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Technology, Robotics, and AI

Robots and Relationships

24 July 2019
My dear Miss Glory, Robots are not people. They are mechanically more perfect than we are, they have an astounding intellectual capacity, but they have no soul
Karel Capek Rossum’s Universal Robots

Obviously, we are going to have relationships with robots. They may be assistants doing secretarial work for us. They may be our pets. Perhaps they will be taking care of our children (cheap and reliable nannies), or our parents (economical nurses and companions).

Or ourselves. Just imagine, a robot-like Andrew in Bicentennial Man available at all hours of the day and night as your butler and valet! Robots are going to be all over the place and doing the kind of things that in the past only people could do.

Is this all going to be okay? When old people or children are involved, there are obvious questions marks. But what kind of relationships are going to be possible for the rest of us.

There are no limits

It’s hardly a surprise to learn the there really are no limits. Robots keep getting smarter. The line from pets and toys, to admin assistant and domestic servants, to companions is a straight line. The smartest Robot technology gets, the nearer Robots will come to imitating every aspect of the ‘human’ relationship.

A research study from Stanford University says this: “people may experience feelings of intimacy towards technology because our brains aren’t necessarily hardwired for life in the twenty-first century.”

Our brains are hard-wired – set up by the way we are made, by human biology and over time by experience as we grow up – to see people as people and machines as machines. They don’t quite know what to do when they are presented with a machine that behaves like a person. And while we are thinking about things, we can make sense of the difference. When it comes to our feelings, it doesn’t quite work like that.

Controlling our feelings is a very hard thing. We don’t tell ourselves how to feel. We just feel.

Robot sex

Of course, any discussion of robots and relationships includes sex. Sex robots are not new and have been around for a while. There are even sex-robot conferences.

But clearly this raises big questions. What will be the impact on intimacy? If we offer sex robots, what about customers who are paedophiles?

Questions to ask

  • Will our imaginations allow us to distinguish between them and us?

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Technology, Robotics, and AI

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