And speaking of things roboto

During the 20 months that Fisher-Price spent developing the innards and software of its latest animatronic Elmo, engineers gave the project the code name Elmo Live. And sure enough, they made him more animate than ever: He moves his mouth in time with the stories he tells, shivers when he gets scared, and has a fit when he sneezes.

When they were finally able to test the doll on children, they were struck by how immediately the kids blocked out all other stimuli in the room and began interacting with Elmo. “It was as if Elmo were part of their family,” says Gina Sirard, Fisher-Price VP of marketing. “To a child, he really is alive.”
How are kids who grow up with robots as companions going to handle this?

This question is starting to get debated by robot designers and toymakers. With advanced robotics becoming cheaper and more commonplace, the challenge isn’t how we learn to accept robots—but whether we should care when they’re mistreated. And if we start caring about robot ethics, might we then go one insane step further and grant them rights?

  1. bobbo says:

    If they built the robot as a single unit, it wouldn’t have to reassemble itself and that computing power could be used for something useful?

  2. bobbo says:

    Just finished watching “Outer Limits” episode “Valerie 23” about a female robot who was trained to be supportive. She got rejected by a robophobe and became murderous as a result. Surely, it was her programmer who violated the Prime Directives laid down by Asimov?

    Anyway, I could see a sort of rights coming first: Big damages for anyone who destroys the robot of another.

    However, as with people, its not the body so much as the memory chip/programing that is important and truly worth some respect?

  3. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    bobbo…agreed, the mechanics are relatively easy.

    This is and interesting exercise, but I’m having a hard time imagining its usefulness or application. These things are burning a lot of watts just to reconnect. Anything as loosely connected as this wouldn’t appear to be able to do anything worthwhile.

    As for Elmo, this is a problem, but not with regards to mistreatment or rights. For jeebus sakes…their fscking machines. Who cares if I kick my computer, swear at it, or whatever? Why would we care about robots like that? Holy anthropomorphism, Batman!

    The real issue is that some kids are going to attach themselves emotionally to machines rather than humans, and where will that lead us?

    I recall plopping my kids in front of the teevee every once in a while so I could get something done around the house. OK, so maybe not the best parenting strategy, but that kid generally wasn’t a ‘self-entertainer.’ Eventually, some parents will give their kids mechanical friends for the same reason. But, that’s teevee on a whole new and intense level…seems even more likely to get in the way of developing real human relationships.

    I don’t like the toy aspect of this, especially if the AI in the device isn’t extremely well designed under the supervision of child psychologists.

  4. bobbo says:

    #3–olo==I think you have it wrong. Conceptually, robots will be excellent role models for our kiddies: polite, respectful, subservient, pay all taxes required, fight wars as commanded. Really, the best people a government could want.

    A quick model of this is this here internet. Communicating on line instead of face to face with real people.—– Harmful?

    Same with robots. I see them being immensely popular with the same withdrawal from face to face interactions. Both good and bad with a net effect of who cares, in the end we all die in this existential meaningless universe. Find your pleasure/satisfaction where you may as long as you aren’t hurting other people?

    I could see tithing fall off though as people seek comfort thru their constant robot friend who is really here. I will predict that religion for human values (but really money) will be first out against mechanical friends.

  5. Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

    In a special edition of Elmo, there will be sensors in Elmo that monitor and record how the child treats him, effectively monitoring the psychological development of a child during playtime and possibly raising red flags if the child is on track to becoming a serial killer or other threat to society.

    Introducing “Dismember Me Elmo,” for parents who aren’t quite sure if their child is ready for living playmates.

  6. bobbo says:

    #5–gary==and THATS where the re-assembling robot comes in. Thanks for the clue.

  7. amodedoma says:

    Is anybody else, seeing blank spaces where the some of the videos should be? Am I missing a plugin or what?

  8. Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

    There ya go, bobbo, a self-reassembling Elmo!

    By the way, was I the only one who thought the docking and reassembly of the robot clusters in the video looked a lot like what we normally call a “threesome”? Then again, it’s hard to imagine robot geeks with that frame of reference.

  9. Paddy-O says:

    # 3 Olo Baggins of Bywater said, “The real issue is that some kids are going to attach themselves emotionally to machines rather than humans,”

    Non-issue. Kids have attached themselves emotionally to “toys” throughout history. Dolls, blankies, etc., etc.

  10. bobbo says:

    #8–Gary==I didn’t get that “directly” but I did feel “sorry” for the third guy sitting there doing nothing while the other two were getting it on. Just too much subconscious projection there I guess.

    And that reminds me of an Asimov story about a planet where there was three way sex to reproduce. Three individuals would merge and become a fourth complete being. All the fourth beings would create the world that the other three lived in. The forth state was a reproductive state as well but could only be maintained for a little while. The three states of being (intellect, emotion, and desire to reproduce) wondered where the Fourth beings went every once in a while. The intellectual being was trying to work the mystery out, the emotional one was just off the hook about “her” missing friends, and the slut just wanted to mate.

    Anybody recall the name of this great sci-fi? I think Kim Bassinger could play all four with a combination of emotional recall and special effects.

  11. Paddy-O says:

    #10 I think it was The Gods Themselves.

  12. bobbo says:

    Thank You Paddy. I once spent several hours trying to find it. Also, a good story about parallel universes, black holes, etc. Now I get to read it again. Thanks.

  13. Paddy-O says:

    #12. No problem. I haven’t read it since the Watergate era. I only had a vague recollection of it. Maybe I’ll pick it up again.

  14. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    Blankies, nummies, Barbie, AI robots. Which one is different from the others?

    bobbo…OK, but. I was playing with some AI software a few months ago. It seemed innocuous for a while, and fairly useful. It asked questions about my schedule, and reminded me to do things. After a couple weeks it started asking me weird questions about my religious beliefs. A vector for our new Chinese overlords!

    It’s possible that today we have kids who have no immunity from germs they’d have naturally encountered playing, say, outside in the dirt like us old farts did. Hell, I grew up on and swam in Lake Erie in the 60s/70s, and I’m just fine today except for that…what was it…ahh nevermind. Next year, we’ll have kids who have no weapons against assertive personalities (psychopaths?) and wackos because they’ve never had to deal with the range of personalities and temperaments typical of a neighborhood or peer group.

    Oh. Wait! That’s already happening with home schools, isn’t it? Let’s see how that works out.

  15. Breetai says:

    So what your really saying this is proof of the evil robot overlord Cylon Apocalypse.

  16. Paddy-O says:

    # 14 Olo Baggins of Bywater said, “Oh. Wait! That’s already happening with home schools, isn’t it? Let’s see how that works out.”

    It’ll work the same it did for millions of Americans who were educated by their parents before universal public education was the norm.

    Sheesh. Study some history.

  17. bobbo says:

    #14–olo==or a good program would introduce those elements at age appropriate times in the “Babies Friend” line of bots?

    Just a keyboard and monitor has half the appeal?

    In a pragmatic view, all the reality you need to know really is “on the surface.” If you would kill/dismember a human or a robot for torturing you, why not love a robot or human for tender mercies? Pain is pain, love is love.

  18. Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

    “If you were a robot, and I knew but you didn’t, would you want me to tell you?”

    –from an episode of The Big Bang Theory

  19. amodedoma says:

    Perception is a funny thing, if your best friend was a highly advanced robot with a perfect simulation of the human essence, and you didn’t know he was a robot, what would that change if you found out? Robots are here to stay, if they advance as quickly as computers did, it’s just a matter of time. If their impact on human society is as profund as computers there’s no doubt that they’ll effect the human psyche in many many ways.

  20. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    Bobbo, I’m only letting my grandkids play with robots that have the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. My youngest (12) gets to play with this all the time: It’s not very cuddly, and its personality is a bit cold.

    With the online stuff, much of it involves a person at the other end. But yeah, there’s too much of that for me either way. As for the everyday pain/love thing, that’s why we have a couple dogs.


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