ScienceDaily (Aug. 9, 2010) — The first prototype robots capable of developing emotions as they interact with their human caregivers and expressing a whole range of emotions have been finalised by researchers.
It’s not really news, in that we knew “they” were working on this. And we kinda knew that it was possible. And it’s not full-blown realized yet. But….
Consider: We have become aware of our cousins the great apes. And with that awareness comes a new relationship and new concerns. There is talk of what sort of rights we might accord to all members of the Hominidae (Great Apes + Humans).
But machines- they don’t even fit into this category, right? We don’t consider anything about how a machine “feels”, do we? That’s just silly.
Until now. How do you dismantle a robot that might cry and plead with you not to (“Daisy, Daisy…”)? Do we need new ethical rules to follow when experimenting with our emotional creations? Can we experiment on them? Can we risk bringing up an emotionally damaged robot? Do we just turn it off if it doesn’t turn out?
Are we back to when they did all of those horrible experiments on baby monkey development- that we learned so much from? That we wouldn’t do again- how freaking cruel they were!! So let’s use our emotional robots and see what it takes to bring them up in a dysfunctional and unhappy way.
They’re just robots… for now… Maybe there’ll be a new organization created, called “P.E.T.R.” (pronounced “Peter”). They’ll be picketing and burning down robotics research laboratories, demanding the release of all the baby robots. You know… Read some old science fiction- these questions have been examined. Not concluded, however!
I’m being a little bit flip about this (and I do support P.E.T.A.), but it’s rather deep- and it’s very much indicative of the weird new concerns we are beginning to have.
As I’ve mentioned before, the world is changing. (duh!). In some fundamental ways (not so “duh”). In ways that will change us.
This one is approaching what Ray Kurzweil calls the technological singularity:
Technological singularity refers to a prediction in Futurism that technological progress will become extremely fast, and consequently will make the future (after the technological singularity) unpredictable and qualitatively different from today.
I bring this up to underline what I’ve said before about the need for innovative, progressive, forward thinking leadership. Can you imagine John McCain, or Newt Gingrich (yes, he’s made noises about running for president!!) generating policy about this sort of thing? Can you imagine that mentality taking us into the 21st century?