Human-Robot Relations: Why We Should Worry

Technology is eroding social connections between human beings as machines step in to fill social needs, and the time has come to reevaluate the place for technology in our lives, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sherry Turkle. She says tools such as Siri and Apple’s iPhone digital assistant encourage people to view technology as companions. Children now have robotic pets that many prefer to actual pets that eventually die, eliminating the opportunity that real pets provide to learn about life and death. In addition, teenagers are beginning to value the dating advice of computers with immense data access over potentially faulty parental guidance, Turkle says. “We are forgetting crucial things about the care and conversation that can only occur between humans,” she says. Turkle also worries about replacing human caretakers with robots. She says that although older people might benefit from talking to robots, younger people will miss out on the opportunity to learn from their elders. “For the idea of artificial companionship to become our new normal, we have to change ourselves, and in the process we are remaking human values and human connection,” Turkle says.

More info: LiveScience (NY) (02/18/13) Clara Moskowitz

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