Kate Darling from the American MIT once conducted an interesting experiment in a workshop. She divided the participants into several groups and gave each group a toy dinosaur in the form of a colorful brontosaur. The toy was about the size of a cat and, thanks to technology and programming, could react to external stimuli, i.e. interact in some way with its environment. The test participants were given the task of playing with the dinosaur for an hour. Then they were given a hatchet to destroy the dinosaur. But none of the test participants agreed to do that. Even when it was suggested to them to destroy the toy dinosaur of another group, all the dinosaurs remained intact. When finally someone from outside came and destroyed one of the dinosaur dolls, silence and a sense of consternation reigned throughout the room.
The participants were not children, but students. One can therefore assume that even after one hour of playing they were aware that the dinosaur toy was just that, a toy. And yet this little experiment showed that this toy robot was not a piece of inanimate matter for the participants, but is probably to be classified in between matter and an animal. The experiment suggests that humans establish an emotional relationship with robots.
The reverse question is science fiction. Whether robots and artificial intelligence will ever develop their own consciousness or feelings is further away in reality than some popular scientific documentation would have us believe. How our emotions for robots will develop, however, is a very topical question. A question that will arise even more intensively in the near future.
It is also topical because modern technology is specifically added human aspects by its developers. Alexa, Siri or Cortana don’t have human-sounding names and abilities for nothing, which don’t make productive sense but make them seem more human. Robots that are already in use are often designed to be human-like in the sense as they (seemingly) walk upright (although most of them roll on wheels) and their facial features correspond to the so-called childlike pattern. Furthermore, in that way some skepticists should be taken away the fear of the new development.
Through digital assistants, chatbots and other algorithms, artificial intelligence will have an increasing impact on our personal and professional lives in the coming years. Therefore, we will almost inevitably also have to talk to them. And for quite a few, not everything in this conversation will consist of instructions. Alexa & Co. already have answers to the question “How are you?” And just like the participants at Kate Darling’s workshop, most of them will find it hard not to establish an emotional relationship with their digital companions. They are too ubiquitous and are literally getting better almost day after day at simulating human reactions. So good that we will only notice the simulation if we make ourselves conscious of it.
Can all this happen without affecting the human psyche? Let’s take a look into the future, into the Japan of our present. At first glance, Akihiko Kondo is a completely average Japanese. The 35 year old has a good job, a small apartment and recently married the love of his life. Miku, a pretty young woman. Maybe still a little too much playful girl, but, well – that’s Japanese women. At the wedding of the two were about 40 guests, only one did not come, Kondo’s mother. She has a problem with her son’s bride. Having a hologram about 30 cm tall, which can only exist in the corresponding box, as a daughter-in-law for her is definitely too … what?
This story is not a marketing campaign of the manufacturing company of Miku, it’s the truth. And one can assume that when Kondo describes Miku as the love of his life, he actually speaks from the depths of his heart. What should we think? Should we regret Kondo? Or should we rejoice for him because he is obviously happy? Happy with a situation that obviously doesn’t only see his own mother as bizarre.
Among the numerous fetishes to that a person can become addicted is the so-called object sexuality. This term was brought into the world by a Swedish woman who claimed to have been married to the Berlin Wall. In contrast to a certain Erika Eiffel, who married the Eiffel Tower, she is now a widow. But seriously, object sexuality may be a rare fetish, but due to the increasing “humanization” of robots or AI-based algorithms, this fetish will undoubtedly become more widely known in the next few years. There will be many Akihiko Kondos, and not only in Japan.
Thomas Matterne writes stories since he can write. His first professional path, however, was a job as an online journalist at a local TV station. While he works now more in the field of PR and marketing, he is also still a passionate blogger.