Why do we ask citizens about robots?

In the fall of 2021, the Robotics4EU project conducted a citizen consultation in which 742 citizens across 12 different countries were engaged in discussions on questions regarding non-technological aspects of robotic technology. The aim of this citizen engagement activity was to map the wishes, barriers, and concerns ordinary people might have towards the increasing implementation of robotic technology and what they think it might mean for their future.

As the Robotics4EU project constantly seeks to ensure a more widespread adoption of responsible robotics, one of the necessary steps is to engage with the people who will one day come face to face with the outcomes of the technologies that are currently being developed – whether directly or indirectly. At The Danish Board of Technology’s Robotics4EU-team, we believe that citizens play a crucial role when it comes to uncovering the barriers and concerns that there might be towards robots and AI based robotic technology. We also believe that the citizens can provide necessary insights into what kind of wishes, hopes and aspirations that they have regarding these new and emerging technologies and how they might improve our lives and well-being. Therefore, one of the primary goals for Robotics4EU is to bring European citizens into focus and make sure that their voices are heard regarding these matters.

For this consultation we utilized a method, called GlobalSay, in which we engaged citizens by getting them to meet in informal gatherings of 4-9 participants, where one of participants acted as the host of the meeting. The citizens then reflected and debated several topics related to robotic technology and the potential impact it might have. These micro-meetings gave a unique insight into what ordinary citizens think about robotic technology, as they were able to discuss freely and openly, listening to the opinions of the others in the group before answering the survey questions individually.

The scope of the consultation was rather wide and covered many areas that might be impacted when increasing the use of robotics. Citizens were invited to voice their opinions on everything from how much they interact with robots in their daily lives and what they think about them, to questions concerning both legal as well as ethical aspects of robot technology.

We gathered a lot of interesting knowledge from these meetings that helped us uncover some of the different attitudes towards robotics that can be found among European citizens. The data was analysed and gathered in an EU report called: “GlobalSay on Robotics: Citizen Consultations on Wishes and Concerns” (D4.1).

Read the full report HERE

Check the factsheet with some of the most noteworthy findings from the citizen consultations HERE

Authors: Anton Hvidtjørn, The Danish Board of Technology

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