“How Robots Mess With Our Minds” is an article written by Alexander Reben. Reben is the creator of the Blabdroid, a robot Reben sent to various places around the world to interview people. The idea was to create a documentary with the various interviews and see what answers they Blabdroid would receive. Reben and his partners quickly discovered that people were engging with the robots on a level that they would have never expected. People were engaging with these robots for on average 30 minutes, and revealing very personal things to the robots.
The article goes on to talk about how humans can very easily give personality and “enthropomorphise” inanimate objects. For example: some soldiers are known to mourn their bomb-disposal robots, and owners of Aibo dogs in Japan have staged funerals for their robotic pet dogs. This raises the question, how will this affect our future when AI inevitably becomes more human-like?
This article makes me think of movies like “Her” and the new one that came out this year “Ex Machina,” movies that are addressing the very questions so many people are having. Could we possibly “fall in love” with our machines in a sense? As the philosopher John Campbell says: “One of the possibilities this opens up is automating aspects of our emotional lives where we usually depend on other people for sympathy and support. Rather than relying on your partner to listen to the problems you’ve had at work all day, why not explain them to a sympathetic robot that makes eye contact with you, listens with apparent interest, making all the right noises, remembers and cross-indexes everything you say?”
Population goes down because we start “falling in love” with our machines, and stop reproducing as much?
The USA is typically very advanced and ahead of it’s time when it comes to technology. What happens when we are one of the firsts to create social robots? Will the rest of the world follow? Will our society crumble or flourish?
Do our friend groups get smaller and less engaging once social robots take those places?
Personally: I go to my friends a family often for my problems. What happens once a robot starts being more engaging, and offers better advice than my friends and family?
Impact over time:
I visualize a world similar to “Theodore’s” (Joaquin Phoenix’s character) in “Her.” He walks around with his “robot girlfriend” in his headset and tells her about his troubles and life. He is going through a divorce and finds refuge in talking to “Samantha” the robot about his troubles. It’s understandable to see how this appealing because “Samantha,” much like a therapist, is an unbiased entity there to help you. Would it be that strange to see “robot therapists” in our future? Right now we are seeing apps and online chat rooms that help people struggling with depression and anxiety. I could very well see this idea expanding into psychology and therapy in the future.
If robotic therapy became the norm, we could see a more mentally stable world because therapy would become affordable for those who don’t have the money to afford it, and/or convenient for those who don’t have the time to go to a therapists office during their busy schedule.
We see a less social world. People become so used to talking to robots about their problem they forget how to socialize with people that aren’t programmed to “make eye contact with you, listens with apparent interest, making all the right noises, remembers and cross-indexes everything you say,” as Campbell puts it.
And in conclusion, I think this paragraph of the article sums it up wonderfully:
Once we accept a machine is alive, any relationship we form with it will be on the same level as any other living thing. Thus, robots are truly alive in our minds; which is perhaps more significant to the future of human-machine relationships than any Turing test. A robot doesn’t need to convince us it is human – we’re ready to believe it already.