Should Grandpa Be Left with a Robot?

It seems that each day, we find ourselves getting a little bit closer to some form of artificial intelligence. Most of us feel that this development is inevitable.

Some at this juncture, it is not that important whether or not we are discussing self-conscious machines. Developments in the thing today known as big data, robotics, and machine learning are all ready to provide a world where computers are definitely intelligent in terms of the way we are dealing with them.

Should people be afraid of this proposition?  The answer is maybe, but not in the way that people would think.

How do New Technologies Affect Society?

The real essence of this new technology is the capability of these computers to grasp human emotions from observing mere muscle activation in the face of a human. This link between human expressions and their emotions is certainly something that human beings already know how to do. However, scientists have gone well beyond the straight characteristics of “frown” vs. “smile” to the mapping out of facial muscle groups and their connections to certain emotional states. This recent AI is capable of identifying the positions of facial muscles and then using them to determine the emotional states of users. After this, the machine can then respond in manners that take emotional states into account.

One possible use for this new technology is to have “emotional robots” for the purposes of serving the elderly. Being able to have a compassionate machine that could interact with empathy could provide an older person with a needed companion to spend time with.

The fact that we are even discussing this possibility is amazing and serves as a testament to how far that our machines have gotten in their ability to interact. However, some may feel that these are the very types of technologies that can trap us in our dependencies on them.

Many times we just state that any technology is “value-free.” Researchers make these discoveries and engineers create these inventions, and these may be free of “values.” The fact is that it is the people in a society who determine their value. We all know that research takes place in cultural settings.

As these technologies are released into the world, they have the potential to actually change the world. This is the very way that technologies rewire society in a manner that possibly makes it difficult to escape from. Just took a look at your iPhones and social media accounts for examples of this.

Robots for the Elderly

So just think how we could get a robot to serve as companions for the elderly Do you see this as a good thing right? The question is what direction does this take our society? Will all of our nursing homes be manned with robots now?  Some people think that there should be more humane alternatives for this task.

Another example of these machines getting more responsibility is dealing with upgrades and tuning. For instance, how long would it take each robot to become attuned to each person’s needs? And what evil thoughts might the robot detect and how would it react?

Of course, such an application does not stop there. How about a robot looking after a child with autism? Would this not be the next logical place to apply such a technology? Hopefully, companies and regulators overseeing these exciting new technologies would require intensive type clinical trials before releasing them to the public.