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Every time I come home, my dog is so happy to see me that she literally runs in circles around the kitchen. Her happiness rubs off on me. I wonder if someday humans will bond with their robots the same way we bond with pets. Your first reaction to this idea is probably dismissive. Pets are alive, and that's why we form bonds with them. A robot is nothing more than a clever tool. But just for fun, let's reverse-engineer the emotional bond we have with pets.

Consider the impact of appearance. Dogs are absurdly cute, and that helps us bond with them. We like babies and attractive adults for the same reason. Humans are wired to respond to cuteness. At the moment, robots are not cute in the same way as dogs and babies. But it's easy to imagine that situation changing as robot developers learn to make their products physically appealing. Someday robots will be soft and warm to the touch.  And I would expect robots to move as naturally and unpredictably as animals within a few decades.

I can also imagine robots that appear to breathe while actually functioning as air filters for the home. And I would think that someday robots will have the same subtle smells and pheromones as living creatures.

Building a robot to imitate a person, as opposed to a dog, has an extra level of difficulty because human speech and intelligence are hard to mimic exactly. Building a robot dog is much easier. Perhaps your future robot dog will bark to get your attention if there's an intruder, or the house is on fire, and it might softly whine when it needs a service call.

If you accept the notion that a robot dog can someday look, act, sound, and smell like the real thing, what else does it need to generate an emotional bond with a human? Will it matter that we know it isn't alive?

Consider movies. A well-made movie generates strong emotions in people even though we know the movie screen is not alive. We know the actors are acting, and the story isn't real, and still we have an emotional response. I believe our future robotic dogs will have the same impact on us as movies. We will always be aware of their non-living nature, but we'll be helpless to resist forming emotional connections. If you doubt that humans can form emotional connections with objects, check out the stock price of Apple.

You've seen a lot of science fiction stories about our robot-filled future. Sometimes we can't tell who is a robot and who is human. Sometimes the robots try to kill us. Sometimes the robots make us stupid because we learn to depend on them for all of the hard decisions. But I think the real danger from robots is in the emotional bonds humans will form with them. I fear that robots will be far better companions than pain-in-the-ass humans, and we'll lose our incentive to reproduce. When robots become awesome and economical, no one will want to spend time with a smelly, inconvenient, annoying, overpriced human.

My prediction is that robots will eradicate humankind with love, not laser cannons.

 
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Apr 28, 2012
Many people will likely get addicted to robot companionship over human or even dog. It could get pretty ugly. Still, robots will probably like interesting/innovative/unique thoughts and actions. They would not be able to write a blog such as this for instance. or at least not at first. If they should later develop even that capacity, then they would likely evolve beyond our control in which case all bets are off. Will they enslave us? Kill us? Attempt to live peacefully? Run off on their own? Or a mix of more than one if they are individuals? Could be at least interesting LOL!
 
 
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Apr 27, 2012
You should consider reading The Life Cycle of Software Objects" by Ted Chiang. It's a short novella about this very thing happening, which considers some of the ramifications as digital sentiences grow up, and how we will treat them, as slaves, children, pets, or their own class of objects. It's a fun and emotional story, for such a dry name.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Lifecycle-Software-Objects-Chiang/dp/1596063173
 
 
Apr 17, 2012
All us air breathing critters are air filters.

As for the future, stupid people are already easily duped by con artists, so your hypothesis seems plausible as far as they go. I have no objection to stupid people not reproducing. :D
 
 
Apr 12, 2012
That is what happens in the Futurama episode "I Dated A Robot", when Fry falls in love with a robot duplicate of Lucy Liu (I would have done the same thing in his situation). A propaganda movie shown later to the crew predicts the extinction of human race if humans starts to love robots (they lose the urge to reproduce).

We'll probably get there someday, why not ?
 
 
Apr 10, 2012
"But I think the real danger from robots is in the emotional bonds humans will form with them. I fear that robots will be far better companions than pain-in-the-ass humans, and we'll lose our incentive to reproduce."

What's the problem again?
 
 
Apr 7, 2012
@KingDinosaur : Given that humans are the one CREATING the robots and instilling what they consider desirable, the robots will NOT reject humans for being stinky and mortal. Your suggestion only makes sense if the robots get to a point where they begin to develop new emotional states and desires completely on their own with no human input; which even in a discussion about sentient robots, seems largely impossible. Making an entity that appears, by all means, to be a living creature, and making one that TRULY FUNCTIONS as one are two entirely separate things. In the first instance you're mimicing something that already exists, in the second you would need mindbogglingly intricate programming that allows for a remedial kind of evolution and independant mental development...
 
 
Apr 7, 2012
I've always figured the beginning of the robot apocalypse will be when someone produces a robot that pleads for it's own life. If you begin to take a robot apart and it starts to scream in anguish, describe pain, and insist on its desire to continue existence, I think an overwhelming amount of guilt will overtake almost any person. Even if the experiences the machine describes are completely fake, and as an object, contains no inherent desires or autonomy, creating the scenario where you're needlessly harming a seemingly sentient entity would be enough to begin the discussions of robotic right to life.
 
 
Apr 7, 2012
"Consider movies. A well-made movie generates strong emotions in people even though we know the movie screen is not alive. We know the actors are acting, and the story isn't real, and still we have an emotional response. I believe our future robotic dogs will have the same impact on us as movies. We will always be aware of their non-living nature, but we'll be helpless to resist forming emotional connections. If you doubt that humans can form emotional connections with objects, check out the stock price of Apple."

In Japan, otaku prefer anime to real women. In fact they celebrate the birthdays of their favorite characters. Sadly I'm not making this up. Some people blame this for Japan's rapidly aging population and low birth rate.

My thoughts are if you want to raise birth rates, just get rid of TV and the internet. People will get bored, have no access to !$%*! and will start reproducing on their own.

"You've seen a lot of science fiction stories about our robot-filled future. Sometimes we can't tell who is a robot and who is human. Sometimes the robots try to kill us. Sometimes the robots make us stupid because we learn to depend on them for all of the hard decisions. But I think the real danger from robots is in the emotional bonds humans will form with them. I fear that robots will be far better companions than pain-in-the-ass humans, and we'll lose our incentive to reproduce. When robots become awesome and economical, no one will want to spend time with a smelly, inconvenient, annoying, overpriced human.

My prediction is that robots will eradicate humankind with love, not laser cannons."


In other words, why have a flawed, fallible human when you can have something closer to your ideals? I can see this argument.

As a counter-argument if robots are so smart, why would they want to pair off with stinky old humans? If they have any standards at all, humans may not be an option for them. So after getting rejected by robots enough time, people will go back to each other.
 
 
Apr 6, 2012
This technology is already in place. case in point: stuffed animals. granted the current models are only good for children 8 and under,with a few creepy exceptions, but according to annoying adds, toy companies are improving this.
 
 
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Apr 6, 2012
Ever hear of the Paro therapeutic robot? It looks like a baby seal--adorable!

http://www.parorobots.com/

As for me, I gave up on humans a long time ago. The more I deal with them, the more I love my furry orange Crab.
 
 
Apr 6, 2012
I think the problem will be making robots as stupid as dogs.

As for knowing the actors are acting, remember the quote from Sunset Boulevard

"Audiences don't know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along. And so do the actors."
 
 
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Apr 6, 2012
Scott,

It's a Friday. The equivalent of your Sunday. I have a whole day to myself to think about nothing.

So here is an idle algorithm for the Programmable Emotional Robot (PER).

Concept:

We'll have to create a new logical model obviously for developing an efficient PER. Lets play a little bit of God.

Organisms, including humans, grow out of one or two cells. The cells absorb energy and multiply. Many source programs are run on the same type of cells and eventually each one is a part of a small colony of subroutines. Some are viral. Some are bacterial. Some are fungal. The overall assembly of colonies (The PER) can look like a dog, a rat, a cat or a human being or any living creature.

Basis for design:

1. We must find a way of generating a PER from the same material. Different materials have different properties which increases the complexities of interaction.

2. The data and apps should have an auto-run facility till such time that the 'auto-learn' program gets initiated.

3. The program must be able to confuse itself to develop emotional intelligence.

4. Certain response and reaction codes shall be randomized to retain the entertainment quotient.

5. The PER should be user friendly. It must adapt to idiots and selfish genders.

And more...

I could go on forever. But my CPU commands my output devices to maintain hygiene.

Two thousand years from now, when internet archaeologists accidently discover your site and dig open this comment, they'll have a strong reason to believe that PER were being devised by the children of neanderthals.

.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2012
I can only assume you mean something like is depicted in this shirt: http://shirt.woot.com/friends.aspx?k=25316
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 5, 2012
Might want to check out 'The Uncanny Valley':

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley
 
 
Apr 5, 2012
Correction: I got it wrong. The book is, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep." Still a great read by any name.
 
 
Apr 5, 2012
Back to meat robots again, I see.

The problem with your theory is this: we bond with animals because we know they are aware, both of us and of themselves. We know that domestic animals choose to bond with us. You could possibly make a robotic animal mimic that, but you'd always know that it was just a machine and had neither true self-awareness nor any awareness of us. Animals, and humans, have emotions and the ability to connect to the world around us. Turing test aside, robots are not living creatures. Knowing that would always prevent true bonding to occur.

Your dog acts happy to see you because he's really happy to see you. A robotic dog would act happy to see you, but you'd know it's just an act. That's the difference, and it's a big one.

A couple of notes on earlier posts:

MSEsteve: I believe the book to which you are referring is "Do Androids Dream of Robotic Sheep?" by the late, great Philip K. Dick. It is a true SF classic, and was the basis for the film "Blade Runner." I second your recommendation.

ihateregistering: Star Trek's tribble idea came from creatures that appeared in the book "The Rolling Stones," by the late grand-master of SF, Robert A. Heinlein. The creatures were called, in that book, "Martian flatcats." The producers, who must have been science fiction afficionados, realized the similarity and asked Mr. Heinlein's permission to use the idea, according to the Star Trek episode's author, David Gerrold. Heinlein gave permission, and only asked for an autographed copy of the script. Pretty cool of him, if you ask me.

Credit where credit is due. As you can probably tell, I'm an SF junkie.
 
 
Apr 5, 2012
I could imagine loving a robot. I think love is really a function of dependence.

1. Having something do things for you. Wow, thanks, you're the best! I see robots offering this.

2. Having a reciprocal relationship with something. I do this, if you do this. yay, you're reliable! I see robots offering this.

3. Having a continual commitment to keep it alive. like kids and pets. Sorta knowing that #1 applies to you. Don't really see robots offering this as much.

However, having a robot dog doesn't seem like something I'd love. You'd say "Wow, I don't have time to deal with this. I'll turn it off for now..." and it'll effectively be like a toy that you usually don't want to play with.
 
 
Apr 5, 2012
"Cuteness" is wired into living beings (at least mammals) so that parents and relatives will nurture and protect their offspring to continue the species. In most !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ "cuteness" is a disproportionately big head (compared to adults) and especially disproportionately big eyes (primarily). Think of kittens, puppies, baby bears, babies, or any Disney character (they know the formula). Even in the movie Gremlins, the savage gremlins were "cute".

So, it would actually be simple to leverage our innate love for "cuteness" by making robots with big heads and big eyes, and the more they look like Disney characters, the more we will love them (without knowing why).
 
 
Apr 5, 2012
as long as mine looks like Tricia Helfer I'm there! I wouldn't even care if she went genocidal on the rest of you... :D
 
 
Apr 5, 2012
Your naughty word checker wiped out "v i b r a t o r s" and then went crazy and took out the subsequent period, 2 carriage returns and the word "If". First time I've seen that
 
 
 
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