Robot Love
December 7, 2006 2:25 AM   Subscribe

Sherry Turkle, who used to believe in the benefits of robot pets, has changed her tune and now "finds human-machine love unsettling (pdf)". Tyrell:"We began to recognize in them a strange obsession. After all, they are emotionally inexperienced, with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion or a pillow for their emotions, and consequently, we can control them better." Was he referring to us or them?
posted by sluglicker (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Most people accept the idea that pets...a dog or a cat, let's say...are good for you. You live a longer, healthier, happier life. But pets require care and feeding, not something we are all willing or able to do as is the case with the elderly or seriously ill. Enter robots. From a page at the Paro site: "Unlike industrial robots, 'Mental Commitment Robots' are developed to interact with human beings and to make them feel emotional attachment to the robots. Rather than using objective measures, these robots trigger more subjective evaluations, evoking psychological impressions such as 'cuteness' and comfort. Mental Commitment
Robots are designed to provide 3 types of effects: psychological, such as relaxation and motivation,
physiological, such as improvement in vital signs, and social effects such as instigating communication
among inpatients and caregivers." But what does that say about us as human Beings? Are all our attachments,
our objets d'amour, merely something we imagine? And if the answer to that question depends on whether or
not there is a real interaction between us and the beloved, if and when AI attains the level of thought and
feeling as we do, does that make any difference? Consider the words of the great robot poet, TB788-E10-D.
posted by sluglicker at 2:27 AM on December 7, 2006

Holden: ...Shall we continue? Describe in single words, only the good things that come in to your mind about... your mother.
Leon: My mother?
Holden: Yeah.
Leon: Let me tell you about my mother...
posted by Meatbomb at 3:06 AM on December 7, 2006

I met the creator of the Furby recently. However awesome you can imagine this guy to be in person, I assure you, he's even more.

He told me an interesting tale: Apparently, the Furby has one of the lowest return rates in the history of toys. It's not that they made it perfectly -- all manufacturing has errors. It's that people came to take their Furby's in for repair...and of course it's easier to replace...

"Ah, no. I don't want ANOTHER Furby, I want JIMMY's eye to work"
"Umm...we can replace this Furby with a fully functional..."
"No. You're not taking Jimmy. Never mind."

But this was not the best story he had. Apparently, original versions of the Furby would say, in English, things it wanted to do. One day, a little girl said to it, "Lets have some tea!"

"Go out and play!"

"Lets have some tea!", she'd repeat.

"Go out and play!"

*little girl removes batteries from Furby*

"Lets have some tea!"


"Yay! Tea!"

Thus, Furbyspeak. Designed to mean whatever you want it to mean :)
posted by effugas at 3:12 AM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Memories... You're talking about memories.

/couldn't resist, and there ended the blade runner quote-a-thon
posted by MetaMonkey at 3:35 AM on December 7, 2006

Is the weakness of using a robot as a proxy for emotions rather than a pet partly the optimized convenience? It can be built to only provide attention when the human wants it, can read and deliver the optimal attention at the best time, and can do only things the human wants it to do. Pets are responsive but also have their own emotional demands, sometimes at inconvenient times, and require extra work on the part of the human; they need to be fed, cleaned, and exercised, they come with the risk of becoming ill or being a liability. Robots need batteries and replacement parts, and incorporating extra maintenance as a feature would not go well.

I guess I'm arguing that dogs are better than robots because they poop.
posted by ardgedee at 5:00 AM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

I want a robot for my pets.
posted by effwerd at 5:44 AM on December 7, 2006

And Tyrell was played by Joe Turkel. I sense a whole lot of Turk-uhl surrounding the past, present and future of man-machine and machine-man interaction.
posted by Floach at 5:47 AM on December 7, 2006

A java coder who worked several cubes down had a furby. She turned it off because it kept talking to her while she was trying to work. (It was lucky that's all she did. You didn't want to disturb her when she was in the code zone.)

One time whiel she was away, I and one of the other web geeks turned it on and started playing catch with it. It got really, really agitated and after a while it just started keening endlessly. We had to reboot it.

(And no, I don't have children. Why do you ask?)
posted by lodurr at 6:29 AM on December 7, 2006

This is why there's a $52 registration fee for robot love.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:13 AM on December 7, 2006

It seems like it would be majorly different, but my guess is that in practice a child growing up with a robot will think about the world no differently then a child growing up on the internet, or with a computer, and so on. Not so fundamentally different from anyone who came before, but operating in a slightly different environment.
posted by delmoi at 8:24 AM on December 7, 2006

Humans dating robots is sick. You people wonder why I'm still single? It's 'cause all the fine robot sisters are dating humans!

I suppose what's disturbing is being reminded how programmed we are, 'cept we're meat.

You treat me like I was your ocean
You swim in my blood when it's warm
My cycles of circular motion
Protect you and keep you from harm

You live in a world of illusion
Where ev'rything's peaches and cream
We all face a scarlet conclusion
But we spend our time in a dream

Robot love, it's driving me mad
It's making me crazy, crazy
Robot love, it's driving me mad
It's making me crazy.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:46 AM on December 7, 2006

If only you’d seen what I’ve seen with your eyes.
posted by loquacious at 2:39 PM on December 7, 2006

effugas, they still sell Furbees in Japan. And I'm not talking retro-fetish boutiques, but popular tourist spots.

Oh, and

I stay in my room,
All alone in the gloom,
What need I of light?
Machines they can see in the night,
And I feel no pain
Metal heart and a metal brain,
But something is wrong
'cause I still feel that signal coming in so

I stand at your door,
I guess I'll wait a moment more
Your hall light comes on
And now my turn to fire upon
But I wheel away
Defer my plight, for another day
To dream of your face
But a video scren takes its place

Hey, oh it's true
I'm a helpless automaton, Make an ultimatum to you
Hey, it's true
Machin'ry in my pocket, I've even got a docket from you

I went to the man, I told him a robot is what I am,
But he just smiled, said I was a fractious child
"Distrusted not Rusted" That's why I feel so disgusted
But I know he's wrong, 'cause I haven't felt this way for very long

Hey, it's true,
I'm a helpless automaton, make an ultimatum to you
Hey, it's true
Machin'ry in my pocket, I've even got a docket from you
I'm a helpless automaton, make an ultimatum to you
Hey, it's true
Machin'ry in my pocket, I've even got a docket from you
It's true
I'm a helpless automaton, make an ultimatum to you
Hey, it's true
Machin'ry in my pocket, I've even got a docket from you
from you
from you
posted by dreamsign at 12:32 AM on December 8, 2006

I hate to ask
are "friends" electric?

posted by malocchio at 7:46 AM on December 8, 2006

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