Are We Becoming Robots?
September 5, 2012
Are We Becoming Robots?
When I was a kid, there was a Twilight Zone episode depicting a futuristic society with no jails.  Instead, if people did bad things, they were put on another planet all by themselves.  One of these inmates, who was very lonely, was pitied by one of his captors and was given a huge box.  Inside the box was an extremely lifelike female robot.  It displayed sympathy, compassion, love, fear, and other human emotions.  At first, he was disgusted: "I'm not going to have sex with a machine," "I'm not going to develop a relationship with a machine," "I'm not going to let a machine touch me," etc.  However, as the years passed, he managed to get over his feelings of repulsion and formed a relationship with the robot.  But then, he received word that he had been pardoned and could go home.  He went to go grab the robot, but the pardoner said he couldn't bring her with him.  The man broke down in a screaming fit because, in his mind, she was human.  He was willing to stay on the planet with her even though she wasn't real.

I think that episode is very relevant today because that's the direction we keep moving.  I read an article a while back about how Japanese scientists have been working on robots for years to be like butlers or maids and provide child care in the home.  If it isn't already bad enough that we have mothers who don't mother their own children, just imagine what it will be like in the future when there are machines that will watch your kids for no pay? 

The development of the human brain deeply and profoundly requires human interaction.  This is why in preemie wards at hospitals there are always people next to the babies, touching and holding them.  Human beings require connectedness to develop the ability to love and show compassion, and I think we're already on the road to losing our sense of humanity.

I read another shocking article discussing the development of "emotional phones," which simulate hand-holding, breathing, and kissing:

"The next generation of phones could hold your hand, breathe on your neck and maybe even kiss your cheek.  In pursuit of more 'emotional' and 'sensory' phones, a designer at the Berlin University of the Arts showed off three prototypes at the TEDxBerlin conference...that can recreate those sensations.

One phone includes force sensors and a strap that goes around a hand that can tighten, simulating a squeeze, when a friend grips their own phone. Similarly, the breathing prototype picks up air movements on one phone and translates that into a jet of air on the other (not so good for heavy breathers).

The most alarming (and creepy) prototype is the kissing simulator, which involves a moisture sensor on the smoocher's phone and a motorized 'wet sponge pushing against a membrane' on the receiver's phone, according to Fabian Hemmert, the designer. The sensor can differentiate between a peck on the cheek and a full on sloppy kiss -- moving the wet sponge to simulate accordingly."

Is this intimacy!?  It's like masturbating to a vibrator without ever having any kind of love relationship. 

I think texting is already a step away from intimacy.  The idea that a few ill-spelled words are meaningful discourse is frightening.  Technology is something that is simply taking over our lives.  I get scared seeing people walking around with their thumbs moving and ignoring the world around them, or texting while they're sitting with a group of people at dinner.  I'm sure they're thinking, "I have to answer this!  I have to contact this person immediately!," but it's not really contact at all.  It's barely communication.   

We've known about the negative effects of technology on kids for years.  For example, it's pretty obvious to everyone that it's not good for kids to sit around all day and watch TV.  The Associated Press reported, "The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds...Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure - results that parents of young kids should be alert to..."

If you put this all together, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the more you are invested in these abrupt spurts of connectivity with the world, the less you are going to be able to relate eye-to-eye with other human beings.

Posted by Staff at 12:00 AM