Onlookers described them as "eerily human." The life-size robots have silicone skin covering artificial muscles, which, combined with their mind-blowing circuitry, cause them to speak smoothly and act with believable mannerisms. Oh, and they're soft-spoken, conventionally attractive women. Of course they are.
One of the inventors, Hiroshi Ishiguru, seemed genuinely enthused about the science. "Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human by examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking." And the science is really cool. Artificial intelligence has come a long way from its chess-playing, auto-dialing past. The Turing Test seems almost antiquated at this point.
But I can't help but think that men have been trying for years (millennia?) to create the "perfect" woman whom they can program to do, be and look like whomever they want. Perhaps this isn't a fair comparison, but these seem a little too close to a RealDoll, a sex toy so realistic that owners have been known to treat it like it's human — dressing it, loving it, taking it out to dinner. Some people end up preferring these "relationships" to messier ones with real people. Real women are so hard to control.
Perhaps there is a legitimate need for lifelike androids. I can think of several fields that would be safer, easier and more cost-effective to use a robot. But even in mundane situations, I would still prefer to interact with a real human. We already use our technology as a shield and go-between for so many of our daily interactions with loved ones, co-workers and businesses. While I love my online banking and Amazon shopping, I do think there's a line where we give up too much human interaction, and we suffer for it. Some of us may have already crossed that line — no robots necessary.
Maybe I'm just a grouch. Maybe this is a great advancement, and soon we'll all be having our houses cleaned and our hamburger orders filled by adorable 'bots.
Ishiguro ultimately hopes to make robots more affordable saying, "[It's] no different than owning a laptop." But do our laptops look like human women? There is a difference.
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