Readings 9: Are We Human? Technology, Intelligence & the Body

Robots are a mechanical or virtual agents. They have no feelings. They only understand material that is programmed into them. This weeks readings were about the intelligence in robots, the lack of emotion in robots, and how the human race interacts with them. Are robots a healthy positive invention, or are robots a step in the wrong direction?

Cyborgs are a mix between human and robots. We are all cyborgs now with the help of our phones. They are attached to us, they have somehow become us. We can now, with the help of technology, change our appearance and enhance our personal qualities.

We read three chapters in Sherry Turkles “Alone Together”. The chapters were called, Alive Enough, True Companion, and Enchantment. All three were tided together. Each a little different but very similar at the same time. In the first chapter we read and think about how children take to having robots in their lives. The toy named Furby, was invented in 2000 by the Hasbro toy company. It was a little round animal (looked sort of like a Star Wars character) and it responded back to kids. You were suppose to teach Furby english and take care of it the way you would take care of a pet. Furbies were great for a while until they malfunctioned and broke. Children don’t really understand death. So when a Furby broke some children felt this great void in their lives. It was like a friend was gone. They started feeling upset, worried, and anxious. People started questioning if Furbies were actually a good toy for kids to be playing with. A 4-year-old can’t mentally process loosing a friend.

In the chapter True Companions we read about AIBO the robot dog, and we discover how adults react to robotic pets. They react sort of similar to children but not to the extreme as kids do. Even as a mature adult people were beginning to bond with AIBO’s when they came out in 1999. They were very expensive to get but they were so much like a real dog that people didn’t find the need to get any other pets. I couldn’t help but think, why wouldn’t people just get a real dog. Adopt a pet for free! The sentence that really stood out to me in the chapter was, “Brenda feels guilty if she doesn’t keep AIBO entertained.” Brenda is 8. Although AIBO is just a mechanical aspect, people begin to relate and see it as parts of their family, a true companion.

In the chapter Enchantment, they discuss this idea of having robots as babysitters. A robot as a care taker? It’s all so foreign to me. Children need eyes on them at all times. Although a robot would keep track of a child at all times could they tell them good job, or correct them when they did something wrong/bad? A robot can’t do those things. It can not possibly know the correct way to answer a child. What would a robot do if a child was throwing a fit? Just tell it to calm down on repeat? What if the child is correct in throwing a fit. Example, if a child got hurt and the robot responded with “calm down” what good would that do? The child would still be hurt.

Is This Man Cheating On His Wife, was an article that we had to read this week. My answer is YES. He spent so much time on Second Life with his Second Life wife that he completely ignored his REAL life wife. Cheating is not just physical. It could be emotional and mental as well. His primary person in his life was not his real life wife. He was emotionally cheating on her with his Second Life WIFE (just the fact that he used his avatar to marry another avatar says alot).  What really interested me in this article wasn’t his personal relationship with this online avatar but more with the fact that this man took on another set of responsibilities and committment. It boggles my mind how a 53-year-old man could completely ignore his real life.

The other article that interested me nuts was In Korea, a Boot Camp Cure For Web Obsession. In South Korea they created a place for teens with web addictions to go to. It’s pretty much a rehab for tech crazy kids. It drove me nuts reading this article because where has self-control gone? These kids are also the way they are because Korea forces everyone to be so tech savvy and these kids feel the pressure to be ahead of the curve. The more the kids play online, and learn about the online culture, the better the look. But now that pressure has created addictions.

Being in two places at once?? How cool! Except YOU wouldn’t really be in two places, your avatar would. The article 3-D Avatars Could Put You in Two Places at Once shares the idea that avatars that like just like, have your same mannerisms and could replace you at any function, like class or meetings. The idea is pretty cool but would we really want that?

War Machines: Recruiting Robots for Combat. Scary. Pure fear. Putting all this control and trust into a robot to tell a good guy from a bad guy in war zones. Is this really the best idea? There will inevitably be an ethical lapse. How can a robot tell the difference? It will also remove the emotional attachment to war. It could be a good and bad thing at the same time. It would save our men and women from emotional distraught or night terrors after coming home from war but it would also allow them to become detached from their actions. They won’t be the ones killing other humans anymore, the robots will be. They won’t feel bad, because technically they didn’t kill the enemy. It will create this sense of numbness towards war. I would be nervous having veterans return from war and back into society when they don’t feel bad for their actions in war. It’s sad that they have to go through what they do, but would if benefit society if they were numb to violence returning to normal day life?



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