Sunday, January 29, 2012


Dear Sherry Turkle,

    After reading your introduction I have become quite intrigued in the role that technology will play in our lives in the upcoming future. Prior to reading to this I always viewed technology as a compliment to our daily lives. However, you create the image that technology may become more than just tools, but potential entities that we as humans can form attachments to. More than this, I believe you also make an argument for the changing mind set or expectations of people in society today. This leads us to have significantly different considerations of the technology that is so familiar today. It may cause us to seriously consider how we not only interact with other using it, but also how we may eventually interact with it directly.
    One of the first topics you discussed was, the role that robots may play in the future. Specifically you mention that there is a very real possibility of robots becoming romantic partners and successfully carrying out duties that are typical in an intimate relationship. Your argument for the motivation towards this trend is quite interesting indeed. If I am interpreting your arguments correctly, you are implying that the robots are more capable of emulating expectations that one may have preformed within their minds. When this occurs, the real life form of something may not live up to those expectations leading to somewhat of a disappointment in life. This is evident in the example you gave of your daughter Rebecca being unamused by the Darwinian exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The preformed expectations of what the tortoises should look like may have been lively and clean. However, in reality the living examples lived in water that was dirty and although real were relatively motionless leading to a large disconnect from what she expected. This is further supported by the brief statement by one of the vice presidents of Disney where he stated that patrons often found the mechanical creatures in certain displays more “realistic” in a sense than the biological ones.
    On a similar note, the previously mentioned idea relates to your statement that a robotic entity will be less likely to disappoint than a real one. This is due to the fact that the qualities inherent in these artificial beings are programmed by some individual. As a result, the expectations that one may have can be successfully placed within the being satisfying the qualities that they would like to see. However, for this reason I believe that a true intimate relationship cannot be formed with a robot or artificially intelligent being. Since these qualities are pre-programmed more or less, the partner will automatically know what to expect. This takes away from the spontaneity that would normally be present in a biological relationship. I feel that this spontaneity is important as it helps each member grow, possibly enhancing the time spent with  each other. For this reason, I seem to disagree with your statement that the future may bring upon an age where robots may be widely accepted as intimate partners.

    On the contrary, I do agree with your ideas regarding using connectivity technologies to remain in contact with each other. You mention the mediums that we use to communicate may not hold the same meaning as they used to. Although individuals can be connected together to in ways unimaginable before, our focus may not be toward the other party. The discussions that occur are only towards a faint representation of someone else, but these communication methods are still the top choice in our changing society. Thoughts, feelings, and intentions may be hindered when using these new communication technologies, creating a feeling of loneliness as you mention. While everyone can see each other everyday they may still feel unsatisfied possibly leading to the slow decline interactions with other people. This point while hard to grasp at first I agree with, since I still believe that certain interactions still need the dynamics that face to face communication offers.

Jonathan Thai

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