Reflections on the Creepy-Cool Line

A lot of our time for this class, both on Twitter and in Stokes South 195, was spent discussing recent digital technological advances and where they fell on the Creepy-Cool Line. I’d like to spend this last blog post taking a look at some of the things that we decided were creepy or cool (or agreed to disagree on) and reflect on what that tells us about our world.

Facebook News Feed (Cool)

Image result for news feed

So this issue didn’t technically come up in our class (since the News Feed was first launched in 2006) but it was the example that introduced us to the Cool-Creepy line. As we discussed in class, there was a huge uproar when they rolled it out – hundreds of thousands of students joined groups created for the sole purpose of letting Facebook know about their discontent. Complaints about the new feature ranged from it being too cluttered to it being a violation of privacy.

Today, no one cares about the news feed (well, with recent tests of separate personal and business news feeds its back it the news but for a very different reason). As a person who joined Facebook after the original news feed debacle, I hadn’t even realized that there was a point in time when there wasn’t a news feed. Despite initial outrage, the News Feed is considered a crucial part of the Facebook experience.

Image result for news feed students against

Did News Feed get less clunky? Probably, Facebook is always working on redesigning their site to meet current trends. Did the service get any less intrusive? No, it will still show you posts from a non-friend that one of your friends like and you still probably have that one friend that feels the need to update everyone whenever they check their phone. But now people love it; the product didn’t change, the people did.

Citizenship for Saudi Arabian Robot (Creepy)

giphy-downsized-large

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a news story that popped up a few weeks ago when Saudi Arabia gave official citizenship to a Hong-Kong robot, Sophia, built to resemble Audrey Hepburn. We discussed a variety of issues that arose with this decision like does that mean the robot can vote and can you be charged with murder if you turn the robot off? We also questioned why Saudi Arabia was the country to do this; they are known for their low level of women’s rights, restricting how women are allowed to own their own businesses or apply for an ID and requiring strict dress codes that Sophia has not complied with as of yet. Many felt that the focus in the country should be women’s rights rather than robot’s rights.

giphy (7)

If I remember correctly, the class generally fell into the “Creepy” camp on this matter. We didn’t understand why Sophia was getting or even needed citizenship of a country and felt that the decision to give the robot this designation of citizen was more of a publicity stunt rather than a long-term policy decision. Will we eventually think that it is not creepy or, more importantly, non-remarkable that robots can be citizens of a country? To me that depends – will we be able to derive some utility from citizen robots.

Amazon Key (Agree to Disagree) 

Image result for amazon key

Our class had more differing opinions on this last tech development, the Amazon Key. As part of our Amazon News section of the class, we discussed the pros and cons of giving Amazon physical access to your house. Our discussion went from people saying that they would prefer letting the delivery driver in your house as a way to prevent theft to people saying that letting letting the delivery driver in your house would only be inviting more theft in. Some expressed concerns with the third-parties that are often used to make deliveries (sometimes with a spotty track record) while others had a greater problem with giving Amazon more access to the inside of your home as the product also included a camera to let you watch the door.

Image result for amazon key

The class was split when it came to Amazon Key – about half though it was cool while the other half thought it was creepy. Why is this situation different than with the News Feed or Sophia? I think a lot of it comes down to our understanding and our utility. With the News Feed, at this point in time, we all understand what the purpose of the news feed is and it gives us all some sort of benefit. On the other hand, there are still many questions when it comes down to robotic citizenship and we aren’t sure what the real pros and cons of it is. In between the two is the Amazon Key; some of us get a lot of benefit from letting Amazon right in to your house while others do not give Amazon that level of trust.

So does this mean that over time all things will eventually stop being creepy (in the tech world at least)? No, probably not as there are some things that we will never understand or be able to derive sufficient utility from. But for most things in tech, with time, we come to think of them as cool.

Links

http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1532225,00.html

http://www.newsweek.com/sophia-robot-saudi-arabia-women-735503

https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/25/16538834/amazon-key-in-home-delivery-unlock-door-prime-cloud-cam-smart-lock

8 comments

  1. Great final post! It’s true, we talked a ton about the creepy cool line, and the continual movement that is propelled by companies like Amazon to make consumers with more and more advanced (and intrusive?) tech. Such an interesting take on trying to cumulate all that we did this semester by talking in depth about the line and how we as consumers react to it. I agree with your nomination of Facebook as cool and the robot citizen as creepy, but the interesting debate is with those companies that we discussed to be continuously teetering along the line.

  2. I really liked the topic of this post! I loved the examples you used and agree that the Amazon Key seemed to be the most controversial! As the air bnb video watched said, the currency of the sharing economy is just trust. Therefore I have no doubt that things like the Amazon Key will catch on because people are always looking for ways to make their lives more convenient, even if it means sacrificing some privacy. However, I do not think that the AI robot should have been given citizenship because (on top of the fact that she is a MACHINE) it is sort of a slap in the face to all human Saudi Arabian women who are citizens and are treated so poorly by their government and society.

  3. Great post!! I’m taking Strategic Management right now and one thing we’ve talked about is that companies and new products need to make the lives of its consumers easier. Although the Facebook Newsfeed was originally considered creepy, it made Facebook so much easier to use and was thus accepted. I believe that Amazon Key will prove to be the same way. The benefits will outweigh the risks and Amazon Key will be accepted. However, I don’t see the Citizen Robot as something that we will ever need, and therefore, it will continue to be considered creepy.

  4. Oof I did have Facebook when the Newsfeed was rolled out and BOY OH BOY was I unhappy. In some ways, though, it was the very beginning of what social looks like today. Prior, there was no way to know what someone was looking at. You had to physically look at someone’s “wall” or photos to see a comment. It meant you had a little more anonymity, whereas the newsfeed publicized those moves that you felt were more private. Funny to think about how we’ve evolved since.

  5. Really good post! I think the creepy cool line was a very important topic that came up throughout the semester. Before this class I did not realize how many things we consider ~cool~ now, used to be considered as creepy. As far as my hot take on the Amazon key, I think that this is a good idea. I think that this is the way technology is progressing and the more welcoming we are to it, the safer and more advanced we can make it. All in all, I really enjoyed reading your concluding thoughts and sentiments!

  6. I really liked the format of this post! I totally also did not know that there was a time before the newsfeed- I can’t imagine Facebook without it. It’s funny to think how Facebook has changed so radically… remember when conversations used to be had by going back and forth on someone’s “wall”? In terms of the Saudi Arabian robot, I definitely agree that it was likely done as a publicity stunt. I can’t imagine a future where they also grant citizenship to an unlimited number of future robots that come along. As you mentioned in your post, it’s certainly an interesting decision considering the lack of autonomy women have in the country. I think most would agree that granting the citizenship was a creepy move. However, I am totally fine with the Amazon Key. When you think about it, it would make a lot more sense for someone to outright rob a home than to do it to a house with an Amazon Key system. Besides the fact that there is almost a definite chance that the camera that comes with the package is already set up, working for Amazon necessitates that they have your personal details. It would therefore be incredibly foolish to rob on the job, because Amazon’s takes trust and credibility super seriously and would ensure proper consequences were enforced. Therefore, if I had the money/ the need I would totally try out Amazon Key.

  7. Boy, the creepy/cool line concept really took off this semester. Nice insights.

  8. I did find that the news story about Saudi Arabia giving official citizenship to a Hong-Kong robot is creepy, but could definitely provide more insight into the power of artificial intelligence. I also feel that if Amazon Key can become mainstream, it will provide a completely revolutionary way for Amazon to play to their customer experience. Once the safety issue becomes addressed, I feel that it can be a good concept for them to implement. Great post!

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