(ABC Aus.) Thomas Wells–Love in a time of machines: How robots will transform human intimacy

Those who see social robots as a dystopian threat to humanity therefore face a problem in acting on their belief. The reason they are a threat is that they may become superficially more attractive to us than other people. But that is also why it is hard to see how they can be stopped. I suppose one could imagine passing laws against humanoid looking robots working in the home. But such a law would be a rather pathetic defence of humanity. It would mean making a decision not only to reject our robot future, but also to reject our present commitment to the idea of a free society in which we allow our norms and values to evolve dynamically from the cumulative free choices of free individuals.

It’s hard to see how such a law, or anything else short of full blown Luddism, could prevent the development of robots that perform care and emotional labour outside the household (in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, customer service desks, brothels, restaurants, and so on). The technology would always be one short hop away from the home, and thus more or less immediately available if humanity’s suspicion of robots were ever to soften as we become more accustomed to relying on them in more and more situations.

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