Once upon a time, the idea of humans becoming attached to robots was only thought to be a work of fiction like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the more recent video game Detroit: Become Human. The latter reference shows that fiction has become a reality. Humans have become physically and mentally attached to every bit of robotics that we own and create. But what about emotionally? Have we, as humans, become so integrated with technology that we let it penetrate our emotional walls? Well, yes. And a recent article from the NY Post explains this phenomenon.
Photo: Franki Chamaki on Unsplash
According to the article, one recorded case of human attachments to robots started in Bedford, Texas with Christal White and her family. The 42 year old marketing and customer service director experienced this attachment when she and her husband Peter invested in a Jibo robot that was perched in her home office. Two years into having Jibo, they caught wind of the “death sentence" that its creators had implemented after the entire business collapsed. No sooner had this happened, Jibo’s servers went into shut down mode until it was basically lobotomized--- and Christal was nothing short of devastated.
She and her family weren't the first to have an experience like this. Back when NASA first lost contact with its 15 year old rover, Mars Opportunity, dozens of people said their tearful goodbyes. Not to mention the comments that flooded the Boston Dynamics robotics company when the employees kicked a dog like robotc in order to prove its stability.
It’s become apparent that while robots aren't necessarily alive, we as humans project our emotions onto them and treat them almost like they're a pet that needs taking care of. This is even more evident in the fact that robots are pretty much integrated into our homes and personal lives. Jonathan Gratch, a professor at the University of South Carolina who studies virtual human reality, says that how we treat another human, machine, or dog is affected by what kind of mind we think it has.
“When you feel something has emotion, it now merits protection from harm", he says. Given that humans are more or less social creatures, it’d take no time at all for us to project our emotions onto whatever robots we have in our lives. While letting robots into our lives may seem like a Technological Golden Age, we as humans also have to evaluate how much of ourselves we’re willing to put into robots. There must be a conscious effort to not lose our sense of self and our ability to socialize with people face to face without living through a glass screen or inbox messages operated by robots.