Should Robots Be Our Friends? A Look Inside Artificial Intelligence and Its Increasing Effect on Our World

On Thursday, April 11, scholars, researchers, students, and more gathered at Boston University’s Photonics Center to attend an international symposium about artificial intelligence. The Division of Emerging Media Studies (EMS) within the College of Communications planned this event with the aim to educate people about the rise of technology and its incorporation into our everyday lives.


Host James Katz opening the April 11 event.


Participants mingled over coffee briefly before this eight-hour event. Host James Katz introduced the event, Should Robots Be Our Friends?, and brought Dean Fiedler of the College of Communication to the stage to provide some opening remarks.

Dean Fiedler began his opening remarks by explaining to the crowd a brief history of EMS and his struggles and successes in the program. “We chose the name [Emerging Media Studies] with an emphasis on emerging because that implies something that will continue to go forward,” said Fielder. “Once something has emerged, that is an area of research in particular communication studies.”


An exploration of how robots function in our day to day lives.


Dean Fiedler continued, “We view our relative youth as a strength. Obviously, it’s difficult to start a new program, and in particular, to bring in students, but in a lot of ways, they shared our excitement. We were young, but, we were and still are not encumbered by history in the sense that we have to follow precedents that came before us. We built the program going forward.”

Toward the end of his speech, Fiedler shared a few of the programs EMS has held in the past, such as, “The Search for Truth in the Age of Social Media: How and where to find credibility and the essence of influence on public policy and debate?” and “Facial Recognition and Invasion of Privacy: How far can it go in a world where it is impossible to live a life where our faces aren’t captured multiple times a day?” Fiedler expressed that EMS regularly hosts speaker events like this one.

After Dean Fiedler’s opening remarks, the panels were officially kicked-off. The event had five panels that lasted approximately one hour each. The first panel was centered on the study, “Effects of Personal Traits and Robot Features on People’s Acceptance of Robots: A Comparative Study of Taiwan and Mainland China,” led by Yu-li Liu of National Chengchi University and Li Tian of Peking University, both from the International Scientific Advisory Board.


Professor Yu-li Liu introducing her research project to the crowd.


“We made this presentation as a comparison between Taiwan and China. An important factor is a cultural difference between groups and acceptance,” said Liu. “Artificial Intelligence is not as readily accepted as instrumental technology so it’s critical to understand the factors that may increase adoption.”

The research team aimed to concentrate on the difference of acceptance of robots in China and Taiwan. This study was based on two factors: individual traits and robot features.


Here are a few major points from the findings of Tian and Liu’s research on individual human demographics and robots:

  • Older adults are more distrustful towards new technology
  • Women express greater skepticism towards robots
  • There is a highly positive correlation amongst education levels and degree of interaction between humans and robots
  • People with higher income are associated with greater acceptance of technological solutions

And as for the robots:

  • Participants preferred female robots for in-home use
  • Robots personalities and appearance influence user preferences
  • Humans feel more responsible when working with more human-looking robots


Kate Mays, who was involved with Tian and Liu’s study by conducting the methodology through a three-month survey, left us with one important overarching piece of information: the average acceptance of robots from men in China is higher than that of Taiwan.

The event continued on with four different panels and researchers, with topics ranging from “Robots in Daily Life,” “Sociology and Philosophy,” as well as “News and Tradition.”




Maya Taylor, Staff Writer

Maya Taylor is currently a junior in the College of Communication studying mass communication. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but hopes to move to NYC after graduation to pursue her love of fashion.



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