All posts tagged: robots

What Will a Future with Androids Among Us Look Like?

What will it be like when we have robot assistants and companions, that we own, that are not human, and yet that activate all of our instinctive empathy toward humans? Shall we have to unlearn this empathy? Or will we account for that empathy by instinctively redefining humanity in terms of behavior without any sense of inner life? And what would that do to us? We live in a wondrous time, in which artificial intelligence is increasingly and impressively a part of our daily lives. As an informed observer, I expect that contemporary techniques will eventually yield humanoid robots that—in professional interactions, casual conversations, and even shallow romantic relationships—will seem persuasively human. That is, even if they do not look quite like us, their movements, appearance, and conversation will evoke from us all the empathy that a three-year-old can bestow on a motionless toy bear and that adults habitually reserve for fellow humans. What we see now is just the beginning. Concerning a future of pervasive and persuasive robots, we must ask two questions: What …

Robots Without Families: On Identity and Organic Continuity

When Pascal constructed his calculating machine in 1642, it did not matter that the thing looked like a jewelry box. The “Pascaline” was not meant to simulate human appearance but to perform a function previously possible only for the human mind. In contrast, it matters very much to some present-day robot-makers and users in rather different commercial spheres, such as markets for artificial friends or lovers, that their creations can simulate the look and feel of a human being well enough to satisfy a customer—for a few moments at least. Engineers are working to make robots sufficiently lifelike to make a person forget about their willing suspension of disbelief, or to have diminished qualms about interacting with a machine as if it were a human. Here I would like to provide some taxonomic distinctions to clarify our discussion. The difference between Pascal’s invention and the goal of these robot-makers reflects the difference between what I would call computational artificial intelligence vs. complete artificial intelligence. The Pascaline, and computers in general, could rightly be called a …