Three Models of Human-Machine Collaboration From Pop Culture

Alexis Lloyd uses pop culture to think about three models for human-machine collaboration

  1. Machine as servant or butler (C3P0): well-meaning, but prone to misunderstanding context (especially social cues). Exists for delegation of lower-order tasks. Provides what is asked but fundamentally a failed and dissatisfying model; limited by the imagination of whomever it services. (AKA anthropomorphic model)
  2. Machine as prosthesis (Iron Man): the machine augments human capabilities. Often begins as a way to replace a lost human capability but then repurposed to extend capabilities.
  3. Machine as collaborator (R2D2): the machine collaborates with human capabilities. The machine has its own agency and language and is capable of learning and decision-making. They complement rather than supplement or augment human capabilities; while they may follow orders from humans, they may also override those directives in pursuit of a higher priority goal. May serve as more of a companion (in the Donna Haraway sense) and coexistent species rather than as a second-rate human.



Lloyd, Alexis. “R2D2 as a Model for AI Collaboration.” Medium (blog), November 21, 2020.