Sherry Turkle: AAAS talk on sociable robotics

The theme of this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting is the “unreasonable effectiveness” of science.

Friday’s plenary talk was by MIT social scientist and psychologist Sherry Turkle on “sociable robotics.”

 The idea of some kind of artificial companionship has become the new normal. … But I think that this new normal comes with a price. Because for the idea of artificial companionship, for the idea of the teacher robot, for example, to become our new normal, we have to change ourselves.

And in the process, we are remaking human values and human connections. We change ourselves, even before we make the robot. We think we are making robots, but we are remaking people. …

What are we talking about when we’re talking about robots? We’re talking about our fears of each other. Our disappointments with each other. Our lack of community. Our lack of time.

In these conversations, I hear exhaustion. Because getting these things back, seems beyond us. I hear hopelessness about investing in people to make them fit to take care of each other. To take care of us, eventually.

People go straight from their reservations about a health care worker who didn’t finish high school, to a dream of inventing a robot to care for them, just in time.

Again, we live at the robotic moment, not because the robots are ready for us, but because we are counting on them.

When we assume artificial companionship, it changes how our children grow up, it changes how we treat each other, it changes how we think about caring for each other, across the generations.

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