Can robots learn social etiquette? The Defense Department thinks so

“If we’re going to get along as closely with future robots, driverless cars and virtual digital assistants in our phones and homes as we envision doing so today, then those assistants are going to have to obey the same norms we do,” Reza Ghanadan, a DARPA program manager, said in a statement.

Using the library example, the researchers said a current phone-answering system equipped with artificial intelligence would not automatically respond by silen­cing the phone’s ring or speaking quietly.

This is just one in a long list of social and ethical norms that machines need to be taught but that humans learn from childhood. People can also learn new norms more easily because they already have a complex network of norms, according to the researchers.