The growing fear of robots taking over the world has become a dominant discourse when discussing advanced A.I. Will they’re intelligence override human intelligence? Will they become the dominant life-form? I believe the biggest threat super intelligent robots pose to humanity is how we form relationships with these robots. Will human-robot relationships become more important than human-human relationships? Will technology replace human connection?
We are susceptible to forming emotional attachments to robots and even feel empathy towards robots in the same way we feel empathy towards other humans. A recent study showed neurophysiological evidence that humans can feel empathy for robots in pain. Participants were made to look at images of a human hand about to be cut by scissors and a robot hand in the same situation. Researchers found that the neural responses that indicate empathy were similar when faced with both images. What this proves is that humans can easily feel for and relate to humanoid robots (Suzuki et.al. 2015).
We also see many examples of humans having an emotional attachment to robots in the world today. When Sony stopped manufacturing the AIBO robot in 2006 and then ceased to provide repair services for the robots in 2014, many AIBO owners held funerals for their broken robot pets that could no longer be fixed. Similarly, American soldiers are seen to bond with robots used to defuse bombs; naming them, awarding them purple hearts and holding funerals for the ones destroyed in combat (Hsu, 2015). This love and affection for these robots highlights the emotional attachments humans are capable of making with robots.
These significant relationships between humans and robots in our current world show a strong potential for even deeper, more intimate relationships with robots of the future that are extremely artificially intelligent and who appear to truly be alive. The question is will these future relationships with robots be detrimental or beneficial to humanity?
Hsu, J. 2015, ‘Robot Funerals Reflect Our Humanity’, Discover, retrieved from http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/lovesick- cyborg/2015/03/15/robot-funerals-reflect-our-humanity/#.VylGSGR941g
Suzuki, Y., Galli, L., Ikeda, A., Itakura, S. and Kitazaki, M. (2015). Measuring empathy for human and robot hand pain using electroencephalography. Sci. Rep., 5, p.15924.