Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I, Robot

This is an interesting article about therapeutic robots that are designed to look like adorable animals such as baby seals and interact in comforting ways with individuals like the senile elderly. I think you'll enjoy the parallels:
Paro is a robot modeled after a baby harp seal. It trills and paddles when petted, blinks when the lights go up, opens its eyes at loud noises and yelps when handled roughly or held upside down. Two microprocessors under its artificial white fur adjust its behavior based on information from dozens of hidden sensors that monitor sound, light, temperature and touch. It perks up at the sound of its name, praise and, over time, the words it hears frequently.
After years of effort to coax empathy from circuitry, devices designed to soothe, support and keep us company are venturing out of the laboratory. Paro, its name derived from the first sounds of the words “personal robot,” is one of a handful that take forms that are often odd, still primitive and yet, for at least some early users, strangely compelling.
But building a machine that fills the basic human need for companionship has proved more difficult. Even at its edgiest, artificial intelligence cannot hold up its side of a wide-ranging conversation or, say, tell by an expression when someone is about to cry. Still, the new devices take advantage of the innate soft spot many people have for objects that seem to care — or need someone to care for them.

Their appearances in nursing homes, schools and the occasional living room are adding fuel to science fiction fantasies of machines that people can relate to as well as rely on. And they are adding a personal dimension to a debate over what human responsibilities machines should, and should not, be allowed to undertake.

But if there is an argument to be made that people should aspire to more for their loved ones than an emotional rapport with machines, some suggest that such relationships may not be so unfamiliar. Who among us, after all, has not feigned interest in another? Or abruptly switched off their affections, for that matter?

In any case, the question, some artificial intelligence aficionados say, is not whether to avoid the feelings that friendly machines evoke in us, but to figure out how to process them.

“We as a species have to learn how to deal with this new range of synthetic emotions that we’re experiencing — synthetic in the sense that they’re emanating from a manufactured object,” said Timothy Hornyak, author of “Loving the Machine,” a book about robots in Japan, where the world’s most rapidly aging population is showing a growing acceptance of robotic care. “Our technology,” he argues, “is getting ahead of our psychology.”
Dorothy Marette, the clinical psychologist supervising the cafeteria klatch, said she initially presumed that those who responded to Paro did not realize it was a robot — or that they forgot it between visits.

Yet several patients whose mental faculties are entirely intact have made special visits to her office to see the robotic harp seal.

“I know that this isn’t an animal,” said Pierre Carter, 62, smiling down at the robot he calls Fluffy. “But it brings out natural feelings.”
”When something responds to us, we are built for our emotions to trigger, even when we are 110 percent certain that it is not human,” said Clifford Nass, a professor of computer science at Stanford University. “Which brings up the ethical question: Should you meet the needs of people with something that basically suckers them?”

An answer may lie in whether one signs on to be manipulated.


  1. “Which brings up the ethical question: Should you meet the needs of people with something that basically suckers them?”

    kids get talking dolls to bond with, so why not robotic seals for adults? i love my car.

  2. How is it any different from people loving and/or emotionally attached to their cars, their stamp collections, teddy bears etc?

  3. I am 60 years old and carry a cute "My Buddy" type doll around from room to room. Sometimes I take him out in the car. I buy him toys. He doesn't talk back and he doesn't crap his pants, and he isn't a liar like most people. I don't really give a damn what people think about him, either.

  4. That's stupid.
    It's not enough that there are animals here on this planet?
    The human animal bond, the love that is present, the goodness from this.

    Again, all this was fake, deceit. Harvesting from human beings, and the animals. Some binary algorhythm. Artificial, absent of all that is evident of emotions.

    An excerpt from above
    "After years of effort to coax empathy from circuitry,..."
    From??? Lame neurolinguists that most (myself included) pass over without notice. This, to a human being is a crime. Taking what is ours alone. Supplanting the source (God/Human Being) with .. circuitry, assigning years and "coaxing out" to add to this abomination.
    This is not only stupid and once again.. total lies, fake, deceit whose purpose is only to generate human being input.. to feed the algorhythm that is almost done.. ooops.. needs something else.. done but not..oops

    Presenting this as a "possibility" is idiocy. It's already in place. Lying machines.
    And, no. The elderly are so starved for touch. Anything/everything that they need for their survival.. they will grab anything. This is a teddy bear that moves.
    Will generate a healthy profit for mass use. Cheap for cost outlay in cost of caring for the "elderly".
    They are human beings. Senior Citizens that have gone before all of stupid machines and the UN Global Objectives.
    Human Capital. = Those who are precious yet relegated to crap because they are 80-90 years of age.
    No offense to the toy. Many like it have been around for ages. New marketing. The "senior citizens" starve in many ways as yet another stupid layer of junk is added in the name of "innovation" "math" and give me a "T" for Technology which really is nothing... nothing at all.
    Devolution Technology.
    Flip the Switch...

  5. It's an implied compassion for every reader to make, but I was REALLY interested when I first started reading this blog because I thought it was going to relate a robot of that sort to the stereotypical sociopath.
    It was still interesting and did touch what I was initially looking forward to reading about, but, I was disappointed and I do ,anon above, agree... it's "devolution technology" hence the disappointment as this was the only thing brought out: “Which brings up the ethical question: Should you meet the needs of people with something that basically suckers them?”

  6. ...The seal was a COmPLETE disappointment by the way with all the jargon about it's high tech. sensors etc.

  7. You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site .
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  8. I think this is definitely an amazing project here. So much good will be coming from this project. The ideas and the work behind this will pay off so much. |

  9. While we should have been given some one-on-one fighting scenes, instead we have lots of off the battlefield action, as the coalition of Sousou, Sonsaku, Kousonsan and others (interestingly, Enshou and the En family in general seem to be holding back in the rear) plot to infiltrate the Palace and free Toutaku, whom they have learned is not really in control, but is instead being held captive by the eunuch Choujou. The plan to free Toutaku succeeds, but the real enemy is now prepared to move, with Choujou being thrust aside and the magic book from last season ready now to wreak havoc.
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