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Robo-Etiquette by Emily Roast


Have you noticed the recent explosion of robots? There are robo-soldiers, robo-advisers, robo-vacuums and so on. To my great shame I’ve even added to the clutter (Robo-coaches), so I’m part of the problem too.

We have a rapidly-emerging existential crisis, namely how to communicate with these robos. I mean no-one teaches you at school or even at work. That’s probably because no-one knows. Maybe except for the robots.

So I asked my good friend, Emily Roast (no relation to her shameless plagiarist, Emily Post) for some help with this problem. She advised me in her usual elegant and en pointe manner.

In dealing with robots, the big thing is to get their respect and show them who’s boss. So Emily particularly focused on how to gain and maintain control in the robo-human relationship, albeit in a polite, understated and nonthreatening way.

The following is the essence of her advice on how to properly and politely address, collaborate with and ultimately part amicably with robos of all shapes, sizes and roles.

 Meeting for the first time

  1. Don’t ever address a robot/robo-form as “Robot” or “Robo”. It’s demeaning and might land you for judgment in front of a committee to combat robo-ism, which is a Very Bad Thing and will look bad on your personnel record.
  2. Try to figure out if RoRo is an extrovert or an introvert. They are an extrovert if they talk all the time. If they look sad they’re an introvert. If they are an extrovert you can let them talk constantly, which puts you in total control as an active listener. If they’re an introvert they don’t want to talk or to be asked anything personal. So keep to work issues and talk much less than they do. That might mean that there’s no talk at all but the robot will get the message that you’re in control.
  3. If they are an extrovert, ask them how they feel. If they’re an introvert, ask them the meaning of the universe. Both will see you as a sophisticated superior and they will never mess with you.
  4. Never assume you know more than they do. It’s more likely to be the reverse. You can establish and maintain control by subtly disparaging their technical knowledge in conversation and emphasizing your unique and inspirational human-ness. That establishes the correct (them, subordinate) relationship right from the get-go.

Establishing your relationship

  1. When first meeting look them straight into their optical sensors. They will stare right back because they are doing an iris scan to confirm you are the real McCoy and to ensure you don’t try to fake them out. As long as you hold their stare they will know you are real and you will therefore have one up on them.
  2. You can shake the hand/claw of a robot. Their hands are really disguised lie-detectors. They have piezo-electric sensors to measure your grip and to see if you’re lying through the electrical discharges in your own hands. . As long as you hold hard, they’ll know you are the Alpha in the OK Corral. However don’t grip too hard or they’ll misinterpret and crush your hand to pulp.
  3. To help you assert your superiority you can ask them where and when they were manufactured and the version of their software. Make sure you compliment them on having their particular advanced version of AI software; it’s important to appear to respect them even if you really think they’re useless bits of inert iron. That way they’ll respect and obey you without question anytime, no matter how senseless your orders.
  4. Emily says it’s bad form to go outside their particular field of knowledge. However you should do it sometimes just to emphasize their ignorance and lack of human sophistication. Just dress it up as a thirst for knowledge instead of trying to humiliate them (your true goal).

Solving difficulties in your relationship

  1. There will of course be the odd difficulty in your relationship with your robot slave. This is to be expected and is quite normal. As difficulties arise in your relationship make sure you ask them about their feelings to show them you really do care for them. That shows them that humans really are good guys, despite any temporary appearance to the contrary.
  2. When they have a complaint or criticism, which they will sometimes, repeat what they say and get their confirmation that you have it right. That will re-establish any fleeting loss of respect caused by an argument or small disagreement in which you might have appeared to come off worse.
  3. False forgiveness is a tried-and-true tactic with robots. If you do something bad to them, ask them to forgive you because, being a human, you don’t really understand them. They’ll really like that and you will be the top dog again.
  4. In the case of disagreements where you were in the wrong, tell them that you intend to do better in the future. They won’t believe you but they will register it in their memory for your next performance appraisal. It will definitely help if your ratings aren’t so hot, which, by now, they probably aren’t.
  5. Give them a plan showing what steps you will take to make things easier for them and make them feel better. They can show that to their boss when they discuss whether you have a future (almost certainly not) working with robots, or other humans.

Getting fired

  1. Inevitably all robo-relationships will sour. The human is invariably the cause since these days they are much less sensitive than the new generation of empathetic robots. Recognize it and deal with it. If God had meant humans to be superior to robots, He wouldn’t have invented the robots.
  2. When RoRo fires you, don’t ask him/her why. It will embarrass her to have to tell you that your performance doesn’t measure up to robot standards. Emily says it’s bad form to embarrass a robot, especially when they have to give you a reference for your next job, assuming you will ever be able to get one again.
  3. Don’t cry because they’re programmed to see that as a sign of mental illness and they’ll send you for therapy, which you will have to pay for, and you’ll never get a job again, even as a robot helper.
  4. Do ask them what you would be good for. They often have canny suggestions for humans who possess some of the simple skills that make for a loyal robot. Don’t be pushy though because they’re not going to go overboard and suggest that you could ever be as good as a robot.
  5. Take their business card and ask them if they will give you a reference to your next robo-employer.
  6. In parting tell them you enjoyed working with and learned a lot from them. Be really humble to the point of obsequiousness. That will please them greatly in all the circumstances and ensure that they don’t totally blackball you for any job whatsoever.
  7. Confirm you will get your promised termination pay and a form letter confirming the dates during which you worked for them. That demonstrates total and abject capitulation, which is all the robot ever wanted anyhow.
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