As robots and and humans grow increasingly closer, we’re starting to form all kinds of relationships with machines.
Are you and your phone platonic or are you turning into a machine yourself?
Nearly 84% of the global population is in possession of a smartphone and they’re becoming something we can’t live without.
“We’re already a cyborg,” Elon Musk told Kara Swisher. “You have a digital version of yourself, a partial version of yourself online in the form of your emails, your social media, and all the things that you do.”
Musk’s statement tracks with what roboticists have found in studies about human-robot connections.
Robots as an extension of humanity
Robots are everywhere – in just one morning, a person might use a coffee maker, electric toothbrush and iPhone before leaving the house.
Depending on their function, appearance and experience with the robot, people value robots with varying intensity.
In a study of military personnel and advanced robots, Dr Julie Carpenter found soldiers “frequently described the robot as ‘my hands’ or otherwise as a physical extension of themselves.”
Robots become more than tools to the soldiers they “serve” with – bots are given characteristic names, and the ones that are destroyed in combat are given a soldier’s burials, complete with 21-gun salutes and eulogies.
This concept of projecting human attributes onto an object is called anthropomorphization – and its visible with robots and humans that have been through fewer traumas together than military robots and human soldiers.
In an episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, roboticist Kate Darling noted that people form a meaningful relationship with the popular robot vacuum cleaner, the Roomba.
People will talk to their Roomba, express empathy for their Roomba when it gets stuck in corners or even come to notice their Roomba has a personality.
In contrast, children were found to be so widely disrespectful to Alexa that Amazon had to add a “Magic Word” feature to try to deter the negative comments.
“We treat them as though they’re alive even though we know perfectly well they’re machines,” Darling said, speaking on helpful robots at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival.
We can see positive and negative treatment of robots that don’t make an attempt to look human in the Roomba and the Alexa.
Will humans abuse or respect robots as they look more lifelike?