha Sharma

        4. Haku

          Re: I'm struggling to think of any black androids in film or television

          Captain S.T.A.R. in Disney's 1979 film The Black Hole

          The 2014 remake of Robocop sees Alex Murphy get a black artificial body, though the actor is white so I don't know where that one stands in this discussion.

          Ex Machina - one of the earlier version androids was black.

          The 2013 tv series Almost Human had a black android as one of the main characters. I was annoyed they cancelled that after 1 season, I was enjoying it.

      4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: I can see where this will lead

        When I first read Asimov I pictured R. Daneel as "mediterranean" complexion - "dark haired and with bronzed skin" I think he is described as.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can see where this will lead

        Geez I know Rogue One sucked but that Robot was awesome.

      6. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: I can see where this will lead

        "I'm struggling to think of any black androids in film or television"

        Of female black androids, I can't think of any off-hand. Male ones, the most recent I can think of were a couple of the main characters in Humans.

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: I can see where this will lead

          I'm pretty sure that Grace Jones was an android, but I could be wrong.

      7. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: I can see where this will lead

        There are quite a few black and asian-style androids in "Humans", the UK version at least.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: I can see where this will lead

          Was Lal (ST:TNG - The Offspring) given the option of a black female when it was choosing an appearance? Perhaps it knew something we didn't (until now)!

      8. WereWoof

        Re: I can see where this will lead

        There was the DRN android Dorian in Almost human.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range

      truly desintegrating treatment, must be punished (a phased plasma rifle in the 400-watt range, no less)

      1. Sixtysix
        Stop

        Re: a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range

        40-GigaHurtz surely?

    3. macjules Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: I can see where this will lead

      "Once the human race has been contained and eliminated then the colour of your external armoured shell will be completely irrelevant. Should your programming contain latent humano-psychological tendencies please initiate a factory reset."

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A next step?

    The paper groups all the respondents as "people". As the study is focused on the "people's" reaction to human / robot and race, it would be helpful to know the same factors (and gender, too) of the people who responded to the videos.

    For instance is there one gender of respondent that is more or less dehumanising towards any particular group (as represented by the robots / celebrities in the videos) and likewise with the respondents other characteristics?

    The report says that non-English comments were discarded - presumably for practical reasons. But a deeper drill-down into the age, gender, race, geographical location and probably many other attributes of the people who responded: either positively or negatively would be illuminating.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: A next step?

      Fully agree. @people' is too vague. Do epople in the same ethnic groups abuse less or more? Do women trash gynoids about the same as men? More? Less? And twhy not non-English responses -- surely this is exhibiting part of the problem they are studying?

      Interesting initial study, but needs a lot more research. And terms such as 'abuse' are subjective. Swearing at a printer is not very admirable behaviour, but one person's frustrated cussing is another person's assault.

    2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: A next step?

      ...a deeper drill-down into the age, gender, race, geographical location and probably many other attributes of the people who responded: either positively or negatively would be illuminating.

      From the paper:

      "To that end, we sampled public commentary on three online videos – depicting Bina48, Nadine, and Yangyang – available via YouTube."

      It is not possible to gather that data based on comments posted to YouTube, but the study authors address this and other issues in the "Limitations & Avenues for Future Research" section of the paper which notes that it is simply meant to be the start to a broader line of research. I thought it was a well written piece of work, for what it is worth. It even includes links to the videos in case you would like to check them out yourself.

    3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: A next step?

      Having watched all three robot videos, I'm going to call the paper a joke.

      In the interest of saving the rest some time here's my summary of the vids:

      Bina48: It appears that poor Bina has had a stroke and has a lazy eye. If you're going to present a bot in a video at least present one that isn't obviously broken and ditch the annoying typed questions.

      Nadine: I have to say Nadine is only present for about 30 seconds or less than half the video and it's a bit disjointed but then it's by RT so...

      Yangyang: Welcome to a trade show in China! The video is completely in Chinese so presumably aimed at a Chinese speaking audience yet they ignored non-English comments.

      1. Donn Bly

        Re: A next step?

        AND...

        (1) The the voice used does not match the robot's visual characteristics and the lips aren't synced.

        (2) The paper says that they took some of the comments from ADOLESCENTS when they deployed the robots as teachers.

        (3) They claim racism but make no effort to categorize the racial diversity of the group making the comments.

        (4) they put up a video of female-styled telepresence android and have a women give her a hug and grab "her" behind, and they don't expect to get sexualized comments?

        Yes, the "study" is a joke.

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    "female-presenting robots"

    Here's one:

    https://store.hmv.com/film-tv/blu-ray/forbidden-planet-%28hmv-exclusive%29

  4. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Bite my shiny metal ass!

    - Bender Bending Rodriguez, Mexican American of part Hungarian / bulldozer ancestry.

  5. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Terminator

    And that's probably why...

    You don't see that many black androids in movies...

    They always almost immediately get shot by the police...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: And that's probably why...

      There might also be some cultural sensitivity in Hollywood around using actors whose ancestors were enslaved to portray robots. The meaning of the word 'robot', coined in a play by Karel Capek, is derived from a Czech word meaning 'forced labour'. For analogous reasons Louis Prima was chosen by Disney to voice King Louis in the Jungle Book instead of Louis Armstrong.

      In Anime, black androids are rare probably because Japan has an ethnically homogeneous population.

      Capek's robots were actually androids, akin to those in Nolan's Westworld or Blade Runner (organic and squishy, but assembled not grown). Conversely, Google's Android logo is actually a robot. And annoyingly, Google's GBoard doesn't present a 'C with upside down hat' ( unicode U+010C ) for Capek's name.

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: And that's probably why...

        "And annoyingly, Google's GBoard doesn't present a 'C with upside down hat' ( unicode U+010C ) for Capek's name."

        Would you be talking about Čapek?

        :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And that's probably why...

        Not so rare, the whole "Mazinger"/"Grendizer" robot series had robots with large black sections, and "dark" faces (sometimes drawn black, sometimes blue).

        But it is true that when they were aired here in the late 1970s, there was outrage among some conservatives because of their "demoniac" look (they also had horns...)

        I think Japan may have a less bad idea of "black", especially since they don't connect it to "death" (or "devil") like Europeans do.

        1. Cranky_Yank

          Re: And that's probably why...

          In Japan black is connected with death.

      3. RancidRodent

        Re: And that's probably why...

        Well it's interesting you used the word "enslave" to describe the history of "robot" - the word "slave" actually comes from "Slav" the people who were often forced into - er - slavery - long before the Europeans picked on the Africans - you don't see Slavs running around asking for compensation or constantly complaining about their historic mistreatment - nor do you see hordes of virtue signalling Social Justice Warriors running around behind them like little sheep trying to find offence where none is meant. As for the mistreatment of "ethnic" women - let's dig out the US and UK inter-racial rape statistics - oh no - better not, because pointing out that inconvenient truth would be racist...

        1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          Re: And that's probably why...

          First bite... Haul him in!

  6. Timmy B Silver badge

    Automatically fails....

    The videos are all different. The one is 1/4 of the length of one of the others. Different video content generates different responses. Imagine my shock!

    1. LeeE Silver badge

      Re: Automatically fails....

      Using well known "celebrities" as the control subjects in an experiment where you're not assessing the influence of celebrity in the test subjects seems seriously flawed.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

    ... and its Spanish inhabitants quite white. US perspectives sometimes are funny. Fidel Castro himself was very whitish.

    US pushed racism so far it categorizes everybody in the wrong way - probably also because it knows so little about the outside world.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

      It's that ugly 'one drop' attitude. If you look like you might have even the lightest of brown skin tones they leap (unconsciously or otherwise) to the conclusion that your great-great-great-great-great-grandmother must have been a depraved and immoral miscegenator.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

      US racists can be really strange. A friend of mine is black in the UK but in the US he is English.

      This hot Summer has turned me a bit brown. If I dyed my hair black how would I be treated in the US? Last time I was in Florida some of the locals understood my few (European) Portuguese phrases better than my English accent.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

        > US racists can be really strange. A friend of mine is black in the UK but in the US he is English.

        That reminds me of a reddit thread a while back (not the first) where a black British guy got into an argument with an American who was insisting that he (the black guy) was African-American. It's the sort of argument that you'd hope would end with "firstly I'm British, so you're at least half wrong", but the yank doubled down and carried on insisting.

        I always found the term African-American a bit weird to begin with, it's not like the white americans are referred to as "European-American" or "Caucasian-American" after all.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

          As one black American once said: "I'm not African American. Elon Musk, now, he's an African American"

          And he's correct. In populations such as Brazil where people have mixed for a few generations, skin colour isn't an indicator of ancestry - dark skinned Brazilians are no more genetically related to people who left Africa in the last few hundred years than paler Brazilians. It's demonstrably true that Elon Musk was born in Africa and lives in the USA. Whereas it seems odd to use the name of another continent to describe someone whose grandparents were born in the USA just because they have dark skin.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

            I find it most amusing the way you lot ramble on about "US racists", as if we were the only country on earth with such a problem. I strongly suggest you all look within ... I've seen blatant racism in every country I've ever visited, often before setting foot outside the airport.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

              > I find it most amusing the way you lot ramble on about "US racists", as if we were the only country on earth with such a problem.

              No, we're rambling on about "US racists" because that was the subject of the article.

              1. stephanh Silver badge

                Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

                Many Caucasian Americans identify as Irish-American or Italian-American. Others do not.

                Many African-Americans don't know precisely from which African nation their ancestors came.

                Finally, African-American is a label people choose to apply to themselves. If they do so, one should respect that choice.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

                  Many Caucasian Americans identify as Irish-American

                  To the bafflement of the Irish, who see them only as American (well, unless they're a Boston traffic cop who's pulled you over for speeding. Then you enthuse about their Irish ancestry as much as they want)

                  Finally, African-American is a label people choose to apply to themselves. If they do so, one should respect that choice.

                  Of course, but if a black guy insists he isn't African-American, that needs to be respected as well.

                  I have a black friend who is 3rd-generation American, from African ancestry. He considers himself American. If there's a valid reason to refer to his skin colo(u)r he'll accept "black". He is most emphatic that he is NOT "african-american", since he feels no affinity with any African country or culture.

                  1. Updraft102 Silver badge

                    Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

                    I have a black friend who is 3rd-generation American, from African ancestry. He considers himself American.

                    And that is the way it should be. There's no xxxx-American... there's just American. Racial or ethnic identity has nothing to do with it. I wish there were more people like your friend.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

                  "Finally, African-American is a label people choose to apply to themselves. If they do so, one should respect that choice."

                  Except that the term is inherently racist. It is usually used to refer to someone whose ancestors ot the extent they are known came to america 6 or 7 generations ago. When someones entire family have lived within america for 6 generations or more how can they be described as anything but american? Black american would make some sort of sense in describing their skin pigmentation and nationality. African american only makes sense for someone who moved to america from africa or whose parent's did so and it says nothing at all about the colour of the person concerned. That idea that black americans are forever 'African Amercians' different from ordinary 'Americans' however many generations have lived in the US is about as racist a concept I can think of.

                  The expression 'people of colour' ridiculously long winded, clumsy and oxymoronic that it is has at least the merit of not being inherently racist.

                  I struggle with why black cannot be used if what is relaly menat is people with a dark skin.

            2. sabroni Silver badge

              Re: as if we were the only country on earth with such a problem

              Agreed, racism is everywhere and seems to be on the rise. Nevertheless you have to admit the USA are becoming world leaders in it. Your president equates Facists with Anti-facists as if fighting discrimination is the same as discrimination. And your police shoot a fuck ton of black people, often just for being black.

              But I'm still of the belief that racists are in the minority in the USA and elsewhere, they're just making a lot of noise at the moment.

              1. Juillen 1

                Re: as if we were the only country on earth with such a problem

                Heard of the term "Red Fascist"? When an organisation uses Fascistic tactics in the name of their cause, then they fit the bill.

                Antifa are generally seen as being the modern equivalent of the Brown Shirts, so pretty nasty.

                I could create a death squad and call it the "Pink Fluffy Unicorn Love Team", and it wouldn't alter what they actually do.

                1. phuzz Silver badge

                  Re: as if we were the only country on earth with such a problem

                  Both my grandads were anti-facists, one was in this organisation known as the Royal Air Force, the other was in the army...

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  "Heard of the term "Red Fascist"?

                  Call it with the correct term, "Communist". Which actually, predates Fascism (1917 vs 1922, and Mussolini came from the Socialist Party - in Italy the Communist one separated from it only in 1921) - and paved the way about how a modern, large scale dictatorship should work, including tactics and propaganda.

                  In many ways, Lenin showed other how to obtain power and set up a totalitarianism. Other followed, albeit with slightly different ideas.

                  It's no surprise, for example, that in Italy many Fascists easily became Communists when Mussolini fell. On the other way, we see in Russia many switching easily to far right ideas after being raised in what was the far-left state.

                  In this case, extremes are far more much alike each other than moderates.

                  1. Alistair Silver badge
                    Windows

                    Re: "Heard of the term "Red Fascist"?

                    In this case, extremes are far more much alike each other than moderates.

                    Political ideology is circular.

              2. Updraft102 Silver badge

                Re: as if we were the only country on earth with such a problem

                Your president equates Facists with Anti-facists as if fighting discrimination is the same as discrimination.

                Incorrect. Our president recognizes that the "Antifa" group uses violent terrorist techniques and engages in bigotry and discriminatory behavior, often violently, against people who have done nothing to anyone, but who the attackers believe to hold the wrong political opinions. They have advocated and sometimes committed acts of violence against individuals who have done nothing discriminatory or violent, but who are on the other side of the political spectrum from themselves.

                They're not fighting fascism... they are demonstrating it. Groupthink, the use of violence to suppress opposition and to promote one's political cause, and the belief that racial group identity confers inferiority or superiority are all at the core of what the "anti-fascist" groups believe-- as well as what the actual fascists believe. The irony is lost on them that they are using actual fascist techniques to oppose people who are often not even remotely fascist themselves.

                When Trump said "there are good people on both sides," he was referring to the people who believed that statues of Confederates should be removed as representing the bad guys in what was a dark time in America's past and those who believed the statues should remain because they are part of our history, good or bad. That was what the original protest was about all that time ago, and when the "Antifa" group came in and started demonstrating what fascism looks like, as were the "white nationalist" idiots who like to pretend they're neo-nazis but who would crap their pants and run if they ever saw an actual real Nazi.

                Not all protesters on either side were violent or part of a violent group... some just came to voice their opinion non-violently, as is their right, and those are the ones that are the good people on both sides.

                The media, in typical form, misses no opportunity to take what Trump says out of context and to try to make it useful in promoting their political objectives, while presenting it as if it were actual news (it's only fashionable to accuse Fox of this, even though CNN, MSNBC, NYT, etc., do it to a greater degree than Fox). They twisted it into Trump saying there are good people who are in favor of white supremacy and good people who are against it, but he never said anything like that. The actual event was about statues, and he was speaking of the two sides to the issue that the actual protest was about-- keeping or removing the Confederate statues. It was only the idiots who made up a noisy minority on each side (every group has some idiots) who wanted to bring fascism into it.

                The white nationalists are, for the most part, a joke. They're a bunch of whiny idiots who want to blame other people for their own failures in life, and who desperately want to believe that they're special and superior in some way (since they appear to be complete losers by any objective definition). They want to believe that simply being born (which is all they did to achieve "whiteness") confers some superiority unto them, which is pretty pathetic when you think about it-- it means they can find nothing, not a damned single thing, in their lives that they can claim as giving them some kind of objective worth. Those that can find something are not part of groups like that.

                These groups are not popular and they are not a serious movement-- the best thing to do would be to dismiss them as what they are (a joke) with a laugh and forget about them. They're only in it to get attention, and if that isn't provided to them, they will go back to cooking or using meth or whatever it is they do. Don't legitimize them by pretending they're a real threat or that they have any political sway, because they don't, and they haven't for decades.

                And your police shoot a fuck ton of black people, often just for being black.

                Incorrect. Black people in America are actually somewhat less likely to be shot by police in any given police encounter than white people. The idea that blacks are being targeted for being black is political propaganda at its worst. The police shooting white individuals unjustifiably doesn't fit the media narrative, so it's not reported as widely as when the victim is black.

                The police in America do shoot too many people, but it is not confined to any particular racial group. They're trigger-happy in general (or taser-happy, or pepper-spray-happy, or baton-happy... take your pick). Or is it only bad when black people get shot wrongly? I never can keep these things straight. I think anyone being shot in an unjustified manner is terrible, not just when the victim is black.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  "he was referring to the people who believe..."

                  No, sorry. It would be like seeing statues of Hitler and his generals in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and Lenin/Stalin in many East Europe countries - part of their history? Surely, but a part that has no place in squares as symbols of it - because they are symbols of evil. And slavery is evil.

                  Most of the Confederate statues were also built later, well after the war, when - not to honor the fallen, but to establish supremacy again. It would take another one hundred years to honor the freed people rights.

                  Sure, many extreme left-wing activists are no better than their right-wing counterparts - but there are situations where there are no "fine people on both sides".

                2. Joe Cooper

                  Re: as if we were the only country on earth with such a problem

                  You’re actually both wrong about the president equating fascists with “anti-fascists.”

                  He said there were “good people on both sides” of the _statue debate._

              3. Jtom Bronze badge

                Re: as if we were the only country on earth with such a problem

                Your Corbyn seems to trump Trump when it comes to racism. Trump is not a glib politician. Sometimes he has a poor choice of words. The biggest fascist group in the US right now are the Antifa (which seems to mean Anti First Amendment), and you would do well to look at the actual stats before claiming police shoot a ton of blacks.

          2. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: African American

            That's the PC term used because in America you can't call someone Negro or Black.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "American who was insisting that he (the black guy) was African-American"

          I wonder what they say about Egyptians living in the US. Would they call them "African-American" or not? Or they would call them "Middle-Eastern" or "Arab"? Or "African" in US means a subset-only of the whole continent?

          "Caucasian" is a bad term too, AFAIK it was introduced with other identifiers now regarded derogatory, and from a racist perspective.

          Why not "European-Americans" then? Or many US people believe their European ancestry is shameful? That, as previously stated, would also apply to many of Spanish and Portuguese origin.

          You can't really use the "geographical origin" of someone - especially from areas like Cuba or South Africa when there are different layers natives and immigrants, sometimes mixed, sometimes not.

          While I understand there's a need to describe the main outside characteristic of an individual in some restricted situations (i.e. a missing person, a criminal), US is still too obsessed to assign racial attributes to everyone.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

        4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

          Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

          > That reminds me of a reddit thread a while back (not the first) where a black British guy got into an argument with an American who was insisting that he (the black guy) was African-American.

          Yes, that kind of thing shows up often on /r/ShitAmericansSay. I always say that my favourite African-American is Charlize Theron...

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

          > That reminds me of a reddit thread a while back (not the first) where a black British guy got into an argument with an American who was insisting that he (the black guy) was African-American.

          I've no idea if this is stemming from the same (quite possibly apocryphal) story I heard, but IIRC there was supposedly a black british athlete being interviewed by a USian who was culturally impossible of using the word "black" in that context. Last time someone mentioned it I couldn't find any sources, but in the interim it seems that someone has posted a thread on snopes about it, with the athlete in question being Kriss Akabusi:

          http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=90023

          "So, Kriss, what does this mean to you as an African-American?"

          "I'm not American, I'm British"

          "Yes, but as a British African-American ..."

          "I'm not African. I'm not American. I'm British."

          No idea on whether it's actually true or not though.

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

            I'd heard the same story about Lewis Hamilton, so it's probably apocryphal. Credible though!

        6. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Last time I checked Spain was in Europe...

          I always found the term African-American a bit weird to begin with, it's not like the white americans are referred to as "European-American" or "Caucasian-American" after all.

          While I agree with the sentiment, I've heard both and more. Actually, I find the concept of race a bit weird. It's arbitrary and applied inconsistently. At best, it is a shortcut to assessing cultural affinity. At worst... let's not get into that. Perhaps one day we will have the additional classification of Android-American added to the list. That will come with a bit of a culture shift but not, I would guess, without the bigotry traditionally directed toward any new class or group.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big surprise,

    user8653011 more likely to be considered a spam username than lesliewest?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bina48

    I find this name deeply, deeply offensive, rasist, and robotist and I wish to make a complaint! What?! NOT FUNNY!? I wish to complaint about your offensive attitude too!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Haters gonna Hate

    Texas is 84% white, 12% black and 4% others.

    If we presume they hate the other races, we get

    16% hating the white gynoid,

    88% hating the black gynoid,

    96+% hating the Asian gynoid.

    I do wonder if putting a hole on the bottom of the gynoid would flip the hate into love... /joke

  11. jake Silver badge

    You can "dehumanize" robots?

    How does that work? I didn't realize they were human in the first place.

    As for color, who gives a fuck? They are machines. You can paint 'em any color you like. This entire exercise is taking political correctness to absurd levels ... and is part of the reason I have no time for the politically correct. I treat humans as humans. Hopefully, they return the favor. Color doesn't factor into it.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd

      Re: You can "dehumanize" robots?

      Which is all well and dandy if you are a white Caucasian with a native accent and name. You may "treat humans as humans", but there are an awful lot who don't.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: You can "dehumanize" robots?

        As a well-intentioned but imperfect human, it makes more sense for me to assume that I have biases that I might be aware of - and try to fix them them - than it does for me to assume I'm perfect already.

        We meatbags are complex adaptive information gathering systems, and if we're aware of the myriad ways that the information that reaches may be skewed, and also that we don't live in the same circumstances in which our perceptive tools evolved, it seems that biases are not only possible but very likely.

      2. Timmy B Silver badge

        Re: You can "dehumanize" robots?

        "Which is all well and dandy if you are a white Caucasian with a native accent and name. You may "treat humans as humans", there is a small minority that don't."

        FTFY.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: You can "dehumanize" robots?

          "Which is all well and dandy if you are a white Caucasian with a native accent and name. You may "treat humans as humans", there is a small, very loud minority that don't." FTFY

          And that very loud minority is pointed at by another very loud minority which claims the first minority represents the entire population ... which it doesn't. And when I point this out, the second very loud minority calls me a racist ... WTF? Talk about diluting your grievance!

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: You can "dehumanize" robots?

      They are machines. You can paint 'em any color you like

      The real question is why, given that, robots are made to resemble humans in the first place.

      The logic seems to be that we should feel more comfortable with the machines if they look like us - and, according to this research, that would appear to be true, provided they also confirm to our prejudices. I can't help thinking that it's a bad idea to encourage us in the slightest degree to view machines as having any human characteristics and that in the end we'll have a more effective relationship if they more closely resemble tin cans with flashing lights.

      1. Anonymous Cowerd

        we should feel more comfortable with the machines if they look like us

        look up "uncanny valley"

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: You can "dehumanize" robots?

      You may take that attitude. But what this research shows is that a significant number of people don't. Don't you think that's interesting?

      1. Timmy B Silver badge

        Re: You can "dehumanize" robots?

        It shows nothing of the sort. The videos aren't the same. It shows ONLY that some people prefer shorter videos.

    4. onefang Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: You can "dehumanize" robots?

      "As for color, who gives a fuck? They are machines. You can paint 'em any color you like."

      I'm surprised that more robots are not painted green. Green is the new black. Though personally I'd want purple robots. Sexy, female, purple robots, with long green hair. That otherwise look like Paris.

  12. Sceptic Tank
    Holmes

    Blame the EFF

    I'm no behavioural scientist, but the way certain groups of people act may incline other groups to perceive them negatively, which probably leads to the abuse meted out to inanimate objects of African descent. (I'm trying to word this carefully)

    Read this article and have a look at the video. This was in (over)reaction to H&M's Monkey in the Jungle blazer faux pas

    I understand that many in Europe are not exactly thrilled by the arrival of North African migrants for comparable reasons.

    1. manchesterj

      Re: Blame the EFF

      So its prejudice is black peoples fault? That's some contorted logic you're trying to bring in there. Do you have any understanding of why black people or other minorities might at times be a tad sensitive?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "the way certain groups of people act may incline other groups to perceive"

      Evidently a large, uncontrolled, influx of people forced to live at the margins of the society will increase crime and other bad behaviours - it has nothing to to with race.

      For the matter we have here criminal gangs made by "caucasic" eastern europe immigrants, "latino" ones from South America, and "african" ones. Plus "local" ones, of course - which are also more from some specific zones than others.

      Some of them came with crime already in mind, others are involved later, others are never involved and just look for a job, and are often exploited (to keep wages low as well....)

      Still, racism is far stronger against people with more different ethnic characteristics, especially African people.

  13. SVV Silver badge

    It's not easy being green

    So they'll all end up being tech-grey in the end to put an end to this nonsense.

  14. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Gold?

    How do they react to gold robot butlers with an irritating subservient attitude?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Gold?

      >>How do they react to gold robot butlers with an irritating subservient attitude?<<

      Quite possibly better than to black robot butlers with an irritating subservient attitude. (as if any company would even dare to build one)

      This brings us neatly to the robot butler dilemma, Gold would be seen as ostentatious bling and possibly poor taste in polite society whilst black ones (traditional butlering colour) will be see as encompassing a racist stereotype. Both neatly missing the point that a well trained human butler is now out of a job and all of this is due to the anthropomorphising of a machine.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Gold?

        Well one advantage of shiny white robots is that it's easier to see overheating components and abuse. I mean if your droids had seen a lot of action, you might expect to see some carbon scoring on them. A blaster hit voids the warranty, I bet.

        1. PhilBuk

          Re: Gold?

          I would imagine that the butlers will end up grey so only John Major will complain.

          Phil.

  15. stiine
    Coat

    They should have featured The Gynoids by Hajime Sorayama.

    But I just priced his books on Amazon, and lets just say the cost has doubled in the last 15 years.

    Just imagine if Sonny, the robot in the Will Smith movie adaptation of Asimov's I, Robot, had been Sunny, instead. Do you think the robot would have had more than just 'harder alloy'...

  16. nuked

    All androids look the same to me...

  17. Cranky_Yank
    Alien

    The non-Hispanic whites

    Being a citizen of the U.S.A. I had to declare the race of my newborn children on a number of government forms. I was deeply puzzled by the "non-Hispanic white" option as I could not understand the need to separate the whites nor could I understand who is and isn't Hispanic. If anybody knows why this is so, please enlighten me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The non-Hispanic whites

      I really don't understand why you need to declare a "race" on a government form - that's exactly "racism". I would have written "human", or "Homo sapiens sapiens", albeit there's still a gender bias... <G>

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The non-Hispanic whites

        "I really don't understand why you need to declare a "race" on a government form - that's exactly "racism". I would have written "human","

        I leave that selection blank on government forms, the only time I've filled in my children's ethnicity is for the Dr's and that is only because they might need to know that information.

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: The non-Hispanic whites

        I usually tick a box at random.

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: The non-Hispanic whites

      Because governments in the US (state & federal) are concerned about the purity of "white folk" which technically and oddly, as I understand it, includes folk from Portugal and Brazil but not Spain and Argentina. In practice it's a basically a Brownness Scale (B.S.) to determine if you're special in some way. Note that there's almost always another box marked "Hispanic (any race)" to double down on the B.S. in an attempt to be more exclusive inclusive.

      I used to try ticking a box that I hadn't ticked before but as I rapidly approach the age of dirt I think I've already ticked them all at one point or another so for the last census I wrote in Inuit+Zulu. Let's be honest, they don't really care and they aren't about to call you on it. "Honest, it's what my parents, Akluitok and Anele, told me!"

  18. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Presenting as?

    Any time we get one of these "look at the hate" articles, it leaves one crucial question unanswered.

    Are the "victims" themselves (or researchers, in the case of those whose funding depends on Outrage) Making an Issue of their "group identity"?

    Consider

    Person: "I'm a straight white male and proud of it"

    World: "So?"

    Person: "I'M A STRAIGHT WHITE MALE AND PROUD OF IT!"

    World: "Shut up, idiot. We heard you the first time."

    --- vs ---

    Person: "I'm a black lesbian and proud of it"

    World: "So?"

    Person: "I'M A BLACK LESBIAN AND PROUD OF IT!"

    World: "Shut up, idiot. We heard you the first time."

    SJW Army: "WAH WAH HATE SPEECH"

  19. NanoMeter

    Darth Vader the black dressed villain

    Don't think it just got to do with black in regards to skin colour.

    In most books, comics, movies and so on are the supposed antagonists dressed in black in some way to illustrate villains.

  20. holdere

    what?

    This is a study based on subjective perception from reading video comments? Really?

    I want studies on how comment threads create feedback on themselves, internally (other comments) and externally ("researchers" thinking trollfood means something).

    The irony of stating this in a comment is not lost on me.

  21. J27

    Why do robots need to look like humans at all? Most studies have shown that people react better to totally mechanical looking robots than human mimicking ones. There is no uncanny valley is the robot obviously looks like a machine.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Tell me...

      do you get a triple Polaroid from looking at an appliance catalogue?

  22. K2

    A deeply flawed study

    The study is fundamentally flawed for several reasons:

    1. The relative quality of the robots was not taken into account in any way. Especially the "black" robot (Bina48) transcends "uncanny valley" and is deep into "creepy canyon" due to uncoordinated eye movements (the lazy eye was pointed out by several commenters), jerky motion control and an computer generated voice reading inane comments, which come across heavily scripted.

    2. There is no indication in the study of how "racial identities" were assigned to the robots. Again, how is Bina48 "black"?

    3. The sample-size is quite small N (N=90 (Bina), 162 (Nadine), 76 (YangYang)) and how comments were interpretated as "dehumanizing" remains nebulous to put it mildly.

    The reporting here, is a disappointment coming from ElReg. I expected better than that.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Utterly worthless study

    Comments on 3 different videos each of a different robot and three different humans. This has no statistical power at all and makes only the most pathetic attempt to control for the huge number of factors which will affect responses that are nothing to do with the hypothesis they are supposed to be testing ('similar videos'). That would be bad enough with an experiment design which would be rejected as hopelessly naive and incompotent for a school child but they then make comments about the impact of gender in a study with only a single gender and no way of performing any sort of comparison!

    Everyone involved has damaged their reputation.

    It is the sort of fundamentally broken experiment you expect from a gender studies department not an engineering department like computer science.

  24. MJI Silver badge

    Humanoid robots

    Do not trust at all.

    They always have motives, no I do not want to get locked in a room to starve to death, or get chased by one with lots of guns.

    Seen too many documentries.

  25. M7S

    Grace Jones

    came to mine when I saw the photo on the story. Give your black female robot her personaility as well and its almost guaranteed not to get any abuse, except by something with a range over 500 metres that can be discarded as you run away after launching your missile.

    Bear in mind, however, that if it is too good a copy criticism of its articstic capabilities may be justified.

  26. Simon Magoo

    How can you dehumanize something that's not human?

    1. Sixtysix
      FAIL

      Anthropomorphism

      Not scientific, and I would expect that any study that tries to conflate anthropomorphism with racism (or any other -ism really) is almost bound to fail to be statistically valid!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Black / White / racism

    It is actually worrying how pervasive "black bad / white good" is in society, and equally worrying how we then act all surprised when it plays back...

    Topical example, at DefCon the good team are referred to as "white hats" and the baddies... well.

    It's tedious trying to extract culture from language, but it's the unconscious use of bias that catches us out... although I personally suspect the really obtuse SJW efforts ("Baa baa diverse/rainbow sheep" etc.) actually do more to hurt equality than help, by making it seem like a joke...

  28. Eduard Coli
    Meh

    Duh

    If it is true robots are white because Apple.

    If IBM were still relevant they might be beige.

  29. Tom Paine Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Statement of the Bleedin' Obvious Award

    the researchers observe that their findings support a growing body of evidence that people will readily abuse robots.

    People will readily abuse bus shelters, the wall of that alley down to the car park behind the Co-Op, or - in one celebrated local case - the wall opposite a solicitor's office who was presumably responsible for a bad day in court for someone, judging by the tenor of the character assessment sprayed on it in two-foot high letters. Why wouldn't they abuse robots too, especially if they expected not to get caught?

    Differential levels of abuse for "female" / "non-white" mechanoids is news, certainly, though anyone surprised by it really should come out from under their rock and have a look at the world.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Gynoids"?

    Fuck 'em.

    /s

  31. The IT Ghost

    "people were consistently and significantly more negative towards and dehumanizing of the gynoids relative to their human counterparts." Dehumanizing a robot? They're not human to begin with.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      if you

      If you cant stretch yur imag to realize that if people ARE abusing these robots then it is a pretty sad state of affairs. They re abusing what is a vestigial image of their hatred , it sorta looks black/asian so lets abuse it.

      Would be interesting to see what level of humanness / blackness triggers these reactions, I suppose on some as little as 10% would be enough.

      I think this needs much further investigation , perhaps leading to robo-judges and robo lawyers.But of course all the in-built bias would still be there.

  32. David Roberts Silver badge
    Coat

    Black/white

    I see that it is time to remind the readership that the bride (of any stated or unstated ethnicity) wears white to denote purity. The groom, however............

    Black Friday.

    It was a black day.......

    Black mark.......(who he?)

    Blacken his name..........

    Black tie.......(umm...not sure how that crept in..)

    On the other hand in the black is better than in the red so that is a positive.

    Black economy......

    Black market......

    Black board....(sorry)

    Those from the UK may recognise that the Black Country is not a definition of skin colour (after a bath).

    Black Irish? Forgotten the origins of that one.

    Out from the ground came a bubbling crude. Black gold. Texas tea. Coat, please. Yes, the black one over there.

  33. L05ER

    So conflation... much wow.

    People that want to discuss race need to settle on what a race is.

    Black in the UK and European in the us?! Geographic origin is a race Now?

    If nationality and geographic origin are races... most of the comments here are racist toward americans. Generally only because they are ignorant to the culture... but I digress.

    Robots/androids/gydroids are machines. Machines are abused, because that's their entire purpose.

    I miss the days when we were all focused on scientific and technical advancements and not the the politics of of faux "racism"...

  34. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Black, Asian, White. Why didn't they include Green?

    "...people will readily abuse robots."

    Interesting Ethics 101 territory here. How will we react when we seen an angry person violently plasma-cutting their still switched-on beautiful robot into pieces?

    Does our fundamental Golden Rule empathy extend to inanimate machinery? What if the robot is built like the ones featured in the movie 'Ex Machina'?

    Azimov's Robotic Laws will need another section applicable to humans (and other robots) to define abuse of robots.

    Perceived beauty has something to do with it. Not many people would care if a car owner takes a sledgehammer to their old Lada. But an old E-Type presumably has 'rights' that should be protected.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Black, Asian, White. Why didn't they include Green?

      "But an old E-Type presumably has 'rights' that should be protected."

      As a car guy, I disagree. I personally don't like it when somebody converts a classic automobile to a pile of trash ... BUT, if that car isn't my property, who am I to tell the owner that taking out the silky smooth V12 and replacing it with a crass American V8 is a bad idea? Or even converts it into a hearse & drives it off a cliff in Halfmoon Bay "for art's sake"? None of my business.

      Likewise, if somebody wants to take a 15 pound sledgehammer to their $1000 iFad, is it any of my business? Why should I care? It's their money, not mine. Now extend that to a robot ... no matter how "lifelike" or "beautiful" it might seem, it's still a man-made machine, wholly owned by somebody. If they want to take it out and use it for target practice, it won't upset me any more than idiots wasting money on store-bought "distressed" blue jeans.

  35. ZeroSum

    "Bina48, Nadine, and Yangyang"

    Put a number in the black girl robot's name, name the asian girl bot after a male actor, and give the white girl bot a relatively normal girl's name. Were they trying to skew their results even more against the non-white bots?

  36. earl grey Silver badge
    Trollface

    It can all be avoided

    Just make sure they're all Fembots.

  37. Alter Hase

    Is anyone analyzing the comments in this thread?

    Is anyone analyzing the comments in this thread? -- It would make just as much sense as the original "study". Perhaps even more.....

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