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Can You Fall in Love with a Robot?
Recent studies have found that humans can feel concern over a robot if they think that it is in pain. This indicates that we can feel as much empathy for a mechanical person as a biological one.
Advances in robotics and AI are starting to gain some real momentum. In the coming decades, scientists predict robots will take over more and more jobs—including white collar ones, and gain ubiquity in the home, school, and work spheres. Due to this, roboticists and AI experts, social scientists, psychologists, and others are speculating what impact it will have on us and our world. Google and Oxford have teamed up to make a kill switch should AI initiate a robot apocalypse.
One way to overcome this is to imbue AI with emotions and empathy, to make them as human-like as possible, so much so that it may become difficult to tell robots and real people apart. In this vein, scientists have wondered if it might be possible for a human to fall in love with a robot, considering we are moving toward fashioning them after our own image. Spike Jonze’s Her and the movie Ex Machina touch on this.
Recent studies have found that humans can feel concern over a robot if they think that it is in pain. This indicates that we can feel as much empathy for a mechanical person as a biological one. Of course emotional concern is not the same as romantic love. The thought of humans interacting with robots on a complex emotional level was first tested back in 1966. Back then, MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum created a computer program called “Eliza” who took the role of a psychologist. It asked participants therapy-like questions to see how they would respond and interact with the program.
The debut of a robot receptionist in a department store in Japan.
People soon began treating Eliza as if it were a living, breathing person. Though not as advanced as AI today, it did elicit in-depth responses. In fact, Weizenbaum soon found that subjects were more comfortable revealing intimate details to the program than they were to most people. Perhaps they did so knowing that Eliza wouldn’t judge.
There are indications that falling for a robot is possible. For instance, research shows that people who chitchat via email, messenger, on the phone, or through text often feel a more intimate bond than those who chat face-to-face. The pressure is off, and so too might it be with a robot.
Anyone who has found love complicated, basically all of us, has wished for a simpler relationship, and a robot lover may fit the bill. Still, AI is not at the level where it can make nuanced emotional responses. Ever go on a date with someone who doesn’t have any emotional or intellectual depth? It is such a turnoff. NYU psychology professor Gary Marcus says there are different kinds of love. Right now, we may find a relationship with a robot much like that of dog and master, at least until their intellectual and emotional intelligence is up to snuff.
Another stumbling block is whether or not the robot could love you back. Today, our mechanized counterparts can recognize human facial expressions and respond to them. This isn’t the robot feeling the emotion itself or responding out of empathy, but merely out of programming. In human relationships, we may notice that one person loves more than the other or contributes more. This is difficult in and of itself. When the discrepancy is apparent, we often consider one person “using” the other. “You don’t really love me,” a jilted lover might claim. Since we have no way of instilling emotions and empathy in robots currently and we don’t know if it will be possible, a synthetic human may become a good faker, but may in fact be incapable of loving you back.
Robots can now mimic our emotional range, but that’s not the same as having emotions.
This knowledge that the machine is faking it, or that it is unable to authentically love could bite the person, a worry that begins to bubble up more and more until it finally destroys the “relationship.” So you may be able to love a robot. But some people may not be able to sustain it long-term.
For those who can be fulfilled by the fantasy, companies could make a suitable lover based on their own specifications. These would include both physical and personality traits. The synthetic suitor would have to be programmed with certain faults as well, since imperfections would make the lover relatable. A perfect person can get on your nerves after a while, making your own faults seem pronounced.
And what about stigmatization? Would a human-robot relationship be deemed as worthy as a human-to-human one? Or would those who kept a robot lover be considered unable to find or attract a real person? Another aspect is what human-robot relationships would do to the organic variety. Why love someone who never loads the dishwasher, forgets your birthday, or hates your friends when a robot won’t ever? Of course one could argue that these interactions could never have the depth, texture, or breadth that a real human relationship has, warts and all.
True Companion is a robot girlfriend named Roxxxy introduced in 2010.
Most people today find the idea of robot-human love distasteful. But it could be worse than just merely offensive. Dr. Kathleen Richardson a UK robotics ethicist told the BBC that sexbots could seriously damage human relationships, to say nothing of it glorifying exploitation, whether it be that of a living being or no. Yet the very definitions of love, courtship, marriage, and companionship have changed dramatically throughout history. Perhaps this is why British AI specialist David Levy recently penned the book, Love and Sex with Robots. He predicts human-robot marriages will be commonplace by 2050. Levy also believes you’ll be able to order a lover or spouse to specifications and it will even be able to carry on sophisticated conversations, something our human partners today may fail to do, distracted by the love of another technology already threatening relationships, smart phones.
To see where we are with human-like robots today click here:
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
Metal-like materials have been discovered in a very strange place.
- Bristle worms are odd-looking, spiky, segmented worms with super-strong jaws.
- Researchers have discovered that the jaws contain metal.
- It appears that biological processes could one day be used to manufacture metals.
The bristle worm, also known as polychaetes, has been around for an estimated 500 million years. Scientists believe that the super-resilient species has survived five mass extinctions, and there are some 10,000 species of them.
Be glad if you haven't encountered a bristle worm. Getting stung by one is an extremely itchy affair, as people who own saltwater aquariums can tell you after they've accidentally touched a bristle worm that hitchhiked into a tank aboard a live rock.
Bristle worms are typically one to six inches long when found in a tank, but capable of growing up to 24 inches long. All polychaetes have a segmented body, with each segment possessing a pair of legs, or parapodia, with tiny bristles. ("Polychaeate" is Greek for "much hair.") The parapodia and its bristles can shoot outward to snag prey, which is then transferred to a bristle worm's eversible mouth.
The jaws of one bristle worm — Platynereis dumerilii — are super-tough, virtually unbreakable. It turns out, according to a new study from researchers at the Technical University of Vienna, this strength is due to metal atoms.
Metals, not minerals
Fireworm, a type of bristle wormCredit: prilfish / Flickr
This is pretty unusual. The study's senior author Christian Hellmich explains: "The materials that vertebrates are made of are well researched. Bones, for example, are very hierarchically structured: There are organic and mineral parts, tiny structures are combined to form larger structures, which in turn form even larger structures."
The bristle worm jaw, by contrast, replaces the minerals from which other creatures' bones are built with atoms of magnesium and zinc arranged in a super-strong structure. It's this structure that is key. "On its own," he says, "the fact that there are metal atoms in the bristle worm jaw does not explain its excellent material properties."
Just deformable enough
Credit: by-studio / Adobe Stock
What makes conventional metal so strong is not just its atoms but the interactions between the atoms and the ways in which they slide against each other. The sliding allows for a small amount of elastoplastic deformation when pressure is applied, endowing metals with just enough malleability not to break, crack, or shatter.
Co-author Florian Raible of Max Perutz Labs surmises, "The construction principle that has made bristle worm jaws so successful apparently originated about 500 million years ago."
Raible explains, "The metal ions are incorporated directly into the protein chains and then ensure that different protein chains are held together." This leads to the creation of three-dimensional shapes the bristle worm can pack together into a structure that's just malleable enough to withstand a significant amount of force.
"It is precisely this combination," says the study's lead author Luis Zelaya-Lainez, "of high strength and deformability that is normally characteristic of metals.
So the bristle worm jaw is both metal-like and yet not. As Zelaya-Lainez puts it, "Here we are dealing with a completely different material, but interestingly, the metal atoms still provide strength and deformability there, just like in a piece of metal."
Observing the creation of a metal-like material from biological processes is a bit of a surprise and may suggest new approaches to materials development. "Biology could serve as inspiration here," says Hellmich, "for completely new kinds of materials. Perhaps it is even possible to produce high-performance materials in a biological way — much more efficiently and environmentally friendly than we manage today."
Dealing with rudeness can nudge you toward cognitive errors.
- Anchoring is a common bias that makes people fixate on one piece of data.
- A study showed that those who experienced rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to bad data.
- In some simulations with medical students, this effect led to higher mortality rates.
Cognitive biases are funny little things. Everyone has them, nobody likes to admit it, and they can range from minor to severe depending on the situation. Biases can be influenced by factors as subtle as our mood or various personality traits.
A new study soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that experiencing rudeness can be added to the list. More disturbingly, the study's findings suggest that it is a strong enough effect to impact how medical professionals diagnose patients.
Life hack: don't be rude to your doctor
The team of researchers behind the project tested to see if participants could be influenced by the common anchoring bias, defined by the researchers as "the tendency to rely too heavily or fixate on one piece of information when making judgments and decisions." Most people have experienced it. One of its more common forms involves being given a particular value, say in negotiations on price, which then becomes the center of reasoning even when reason would suggest that number should be ignored.
It can also pop up in medicine. As co-author Dr. Trevor Foulk explains, "If you go into the doctor and say 'I think I'm having a heart attack,' that can become an anchor and the doctor may get fixated on that diagnosis, even if you're just having indigestion. If doctors don't move off anchors enough, they'll start treating the wrong thing."
Lots of things can make somebody more or less likely to anchor themselves to an idea. The authors of the study, who have several papers on the effects of rudeness, decided to see if that could also cause people to stumble into cognitive errors. Past research suggested that exposure to rudeness can limit people's perspective — perhaps anchoring them.
In the first version of the study, medical students were given a hypothetical patient to treat and access to information on their condition alongside an (incorrect) suggestion on what the condition was. This served as the anchor. In some versions of the tests, the students overheard two doctors arguing rudely before diagnosing the patient. Later variations switched the diagnosis test for business negotiations or workplace tasks while maintaining the exposure to rudeness.
Across all iterations of the test, those exposed to rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to the initial, incorrect suggestion despite the availability of evidence against it. This was less significant for study participants who scored higher on a test of how wide of a perspective they tended to have. The disposition of these participants, who answered in the affirmative to questions like, "Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his/her place," was able to effectively negate the narrowing effects of rudeness.
What this means for you and your healthcare
The effects of anchoring when a medical diagnosis is on the line can be substantial. Dr. Foulk explains that, in some simulations, exposure to rudeness can raise the mortality rate as doctors fixate on the wrong problems.
The authors of the study suggest that managers take a keener interest in ensuring civility in workplaces and giving employees the tools they need to avoid judgment errors after dealing with rudeness. These steps could help prevent anchoring.
Also, you might consider being nicer to people.