There is this new show on television, Almost Human, which is about a cop who has a partner who is a robot. Although the robot is artificial, it exhibits human behaviors. In many instances, the robot seems more human than the partner. In one particular episode they were kidnapping women and grafting their skin onto robots who were made to be prostitutes. There was one robot prostitute that assisted the cops in finding the guys responsible for this. In the end she had to be deactivated because it was illegal for robots to have human DNA. The robot cop asked to be with her and he watched her as she “died.”
After watching this episode my husband and I started talking about the possibility of having a robot wife. Keep in mind that the robots were extremely beautiful and exhibited all the right emotions. He then joked that it would probably be better than a real woman. But on the serious side, he stated that there would be no real connection or intimacy which is what make relationships worth having.
In Sherry Turkle’s book she talks about the idea of having robots as companions. She spoke with a graduate student who felt that if a robot could give her the “illusion” of happiness, then she would welcome it (8). I found it to be a little disturbing that someone would trade in a human for a robot in order to avoid the emotional rollercoaster that a relationship can sometimes bring. I understand how devastating a broken heart can be but, what about the wonderful surprises that a relationship with thinking and feeling human being brings.
On the other hand, when Turkle spoke about Miriam, the elderly lady in a nursing home, I sympathized with her. I felt comfort in the fact that she has something to comfort her. There are a lot of elderly people who are tossed aside by children and other family members, or who just have no one. In this case, I think that robots as companions are a great idea.
When it comes to artificial life and technology, I feel that it has its place. I feel that it is beneficial but I agree with Turkle’s idea that it cannot replace true human connection. All the human experiences that we have are a part of the learning process and completely avoiding them will stunt our growth.