Education · Technology

Why Robots Scare Me

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Erica, the robot created by Hiroshi Ishiguro, which was scheduled to take over the position of news caster on Japanese television this year.

It’s not that I fear they will take over so many jobs that we will end up with a permanent class of unemployable unskilled workers. Some think so, but in this regard I’m feeling optimistic today  (no doubt because of a good night’s sleep). I think that what will happen is that our entire educational system will be reorganized to accommodate new needs and opportunities that will arise from the brave new world that is now developing. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but there are already hints here and there that it is happening.

Here’s what concerns me about automation in general

It is distancing us from one another. There are fewer and fewer casual contacts that used to be necessary to carry on our daily business. Bank tellers, waitresses, order takers, receptionists, are disappearing right and left—drivers for hire to follow. In countless factories where workers used to take breaks and tell jokes, or exchange their troubled stories, the work is done primarily by robots who neither laugh nor cry. In Tokyo there is actually a hotel where guests never see another human being from check in to check out.

And speaking of Japan!

Here is where you’ll find the forerunners in the development of lifelike androids—robots that look like real people. As yet they are not “bipedal,”—they can’t walk around—but they’re working on it.  The professed aim of these inventors is to create robots that are “self conscious and aware” in the words  of Erica’s creator, professor Hiroshi Ishiguro.

What’s behind the Japanese push to excel at robotics.

There is a practical problem that the Japanese hope to solve with the introduction of robots. For over three decades, they have been experiencing negative population growth; the population is aging and the number of workers decreasing, making it increasingly difficult to fill job openings. They hope that robots can replace these lost workers.

For instance, it is impossible to find enough people willing to be attendants in nursing homes. I suppose if the robot that delivers medication and dinner looks like a person, it will be more acceptable as a caregiver. But what the elderly in nursing homes need most of all—what we all need— is a smile from a fellow human being, a compassionate touch, and love.

Human beings were created in the image of God and thus have the capacity to love one another. No matter how expertly the robot is crafted, no matter how convincingly it blinks or appears to breathe, or how well its warm body responds to our commands, it cannot love.

When we give our robot vacuum cleaner a name and assign it a gender, it’s a joke. We think it’s funny. But when a robotics inventor creates a lifelike robot with the intention of, in his own words, “changing the definition of a human,” in my book, it’s no joke; it is a sacrilege.

10 thoughts on “Why Robots Scare Me

  1. I find the whole idea frightening. I count on my casual encounters with people to be a source of great joy and connection. So many parts of life,such as education, are being consumed by technology eg. texting vs handwriting, Google vs dictionaries, and the list goes on. As I struggle with tech parts of our lives, like Facebook, I realize over and over the need for human contact. I want to be on the “cutting edge” but won’t compromise my values of human connection and communication.

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    1. FTA: “[He} chose to make people in his own image, with the ability to relate and love, not just receive commands. If we want to follow God’s creative example, perhaps we, too, should aim to fashion things with the ability to relate and love, and not just to receive commands.” My point is that we can’t do this because we are not God. That the author should entertain the notion that we can create robots who can return our love is well, astounding to me.

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  2. On a more serious note: The mention of the aging population brings forth a problem that already exists and affects our older generation, when it comes to being unable to connect with an actual human being, when help is needed, This fast growing, technological age seems not to take into account that the older generation cannot, will not, and should not be expected to comply in an effort to have their needs met.

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  3. “But what the elderly in nursing homes need most of all—what we all need— is a smile from a fellow human being, a compassionate touch, and love.”

    Precisely! And that is being lost, sad to say. I think the devolving civility and rising anger these days illustrate that point well.

    Liked by 1 person

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