Making Robotic Whoopie

I’ve been on this kick of reading books that illuminate how our immediate future will soon resemble a Philip K. Dick novel.

The latest was Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle. Turkle is a professor at MIT. She is able to understand science stuff even though she possesses a vagina, and didn’t get the memo from possible future fed head Lawrence Summers that chicks should stick to their capabilities like cooking and transvaginal wand-mounting.

barbiedum

Turkle was teaching when Joseph Weizenbaum unveiled the ELIZA program in the 1970s. ELIZA was a computer program where users could engage in a conversation with a machine. Like a person could type “My boyfriend is making me sad” and get the response “Tell me more about your boyfriend.” Weizenbaum found his students wanted to be alone with ELIZA and was alarmed by their attachment to it.

Today, the talk is of sociable robots caring for our elderly in nursing homes. Nursing homes are already using Paro, the robotic seal, to provide comfort to patients with dementia.

paroRobots are also being considered as caretakers for children to free up adults so they have more time to spend on tweeting about their on-again, off-again relationship with Siri and Instagramming their dic picks.

Turkle is not a fan of this nor of the inevitable future of human-robot relationships. She believes people–children especially–need to be around other humans to keep that pesky thing called empathy alive. Empathy is like soooooo 1994.

Research–the thing that’s the opposite of gut reaction–is showing that Americans are increasingly insecure, isolated and lonely.

Turkle believes the future of robots as love partners will compound this.  It is the gateway to new narcissistic experiences. The robot is cast in the role of what you need. You can power it off when it begins to nag you about the dishes. How can it be a relationship if one of the parties is not really alive and capable of human emotions? I’ll tell ya how.

roombaI can see some advantages to a robot partner, for example:

  • farting freely
  • minimal engagement with the in-laws since they don’t exist
  • dance marathon advantage

But I may be siding with Turkle on this one. It seems very much like dating oneself and who would want to do that?

kanyeAs of now, we seem more fixated on our distraction devices than we are on our relationships to people who physically occupy the same room. Go to any airport and you’ll see what I mean. At some point, I can see people becoming frustrated with their robot partners, which will inevitably lead to this:

cosmo

And no one wants that.

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46 comments

  1. I would settle for my spouse simply having an “off” button buried deeply in his flesh. It would be so much cheaper than sending him on a solo trip. You know, “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?”

  2. I started writing a story about this, Speaky! A Japanese-made automatron is adopted by an American family, to be their maid and nanny and companion and whatnot. On learning that she is ‘fully sexually functional’, the family’s two boys lose their virginities to her, as practice, and the family’s father engages in adultery with her, but the automatron grows ever-more sentient and self-aware, eventually falling in ‘love’ with one of them, leading the downfall of all involved. Now tell me that wouldn’t be a great book/film ;)

  3. This is actually quite scary stuff (almost as scary as that Barbie Doll Le Clown linked to). The most frightening part is that it no longer seems far fetched. It actually seems like it will become reality.

  4. I’m torn. On the one hand, I like the idea of a robot partner because I wouldn’t have to talk to them or make them sandwiches or anything. On the other hand, I’d always be worried that he would leave me for some hot young processing chippie.

  5. I was kind of into this idea until Kanye came into my vision field. We cannot allow any technology where he and Kim K can make robot versions of themselves. The world just cannot handle that much krazy. Spontaneous combustion of the entire universe would be inevitable.

  6. Ha, ha, ha S7. Very funny post AND it’s scary to think that one day a “a bucket of bolts” will be in charge of our kids. If we think that THIS generation has problems (laziness being the worse), I can’t imagine how they will turn out when being raised/taught by an emotionless machine?

    Just because we CAN do it, doesn’t mean we should.

    P.S. The responses to this post were hilarious. :-P

    1. No one ever answers the “Why are we doing this” question. It reminds me of a Mr. Show sketch where scientists make a plan to blow up the moon. They train a chimpanzee for the rocket trip and teach it sign language. Everyone is so excited and plan these elaborate blow-up-the-moon parties. The chimp is the one that asks why.

  7. I’ve been called a robot more times that I care to store in my flash memory.  And speaking for possible uses for robots, whenever I read about politics, I keep thinking we should just replace all politicians with non-partisan robots.

  8. Being married to a robot would be as much fun as hanging out with Katie Holmes when she was married to Tom Cruise.

    On a similar note, a friend’s brother once tried to pleasure himself with a vacuum, and his penis swelled up and he had to go to the ER.

  9. “fixated more on..distraction devices than..people in the same room.” Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

    My kid will look at me with that fake, “I’m paying close attention to you” stare, while her thumbs are flying on the phone in her lap. I know she’s not listening. How rude is it to…oh, wait a sec. My Hoover Upright Model 360 needs me – it’s really depressed. It says life sucks.

  10. Speaker 7 – You are hilarious!!! Loved your post, especially the part about robot babysitters (there has to be a bunch of horror movie premises in that alone). Thought you might find it interesting that at least conceptually, humans are now able to “feel” touch through direct-to-brain electrical signals. This means if you’re say, playing a video game, you could “feel” one of the avatars touch you. More on this here: http://sexyscience1.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/artificial-touch-coming-to-a-video-game-near-you/

  11. Reblogged this on Sexy Science and commented:
    Very interesting post on how technology – especially robots – are increasingly involved in our lives. Robot babysitters, anyone? This blog post hilariously explored the potential impact of humans increasingly turning to robots for emotional connection instead of other humans.

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