Dear Ms. Turkle,
The chapter Alone Together in your book was a very interesting read. You brought up many points about the future with technology that I have never considered possible. The extent to which robots are becoming part of our day to day interactions surprises me. I never imagined the debate of one marrying a robot or becoming romantically involved being a topic of discussion. Levy argues “that robots will teach us to be better friends and lovers because we will be able to practice on them” but isn’t this what our teenage years are for. Throughout our pre-adult lives, we learn the norms of friendship and relationships. We practice with other children and learn and grow from our mistakes. Many times the people you go to high school with, with the exception of a few close friends, mean nothing a few years after you graduate. When robots do not judge and respond negatively, are we necessarily going to learn anything from them?
The example to Miriam and her therapeutic robot Paro was quite interesting to me. I never knew the extent to which actual robots are being used. The robot was pretty much a talking animal. It possessed all of the qualities that a “mans best friend” had but in an easier way. You do not have to clean up after the robot, feed it or give it constant love if you do not desire to. Do we expect to much from our real life companions? Are we becoming to lazy to take the time to develop a relationship with a real animal or people? You stated that Miriam experienced intimacy with her robot but she was in fact alone. I believe this is very true for a number of reasons. The robots can serve as a companion and be programmed to simulate love but this is not real life love. I believe we are becoming to lazy to sustain and build relationships. Real life people/relationships can be exhausting and judgmental. Robots seem to be a simple solution to human’s laziness or social inabilities. This is reiterated with the creation of avatars on second life. Ones avatar can be younger, prettier, thinner, possess better clothes than the actual person.
I believe part of the use of robots is also due to the push of corporations to use robots whenever possible. For example I currently am a Bank of America account holder and avoid a monthly fee but only using the ATM machine to deposited checks/money and withdraw cash. Nursing homes like the one Miriam is in uses these animal robots to supplement the companionship nurses may have once provided. Is this shift to robots purely an extension of human laziness or something else?
Robots have also become apart of our daily lives in other ways. I never though of my smart phone as a robot but after reading this chapter, I definitely see that it is one. Being constantly connected to the world is a norm now. I know I feel disconnected, as the other people you interviewed, when I am without my cell phone. Social media also provides this sense of connectedness. Using facebook, I can look at friends and family members profile that I do not necessarily interact with on a month-to-month basis. One thing that I did not really take into account is that people design these profiles with the intent that others will be judging them accordingly. People are not going to publically display everything that is going on in their lives on facebook, so looking at profiles may not be a efficient mean to ensuring people are doing well.