Before getting into what the title is about, I just wanted to spend a little writing on the idea of what robots are. The term “robot” can be somewhat ambiguous. The word can mean somewhat different things depending on the person and context. If we choose to structure our definition of robots to revolve around the idea of a physical machine being guided by computer programming. These are robots, these are robots, this is a robot, this is a robot, but this is not a robot and neither is this. I understand that the definition of a robot isn’t routinely challenged and so it can sometimes get more abstract, but for the sake of this blog post, a robot is both physical (machine) and (digital) computer programming working in tandem.
I was reading BBC today and saw that a Korean baseball team has recently installed robot fans for their stadium to cheer alongside the crowd that does show up due to dwindling sales of tickets. One of the many reasons people choose to attend a sporting event as opposed to watching it at their homes is to bond with the other humans that are present at the game. Can their experience of being with other humans be enhanced by the participation of robots, or does that alter the experience fundamentally? Admittedly (from fencing in high school) I know as an athlete that having a poor representation of fandom often effects the morale of the player, team, and fans. So the question boils down to: does installing robots that enhance the human experience of sporting events or alter the human experience?
Let’s assume that cheering for a home team always has a null to positive effect for the home team. The players feel motivated and there is a cascade or positive-feedback-loop effect occurs among the other fans that only creates a more engaged atmosphere. It is a classical situation of positive reinforcement. If the players get support knowing they did something good, then they want to keep getting that positive support. But if part of that support is artificial or manufactured, that doesn’t make it less real, perhaps less genuine though. There is also zero placebo effect to this situation. The baseball team knows that some of the crowd is going to be men made of metal and programming, however their inability to distinguish the cheering is going to allow them to focus less on the concern of whether it is legitimate or manufactured for their own sake.
The implementation of these robots should have a more positive effect on the club than if there were none at all. What strikes me as a corollary in regards to transhumanism concepts we discussed in class was the fact that fans are able to buy virtual tickets to the baseball games and attend via the robot. Their face gets uploaded to a screen on the robots face via real-time webcam experience and they can even control some gestures of the robot. If this technology was mainstream across many sports clubs around the world, you could literally get a digital season ticket for your favorite game and be in attendance via online. If the gestures of the robots would get even more complicated and the video-feed from the game was 4K level quality, I could see the option as being attractive for many people who are busy traveling for work and such. It is interesting to see an event that is marked by being around other people have robots integrated into it on such an elemental level. Due to the fact that telecommuting to work has become so popular because of the flexibility, perhaps it is only a matter of time until the majority of fans are robots?