I, Robot, Do Not Have a Headache
David Berreby is the author of "Us and Them: The Science of Identity." He has written about human behavior and other science topics for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Smithsonian, The New Republic, Nature, Discover, Vogue and many other publications. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Paris, a Science Writing Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, a resident at Yaddo, and in 2006 was awarded the Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship for the first edition of "Us and Them." David can be found on Twitter at @davidberreby and reached by email at david [at] davidberreby [dot] com.
I have nothing against the development of sex robots. They're a logical next step in the history of technology's application to sexual desire. No doubt they will be a great comfort some day to the elderly, the shy and people with exotic tastes. What weirded me out about Douglas Hines' new product, unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show this month, was the backstory.
Hines says he lost a friend on 9/11 and wished his pal's personality could be preserved after death. That lead him to try to developing an "artificial personality'' that could work as a nursing-home aid. Only after the red tape involved in creating medical robots proved too much, he says, did he turn to the sex market.
But a useful hospital robot need not look like a person for people to respond to its "personality." (Bilge Mutlu's research offers plenty of examples and open questions around this topic.) People will respond to their cars emotionally, after all. The human mind is highly predisposed to think its experiences were caused by a thinking, feeling creature (damned engine won't start, this is one nasty storm).
On the other hand, you can make robots that look and act very much like people, as David Hanson does, with the aim of using them to explore human psychology and maybe make a killing when Hollywood buys in.
But combining the heavy work function with the look-just-like us function, and thinking it'd be great to preserve personalities and download them into the robot bodies? Am I the only person who thought what the frak?
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
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