Monday, January 30, 2012

Imagine: Marrying A Robot

Dear Sherry Turkle,

This was probably one of the most interesting, yet insane articles I have ever read in my entire life.  What is it about technology these days that makes us say "What the #*%!" everytime a new invention or innovative idea comes out?  Firstly, your article was very well written and I enjoyed hearing about different aged people who give their insights into the transformation of technology in today's world.  You could not have said it any better when you quoted that "Computers no longer wait for humans to project meaning onto them.  Now, sociable robots meet our gaze, speak to us, and learn to recognize us.  They ask us to take care of them; in response, we imagine that they might take care of us in return."  In our day and age, we are so dependent on the our computers or laptops for various reasons -- information, school work, entertainment, communication, etc.  There is not a day that goes by when I do not need my computer for one thing or another.  We are dependent on them, and there is no way around it.  Without them, we would probably not be able to access information, learn and explore as much as we do, and communicate with eachother as easily.  We rely on our computers to take care of us and most of the time, they do.  Without a doubt, these information systems have impacted our lives for the btter in many ways.  Yet, there are many downfalls to being reliant on our technologies these days.  You stated that with these technologies we lose "the notion of authenticity", and I completely agree with that statement.  It becomes extremely easy to lose touch with real life relationships, conversations, and connections with others when we have technology to do it for us.  But are over the internet relationships real?  Do they make us closer to one another by having the ability to click or press send and contact someone?  or Do they grow us farther apart by lacking that face to face connection?  All these questions can be based on one's opinion.  But from my point of view, it really can go both ways.  When you describe Ellen and her relationship with her Grandmother, you can argue that her relationship is lacking based on the way she is using her technology.  The invention of skype and video chatting technologies can be a great way to connect with others because it gives you that face to face real life ability to see someone, conversate with them, and even show nonverbal cues from time to time.  Yet, if you are using Skype and multi-tasking at the same time and paying zero attention to the person on the other end then, YES 100% you are abusing this technology.  Therefore, these technologies can really go either way -- bad for some, but better for others who use it for the right reasons. 

To further my discussion on the topic of technology --  I will continue with R O B O T s-- let me me just say "WHAT THE #*@% !!!??"  I am not going to lie about this one, but I was initially baffled by the discussion on robots as human companions, pets, and even spouses.  Now, I understand that some people feel that connections with robots can be more trustworthy, and they can't "hurt or disappoint" us.  Yes, this may be true and it probably is a lot less stressful to be able to have someone to rely on that you know will never disappoint you.  However, they are not real people, they are robots.  There is no way I would be able to get past the fact that they are robots.  A relationship with a robot is not really a REAL relationship -- it is something that you have put into play in order to fulfill whatever it is that you feel you are missing.  But let me ask, where the hell have the feelings of passion, trust, love, pain and pleasure gone?  These feelings haven't been shot away or diminished.  They can still be found.  And they can definitely be found with one another.  These feelings are what create relationships, what keep you stepping forward, and what make the world go round.  For me, a robot is not something I want to share that with.

(This is a photo from an article titled, "Japan unveils humanoid robot that smiles, frowns"... Little bit creepy, eh?)

However, just because I do not agree with the robotic movement and the scenario of having a robot fulfill certain needs, it does not mean that I am bashing others who believe they can find happiness and hope with a robot.  For your description of Miriam and her love for her robot, Paro, I noticed I became extremely happy that she was happy with it and the way that it made her feel.  She is an older woman -- and at that age being alone can probably be very scary.  I am not at that age in my life yet, and therefore cannot fully relate with her situation, however, I am elated that she found happiness in her robot (robot/pet).  Yet, do I hope I have a robot when I am that age to rely on?  Not really.  I would hope that we can steer away from these reliances on technology and revert back to relying on relationships with eachother.  There is SO much we can learn from one another, there is SO much we can benefit from by creating relationships with others -- it is not always negative, and with technoloty, we inhibit that ability and connection.  I am definitely a culprit of being addicted to my cell phone and even websites such as Facebook, but I hope to break away from these ties and continue to make relationships and close connections with as many people as I can in my life.  I still would rather call someone on the phone then text them all day long.  There is something about hearing a voice and emotion that makes a conversation a lot more clearer and emotionally in tact. 

In conclusion, I appreciated your article and I definitely agree with the reliance on technology in our world today.  There are certain positives to the innovation, but there are also a great deal of negatives.  The one thing I don't like is that these technologies are being shown and used by children -- and the ages get younger and younger with every year that passes by.  I did not own a cell phone until I was in 8th grade.  Now, everyone from 3rd grade and up has a cell phone! How do they even know how to use these things?!  As the years go by, there will be even more to break real life ties and connections and it is our job to try and fight to keep those ties tight. 

Thank you for your time,
Loralyn Sortino

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