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In my world, automation reaches a new level with the introduction of androids. Robotic human beings capable of doing any job a regular person can. The concept of these androids is that they can be used in a wide variety of jobs as opposed to simpler robotic workers. Justifying a humanoid body plan was fairly easy, but how do I justify going further than that?

I want the androids that inhabit my world to appear human in every way, from life-like skin, to body hair and genders; preferably making each android appear unique. How can I justify the addition of these purely aesthetic human features on an android built for work?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, Thucydides, sphennings, L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica, Vylix Aug 10 '17 at 7:41

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Are your androids supposed to interact with humans, or be entirely on their own? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 9 '17 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander Some will be by themselves, most will need to interact with a human in someway. $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Aug 9 '17 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ Then I would stand with @vcsjones answer - humans would prefer to see robots that look like other humans, not some "Uncanny valley" creations. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 9 '17 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ Because that's what 'android' means. $\endgroup$ – user207421 Aug 10 '17 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ 1) Sexbots. 2) Because if your story gets optioned for a film, it's a lot more likely to see production (and make you big bucks) if the androids can be cast by actors wearing a bit of makeup, rather than expensive special effects. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Aug 10 '17 at 4:55
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How can I justify the addition of these purely aesthetic human features on an android built for work?

Humans have an ingrained nature to give more trust in to things that are familiar, and more similar, to themselves. If these androids are supposed to carry out work that humans depend on, I think a population of people is more likely to accept and trust them if they appeared human. Whether or not this trust is well placed is another issue.

preferably making each android appear unique

Having thousands of androids all look the same breaks that illusion of familiarity. We would immediately recognize that not that many people could look identical, so the illusion, and trust, is broken. Culture is a deep part of humanity. It also brings a level of trust and familiarity. Trust would not exist uniformly if all of the androids were a single ethnicity, for example.

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  • $\begingroup$ Of fictional androids, Alien illustrates this answer best. As I've commented on Tres' other question today. The "David" commercial for Prometheus explicitly mentions the ability of a lifelike android to better integrate with a human workforce, and why emulating emotions has a value in this respect. $\endgroup$ – Ross Aug 9 '17 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ Let's also remember Steven Spielberg's movie, A.I. Artificial intelligence where he explores the issues of completely lifelike androids and how society deals with them. Yes, we like familiar things. But we also distrust things that aren't human. It's a wicked conundrum that's the basis of many a sci-fi tale. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 10 '17 at 0:35
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vcsjones has a great answer that probably gets to the Occam's razor of this question, but I'd like to add a few more possible reasons for fun and creativity's sake.

To make use of pre-existing human infrastructure

Humans are picky creatures. Most of them won't let the cleanest dog you've ever seen be in the same restaurant as them, but will gladly let John Doe who may not have showered in a month prepare the food in the back. A humanoid machine, while not as germy, will likely be rejected by some people in the use of certain forms of public and private transportation options. But you have this robot that could potentially do all your grocery shopping you, so you'll want it to be able to walk around a mall without making paranoid anti-tech people weirded out. Also, they'd be able to take advantage of shelters during inclement weather or similar disaster with less potential harassment.

Camouflage

I don't know how expensive these things are, but I bet they're not cheap. I've seen car windows get broken so someone could grab five dollars. I bet you five dollars that if those robots are easy to identify on the street someone will attempt the neutralize and steal them for profit. Having very human-like androids will keep them safe and well-hidden among the crowds. Unless you don't want that, for plot reasons.

Easy Specialization and Tool Use

There are already hundreds of thousands of power tools, work vehicles, and work stations that are designed with the ergonomics of humans in mind. Not to mention clothing, protective wear, etc. While this is a minor point, it stands to reason that the more human-like the androids are, the more natural it will be for them to take advantage of the various item that humans have already designed for themselves. It will also save money on R&D, because the producer won't have to sink money into making new tools for the androids to use, they can already use the sorts of tools any company that purchases them for labor already has.

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Rule 34 and parts compatibility

Any android with a customer interaction role will be a good-looking human if that is cheap enough in your setting. That includes receptionists, salespeople, waiters, but also janitors, maids, or subway drivers. These roles will be the majority of androids.

Other androids might switch in and out of people-facing roles. "Alexa/Cortana/Siri, bring me a beer. And do the dishes and trim the lawn afterwards."

Other posters have pointed out why the rest (lumberjacks, assembly line workers, ...) should be humanoid, and if you go that way, it might be cost-effective to make them human-looking using standard parts from the customer interaction androids.

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Wealth, power and status. A technical society capable of producing androids will have progressed further in the development of robotics and automation. Machines will be doing a large part of labour and work. Most machines will not be remotely humaniform (to use Isaac Asimov's term for, generally, humanoid robots) they will be contrivances run by smart software. Much of these machines will be controlled by dedicated machine intelligence systems.

In a world where the majority of labouring tasks is done by machines there will be great kudos in employing and using genuine living human beings to work for you. For example, only the best people will be able to afford a human butler. Even if the work of that butler is mainly subordinated and carried out by machines and software agents to assist and facilitate a latter-day Jeeves. Appearance counts for so much. This is all about status. Employing human beings therefore will enjoy the highest status.

But not everybody can be on the top rung of the pecking order. So mechanization comes to their rescue. The fabrication and manufacture of androids will provide faux human beings who can fulfill the same sort of roles as a real human being. Androids will give the appearance that Mr and Mrs Not-Quite-At-the-Top-of-the-Tree can afford human servants and assistants in domestic duties and at corporate executive level.

They will be doing what the wealthy, the powerful and the status hungry have always done, that of flaunting their wealth, power and status over lesser mortals. To place themselves above the rest. If they need androids to do that, they will use androids. This means there will be a ready market for androids for the upper class.

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preferably making each android appear unique

I don't think they all will be unique. I think that will be according to cost.

I am going to use sex dolls as an example. There's the real custom jobs, where you can chose all the features, and the price goes up the more customized you get. And there's the generic sex dolls, that, while expensive, aren't nearly so much. Therefore, I believe that it's far more likely that a company, like an airline or a Hooters-type restaurant, would have "base models," with 3-4 different types. It's sort of like the older Barbie dolls before they changed the actual features. The black Barbie used to look just like the white Barbie except dark-skinned, and Barbie's other friends looked JUST like her, except that they had different colored hair and skin tone.

This might even be a signature thing for a company. Airlines used to measure women's busts, waists, and hips, looking for specific measurements for their flight attendants. Sarah Airlines, where everyone is Sarah. Except for that actual human girl in Sacramento who Sarah is based off of. She gets residuals, but really hates to fly. And she's getting older, and the bots are not.

How can I justify the addition of these purely aesthetic human features on an android built for work?

For the service industry, or in places where a face matters, and the appearance of no expense spared, this is justified. But if you're talking manual labor? No, not really. There's not a reason to customize a construction worker.

UNLESS--

Labor laws might say you are only allowed X number of 'droids, because otherwise, humans will be out of a job. Calculating the cost of employee benefits over time vs. just a workshop, unscrupulous employers started getting unauthorized "skins" for their bots to dodge the labor laws, perhaps even getting paperwork that says they are human. And perhaps the droids are even programed to believe that, which could be a plot in itself.

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