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Management Research Seminar Series - Russ Belk

Chatbots, Service-bots, Therapy-bots, and Sex-bots: The Inanimate Service Economy

Date & Time

January 15, 2021


Link provided in reminder email the day before the event


Kathy Cunningham


***M.Sc. Students in Management, this event can count towards one of the six mandatory Research Seminars Series needed to attend (MGT6991).***

Russ Belk, PhD.

York University Distinguished Research Professor, Royal Society of Canada Fellow, and Kraft Foods Canada Chair in Marketing, Schulich School of Business, York University

We have grown accustomed to online chatbots that sometimes help solve problems for us without waiting for a human assistance.  These service bots are becoming more sophisticated, even sensing our emotions and responding accordingly.  Therapy-bots go a step farther and can help us to alter our moods and get to understand ourselves better.  Digital assistants like Siri and Alexa are service bots that do things for us like answering questions, shopping for us, and obeying our requests.  In contrast to these invisible or two-dimensional on-screen bots, sex-bots are fully embodied and lifelike, even though their bodies are entirely artificial.  We may own them or, more likely given their cost, rent these sex robots by the hour or day.  This rise of the bots not only raises questions of how to provide better service, but also how to provide ethically and morally responsible robotic service.  At a deeper level, these developments raise questions of what it means to be a human versus a machine.  And we should also ask whether as machines become more human-like, we run the risk of becoming more machine-like.

About the Speaker

Russell Belk is York University Distinguished Research Professor, Royal Society of Canada Fellow, and Kraft Foods Canada Chair in Marketing at the Schulich School of Business in York University. His research involves the extended self, meanings of possessions, collecting, gift-giving, sharing, digital consumption, and materialism.  He co-initiated the Association for Consumer Research Film Festival, the Consumer Culture Theory Conference, and the Consumer Behavior Odyssey.  He has received a number of research and teaching awards and has over 700 publications. This work is primarily qualitative and is often conceptual, visual, and cultural.  He has had visiting positions at many universities around the world and has spent a year or more in Romania, Zimbabwe, the US, and Hong Kong with shorter visiting stints in India, Australia, Sweden, the UK, Brazil, New Zealand, and Italy.

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