How many of us feel that our computers are now integral to our social lives and work? How about the computer on which you are typing and communicating right now? Is it not an essential part of your life for communicating with others? Do you love having that ability?
A recent study conducted by German researchers from the International Communication Association also made some revealing discoveries within a group of participants that hint at human fondness for robots.
One study had 14 participants watch videos that showed a human, a robot and an inanimate object, being treated in either an affectionate or in a violent way. Researchers found that people displayed similar neural activation patterns for affection across the spectrum, indicating the potential for an empathetic reaction toward a non-human.
So then we take it one step further. We already know billions of humans are engaging in sex with mechnical toys and blow-up dolls. If we go beyond the merely prurient area of mechanical sex devices, and look at the possibility for a genuine emotional relationship, it seems that such an interest is developing. Here is one philosophical interpretation of how this interest could manifest toward the final stage:
Robots won't merely attenuate the need for human intimacy and thus the use of love for instrumental purposes. They also seem to have attractions as companions in their own right. So far the most sophisticated social robots are those developed to ease the loneliness of the elderly . . . At least some people find these companion robots more attractive than humans: they are more straightforward to relate to and less demanding than ordinary ornery humans. But it seems to me that even in the most intimate sphere, and for mentally and physically healthy individuals in the prime of life, robots may eventually become more attractive than humans as companions.
. . . I think the key innovation of robot lovers will be in pretending. Specifically, robots will be designed so as to allow their human owners to pretend that they are loved. And everyone wants to be loved.
Physically, this would require robots to look enough like a person (not even a very perfect replica) for humans to relate to. Cognitively - or rather "algorithmically" - this would require robots to simulate the perfect lover - that is, the perfect worshipper. This lover asks you about your day in a voice that suggests they actually want to hear about it. It agrees with you about what a bitch your boss is, and remembers that mean thing she did last year too! It remembers your birthday, but also all the things you like and don't like. It cooks wonderful things, and doesn't complain when you get fat. It never has a headache. And so on. Basically, it's a Stepford wife. (Source)
Whether or not this is a sad commentary about one person's take on what meaningful connection entails, this type of interest does not (yet) appear to have the widespread acceptance that it would take to become reality - in a physical or social sense.
But, as noted by Professor Kevin Warwick from the Institution of Engineering and Technology in an interview with MailOnline,
‘just about anything is possible’ and . . . there are already robots with biological brains that mix biological and technological parts. ‘This is not science fiction,’ he said.
He believes that robots capable of breeding with each other could be produced using current research and technologies but it will likely take 20 to 30 years before they could be used on Earth – and there are questions to be asked about whether this is a good idea. Research into creating cyborgs as a result of ‘breeding’ with robots, and creating robots that breed with each other, depends on social acceptance, Professor Warwick said. ‘Over the next 20 to 30 years the question will be on the table and we have to face ethical issues.’
Nevertheless, before this final stage of acceptance, robots will presumably have been breeding with one another first and quickly evolving. The possible outcome of what that collective evolution will bring is, frighteningly, anybody's guess. The above scenario discussed by these experts does, after all, presume that the production of a hybrid species between humans and robots will be a consensual decision.
In his book The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil has drawn the likely scenarios for the breeding and suggests that it could arrive much sooner. Others have pointed strictly to the economic impact and have marked 2045 has the date when humans could be completely outsourced to robotic workers.
Cybernetic experts point to the trends in robotics, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing as evidence that transhumanism and the final merger of humans with computer systems will usher in a new speciesof humanoid robots and an age of "spiritual" machines. They are suggesting that the "merger" could go beyond the establishment of an era of cyborgs and into a very literal one: sex with robots.
There has been an ongoing move to create humanoid robots that can more than simply mimic human ability and behavior. Attention is being paid to the social aspect of robots as well. But what is now being proposed has even more serious ethical and existential implications, and very well could bring about the concept of a true "master race."
Researchers are developing a "Wikipedia for Robots" that enables robots to learn from a cloud-based Internet sharing system ... designed only for them. When this concept fully takes shape, it will resemble a social structure that is decidedly human - our ability to learn from one another in order to become more efficient and intelligent.
This advance toward not only autonomous decision making for robots, but a type of autonomous evolution must make us question the next step: what happens if this experiment takes on a life of its own?
George Zarkadakis is an artificial intelligence engineer who believes that robots will move toward procreation rather quickly as they will wish to produce superior offspring. With the rapid advances made in the realm of 3D printing, they would likely begin by printing out their progeny, or perhaps would breed at the molecular level through their silicon and carbon make-up. Others experts such as Professor Noel Sharkey from England's Sheffield University point to the same concept as the "Wikipedia for Robots" - through a simple software swap, new intelligence could be created, as well as the likelihood of other upgrades like virus protection. Incidentally, the organic component of this is also being researched by geneticists as downloadable DNA via our own human Internet.
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