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A good job for robots, found – dealing with our embarrassing problems

People feel less embarassed asking a robot for help, than a human.

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People are less embarrassed asking for items from a robot than a human. Gennady Danilkin/Shutterstock

Many TV shows have a scene where a customer attempts to buy a potentially embarrassing product – a pornographic magazine perhaps or a diarrhoea treatment – only to have the assistant loudly check the price or ask questions for other people to hear.

Situations like this do happen in pharmacies and other shops. And they tend to make people squirm. But, what if they could interact with a robot instead of a human employee? In our recent research my colleagues and I found the use of robots, rather than people, as assistants may reduce people’s feelings of embarrassment. In one experiment, we asked 170 participants to imagine they were in a medical clinic to book a visit for a haemorrhoid problem. Half of them imagined speaking to a human receptionist and half to a robotic receptionist. We measured people’s level of embarrassment in that situation and we found that people felt less embarrassed when they had to provide information about their medical condition to a robot rather than a human receptionist.

Humans tend to feel embarrassed when we are concerned about what other people may think or feel about us. Other research in consumer behaviour field has shown that the mere presence of others, even when only imagined, is enough to elicit embarrassment.


Read more: Robots were dreamt up 100 years ago – why haven’t our fears about them changed since?


Our research found that people don’t feel embarrassed with robots because they don’t believe that robots can form judgements or display emotions. In our second experiment, we asked participants to imagine they were in a pharmacy to collect an anti-fungal treatment. As in the previous study, we split the groups up, so half imagined speaking with a human pharmacist and the other half with a robot. We then measured not only how embarrassed they would have been, but also how much they thought that the robot had specific mental abilities such as emotions and judgements. The participants felt that as robots lack both of them they wouldn’t be able to hold opinions.

Recent versions of humanoid robots such as Sophia are capable of emulating a wide range of human expressions, and we even humanise them by giving them names. Despite this our research group found that participants felt robots did not judge their behaviour.

Take Curly, a robot designed to play curling, a sport where players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area. When, last year, Curly won against the curling’s human elite team, it did not win on purpose. It just played the game it had been programmed to play, indifferent to whether it was playing it any better or worse than anyone else.

A man serving at a pharmacy.
People can get embarrassed asking at pharmacies for some products. Aleksandar Malivuk/Shutterstock

This inability to judge our behaviour is what makes robots the preferred option in embarrassing situations.

When interviewing people about embarrassing situations, we also found they preferred robots because you could not meet a robotic assistant on the street after an embarrassing purchase, and that people worry about these things.


Read more: Six ways robots are used today that you probably didn't know about


When asking robots embarrassing questions, we also do not risk the uncomfortable small talk that we might have with humans.

Robots don’t judge

Taking humans out of a situation has been used to reduce embarrassment in the past. For example, consumers can purchase products such as condoms and tampons from vending machines, avoiding awkward interactions in stores. A recent survey discovered that consumers are willing to pay more for personal hygiene products online, just to avoid the embarrassment of buying in a store.

Robots might not gossip about us but they do collect more data than a human ever could – and they store it for longer. In the research participants did raise concerns about privacy and robots storing their data, but many felt they already handed over a lot of personal information every day via their phones and therefore didn’t worry about it too much.

The use of service robots is rising today and sales of robot technologies are projected to reach US$912 million by 2026. The pandemic has also accelerated the deployment of these technologies, and with them a significant loss of jobs around the world. Only in the last year, the number of robots adopted in hospital receptions, hotels, airports and restaurants increased considerably.

Although many of us worry about losing our jobs to robots, and millions of jobs are being automated, in cases like this it turns out we may prefer to have robots do certain parts of the role of sales assistants. But that’s not to say we would like all parts of the job to be performed by a machine, many people would undoubtedly miss the one-to-one contact and warmth that a human pharmacist can offer if they popped in for advice.

Valentina Pitardi does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Huge Dock Worker Protests In Italy, Fears Of Disruption, As Covid ‘Green Pass’ Takes Effect

Huge Dock Worker Protests In Italy, Fears Of Disruption, As Covid ‘Green Pass’ Takes Effect

Following Israel across the Mediterranean being the first country in the world to implement an internal Covid passport allowing only vaccinated citize

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Huge Dock Worker Protests In Italy, Fears Of Disruption, As Covid 'Green Pass' Takes Effect

Following Israel across the Mediterranean being the first country in the world to implement an internal Covid passport allowing only vaccinated citizens to engage in all public activity, Italy on Friday implemented its own 'Green Pass' in the strictest and first such move for Europe

The fully mandatory for every Italian citizen health pass "allows" entry into work spaces or activities like going to restaurants and bars, based on one of the following three conditions that must be met: 

  • proof of at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine

  • or proof of recent recovery from an infection

  • or a negative test within the past 48 hours

Via AFP

It's already being recognized in multiple media reports as among "the world's strictest anti-COVID measures" for workers. First approved by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi's cabinet a month ago, it has now become mandatory on Oct.15.

Protests have been quick to pop up across various parts of the country, particularly as workers who don't comply can be fined 1,500 euros ($1,760); and alternately workers can be forced to take unpaid leave for refusing the jab. CNN notes that it triggered "protests at key ports and fears of disruption" on Friday, detailing further:

The largest demonstrations were at the major northeastern port of Trieste, where labor groups had threatened to block operations and around 6,000 protesters, some chanting and carrying flares, gathered outside the gates.

    Around 40% of Trieste's port workers are not vaccinated, said Stefano Puzzer, a local trade union official, a far higher proportion than in the general Italian population.

    Workers at the large port of Trieste have effectively blocked access to the key transport hub...

    As The Hill notes, anyone wishing to travel to Italy anytime soon will have to obtain the green pass: "The pass is already required in Italy for both tourists and nationals to enter museums, theatres, gyms and indoor restaurants, as well as to board trains, buses and domestic flights."

    The prime minister had earlier promoted the pass as a way to ensure no more lockdowns in already hard hit Italy, which has had an estimated 130,000 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

    Meanwhile, the requirement of what's essentially a domestic Covid passport is practically catching on in other parts of Europe as well, with it already being required to enter certain hospitality settings in German and Greece, for example. Some towns in Germany have reportedly begun requiring vaccination proof just to enter stores. So likely the Italy model will soon be enacted in Western Europe as well.

    Tyler Durden Sat, 10/16/2021 - 07:35

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    Government

    4 In 10 TSA Employees Remain Unvaccinated As Deadline Looms

    4 In 10 TSA Employees Remain Unvaccinated As Deadline Looms

    While we wait to see what remains of the US army after hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated troops are told to pack up for not complying with Biden’s executive order (and whether…

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    4 In 10 TSA Employees Remain Unvaccinated As Deadline Looms

    While we wait to see what remains of the US army after hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated troops are told to pack up for not complying with Biden's executive order (and whether that's the moment China will decided to attack), we wonder if soon nobody will be able to fly as a few weeks from now the Transportation Security Administration may simply cease to exist.

    According to CNN, the TSA says 4-in-10 members of its workforce, including screeners, remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 just weeks ahead of a looming deadline. The deadline for civilian federal government workers to be fully vaccinated is November 22 - the Monday before Thanksgiving, which just happens to be the busiest travel time of the year.

    "We have about 60% of our workforce has been vaccinated, that that number needs to go quite a bit higher over the next few weeks," TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN.

    The November 22 deadline for being fully vaccinated is still six weeks away, but the deadlines for receiving the vaccines are rapidly approaching or, in the case of the Moderna vaccine, have already passed, since an individual has to receive the full schedule of doses and wait two weeks before being considered fully vaccinated.

    In order to meet that deadline, the last possible date for receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine is October 18, while the latest possible date for the first dose of Moderna was October 11. According to CNN, the Pfizer vaccine requires a three-week waiting period in between first and second doses. Moderna requires a four-week wait. The last possible date to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is November 8, two weeks before the November 22 deadline.

    Pekoske said he is "very hopeful" that the agency's employees can meet the deadline and that there will not be worker shortages, however in light of mandatory requirements that clearly will not happen.

    "We are building contingency plans, for if we do have some staffing shortages as a result of this, but I hope to avoid that," he said.

    It wasn't clear what, if any, these contingency plans are.

    Tyler Durden Fri, 10/15/2021 - 18:50

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    Government

    “Expert” Calls For Denying Life-Saving Hospital Treatment To The Unvaccinated

    "Expert" Calls For Denying Life-Saving Hospital Treatment To The Unvaccinated

    Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

    An “expert” whose work on cybersecurity has been cited by the NY Times and the Washington Post announced on…

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    "Expert" Calls For Denying Life-Saving Hospital Treatment To The Unvaccinated

    Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

    An “expert” whose work on cybersecurity has been cited by the NY Times and the Washington Post announced on Twitter that the unvaccinated should be denied life-saving hospital treatment because they are “not fit for life on earth.”

    Chris Vickery, who describes himself as a “data breach hunter” also brags about how his “findings have contributed to investigations conducted by the FTC, FBI, SEC, Secret Service, HHS, SSCI, and more.”

    During an unhinged Twitter rant, Vickery asserted that a time limit of December 1st should be put on people refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

    “Set a date now. After that date, no hospital services for the willingly unvaccinated,” he screeched.

    “Then, after the chosen date, anyone choosing to refuse the covid-19 vaccine can deal with the consequences of that choice alone,” added Vickery.

    After claiming there was no “legitimate” reason for anyone to refuse the shot, Vickery ended his rant with a demented call for such people to “separate from the surviving world.”

    “Human society isn’t a suicide pact. If you are too dumb to get the covid vaccine, then you are not fit for continued life on Earth.”

    “That’s your choice, but the consequences of refusing to get the vaccine is you having to wave a fond farewell and separate from the surviving world.”

    Some joked that this was yet another example of the familiar trend of blue checkmarks on Twitter aggressively displaying their virtue while actually calling for mass genocide.

    Others directly savaged Vickery for his heartless inhumanity.

    “When you were a child, did you ever envisage what a terrible person you would be in adulthood?” asked one.

    “So much for “healthcare is a human right,” quipped another.

    Vickery later bragged about the number of people he had blocked on Twitter in the aftermath of his comments.

    How brave of him.

    As we previously highlighted, numerous hospitals across America are already denying life-saving organ transplants to unvaccinated patients.

    Meanwhile, in the UK, patients deemed to be “racist,” “sexist” or “homophobic” can also be denied treatment under NHS rules.

    As we document in the video below, similar rhetoric is being spewed by Keith Olbermann and others who are intent on whipping up ‘New Normal’ cult members into a frenzied, hysterical hatefest targeting those who choose not to take the jab.

    *  *  *

    Brand new merch now available! Get it at https://www.pjwshop.com/

    In the age of mass Silicon Valley censorship It is crucial that we stay in touch. I need you to sign up for my free newsletter here. Support my sponsor – Turbo Force – a supercharged boost of clean energy without the comedown. Get early access, exclusive content and behinds the scenes stuff by following me on Locals.

    Tyler Durden Fri, 10/15/2021 - 15:43

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