Report from the Audience: Ken Goldberg Speaks on Film "Robot and Frank"

26 Mar, 2013

Report from the Audience: Ken Goldberg Speaks on Film "Robot and Frank"

Charlotte Capaldo, a writer and caregiver out of Berkeley, CA, recently shared with us her account and impressions from a screening of the film Robot and Frank. The screening was followed by a talk with Ken Goldberg (Emetrius Director of BCNM.)

"Robot innovators promise that, in the foreseeable future, we will be interacting with our machine counterparts on a regular basis, and even depending on them. The 2011 production, Robot and Frank, explores this idea in a thoughtful and touching light, raising prescient questions in foresight of this unique historical moment, UC Berkeley Professor of New Media (EECS, BCNM), Ken Goldberg, has marked this particular robot, whose character remains unnamed, as his favorite amongst Hollywood’s depictions of the specimen he’s devoted his life to creating. At an event on March 23, 2013 hosted by Wonderfest titled “Will a Robot be Your Friend?” Goldberg gave a lecture following a screening of the film. His summation of the field from its history, to its implications for the future, did nothing short of inspire wonder in the audience. The seceding discussion was a display of the public’s rightful inquisitiveness, and Goldberg’s creative and profoundly thoughtful approach to innovation.

The film addresses the familiar concept of a social robot in the role of caregiver for the elderly community. When this occurs the cultural shift that takes place will affect society on many levels. Today this line of work attracts a certain class of people typically made up of minority groups. Many people will be in jeopardy of losing their jobs in light of a new workforce of robots. What kinds of jobs will be created through this shift to make up for those lost?

Similarly there is a question of whether people will create emotional bonds with caregiving robots, which are essentially made to be companions. The film’s main character Frank has such a robot with the capacity to be engaging, and even coercive, while lacking the ability to emotionalize or express outspoken opinions. Nevertheless Frank becomes attached to his new helper and faces an ethical dilemma at the film’s climactic moment. Will people want their robot’s to have rights as they do their animals?

This discussion could have carried on long into the night, and was just the beginning of what will continue to unfold as we approach the days of robot companions. Goldberg’s sage thoughts on the matter will be of great service to society on this frontier of tech-dependency."

Charlotte Capaldo is a writer and caregiver out of Berkeley, CA. Her passion for people and robots alike keeps her rising to the challenge of clearly rendering the complexities of life.