Do we Prefer Robotic Authority?
As technology improves, it is understandable that it has a growing presence in completing tedious tasks. According to a variety of science fiction stories though, many of us have been taught that it is not necessarily a good thing to let robots have too great a role in the work. Researchers at MIT decided to put that to the test, and initially hypothesized that a sweet-spot of shared human and robot control would exist.
The study used groups consisting of two humans and one robot that could have one of three configurations. One has the human workers allocating all of the work, another has the robot allocate all of the work, and the last one has one human allocate their own tasks, while the robot sets tasks for the other. As expected, the configuration which had the robot allocating all of the tasks was the most efficient, but it also had the most satisfied human workers. This surprised the researchers as the workers reported feeling that the robot "better understood them" and "improved the efficiency of the team."
Though a physical robot was involved in the study, this result does not suggest that they should be involved in every task. What it does show is that giving control of scheduling, delegating, and coordinating tasks to algorithms instead of people may be a better idea than anticipated.