For most people today, robots and smart systems are servants that work in the background, vacuuming carpets or turning lights on and off. Researchers and companies are exploring lots of avenues for improving how robots and artificial intelligence systems work – and technical advances are important. A few basic concepts from the deep body of scholarly research into human teamwork can help develop and manage these new relationships.
- Different jobs
Teams are necessarily groups of people with separate, though interdependent, roles and responsibilities. A surgical team, for instance, might include a nurse, a surgeon and an anesthesiologist. Similarly, members of a human-robot team should be assembled to take on different elements of a complex task. Robots should do things they are best at, or that people don’t want to do – like lifting heavy items, testing chemicals and crunching data. That frees up people to do what they’re best at – like adapting to changing situations and coming up with creative solutions to problems.
- Mutual backup
Effective teams’ members know that everyone has a different role – but are available to support each other when necessary. The disastrously fatal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was partly the result of confusion and lack of coordination among government agencies and other groups like the Red Cross
- Common understanding
Effective teams share knowledge about the team goals and the current situation and this facilitates their interactions – even when direct communication is not possible.
- Effective interaction and communication
Team members need to interact; effective teaming depends greatly on the quality of those interactions. In hospital teams for emergency resuscitation of patients, team interaction and communication are crucial. Those teams are often made up of whatever medical personnel are nearest to the patient, and members need to know right away what happened before thepatient’s heart stopped – a life is at stake.
- Mutual trust
Interpersonal trust is important in human teams. If trust breaks down among a team of firefighters, they’ll be less effective and may cost lives – each other’s or members of the public they’re trying to help. The best robot teammates will be trustworthy and reliable – and any breaches in reliability need to be explained.
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