Friend or Foe? The consequences of interacting with new technologies as an employee, a follower, a consumer, and as a believer
Research Seminar
24 Feb 2023 (Fri)
9:00am – 10:30am
LSK Rm5047
Prof. Kai Chi Sam Yam, National University of Singapore

Robots are increasingly part of everyday life. They help serve food, man hotels, make hiring decisions, and even give sermons. In this talk, I will first present a few recently published papers; findings suggest how humans feel about robots remains complicated. While we tend to enjoy being served by robots, we dislike working with them and for them. Then, I will present two working papers on the new frontier of human-robot interaction – how we interact with machines as a believer. Using historical and cross-cultural data from millions of individuals, we find that the rise of AI can explain religious decline across nations, American metropolitan areas, and among individuals. This effect has significant workplace implications – a decline in religiosity is associated with decreased prosocial behavior and increased unethical behavior and workplace incivility. Furthermore, using a natural experiment in a recently automated Buddhist temple in Japan and a fully randomized experiment in a Taoist temple in Singapore, we consistently show that robot preachers are viewed as less credible than human preachers. This lack of credibility explains reductions in religious commitment after people listen to robot (vs. human) preachers deliver sermons. These findings demonstrate an important barrier to automation in occupations where credibility-enhancing displays (rather than just competence) are imperative. Our studies also suggest that escalating religious automation may produce widespread religious decline, even though many cases of religious automation are designed to do the opposite to counteract religious decline.