Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 12.12

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. Fembot = Extraordinarily creepy. Perfect woman? I don’t think so…

    I wish he had stuck with his idea of making a robot to assist the elderly and disabled with normal living chores. I makes me wonder what he does in the lab late at night, too.

  2. I think it would be a good idea for as many of us as care to, to send an email to NPR in support of the pro-vaccination story. There were three anti-vacination stories at the bottom of the page. Let them know that people support science.

  3. You guys are being unfair to the fem-bot. There are some folks for whom a fem-bot would be a dream come true! I wouldn’t want to take this away from them.

    I really only see it as a problem when people start installing machine guns in their jumblies.

  4. I don’t get the big deal about the fembot. It seems like “Aiko” is very similar to other robotics projects except that it looks like a person. I went nosing around for articles about it and all I can find is that the robot can respond to human touch and engage in limited conversation using responses the creator pre-programmed in. It also seems to be able to memorize faces and learn some new information. No doubt this is all pretty cool tech and I sure as hell couldn’t build my own robot, but none of this seems ground-breaking. I thought other people/companies had already done this stuff before. This particular robot doesn’t even walk yet. Am I missing something or did this just get publicity because it features some nerd making a crack about a robot being the perfect woman?

  5. @peaches:

    Source for following quotes [emphasis mine]:

    “But underneath her wispy auburn hair and peaches and cream complexion is an anatomically correct silicone fembot, easily modified for any number of uses.

    “In fact, she’s so sensitive to touch if someone gets a little too rough, she cries out indignantly. If they’re really pushing the boundaries, she moves in for a slap. ”

    Source for the following quotes: [emphasis mine]:

    “Devoted Aiko — “in her 20s” — has a stunning 32-23-33 figure, pretty face and shiny hair. ”

    “Le says his relationship with Aiko hasn’t strayed into the bedroom, but a few “tweaks” could turn her into a sexual partner.

    Le said: “Her software could be redesigned to simulate her having an orgasm.””

    ““Aiko doesn’t need holidays, food or rest, and will work almost 24 hours a day. She is the perfect woman.” ”

    “Le said: “Women usually try to talk to her. But men always want to touch her, and if they do it the wrong way she slaps them.” ”

    Does that help? It’s fucking creepy, sexist, and disgusting.

  6. @Gabrielbrawley: Irish whisky is THE BEST.

    Though I will admit I generally just drink Jack because I’m kind of poor and I’m used to it. Not necessarily the easiest shot, but it does warm you right up! And unlike vodka, I don’t puke from it. :) (Vodka and I don’t get a long lol.)

  7. @Gabrielbrawley: I can’t go below Jack … my taste buds will cry. But I find Gin icky lol.

    I am really, really simple, though. Either a good, cold beer (tap!) or a whiskey shot, or a scotch on the rocks, or jack + coke if I go to my bar, because otherwise I will get way too shitfaced way too quickly because they are very, very generous with their booze. “Hello! I said jack and coke! Where’s the coke!” Yay dive bars.

  8. @marilove: You’re right. I’m a good bit hedonistic, but that’s just plain twisted.

    What I thought was equally fucked up was the scene in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode when Data told Tasha Yar he was “fully functional”. Guess what they did.

  9. @TheSkepticalMale: Well, I certainly haven’t had a scotch that I’ve liked (and I’ve had some damn expensive stuff) but I do like my Irish whiskey straight. None of this tainting it with water or ice business for me.

    Tonight, though, tonight it is a tequila night. And yeah verily, it doth flow.

  10. COTW nomination for Expatria at #17.

    Marilove:

    It’s fucking creepy, sexist, and disgusting.

    I agree. I mean the idea of being attracted to a non-sapient construct [shudders], its almost like bestiality or something. I can see why one might want to create androids (or gynoids for that matter) for jobs that require interaction with humans, but for anything related to romantic or sexual matters, that’s just not right.

  11. Does that help? It’s fucking creepy, sexist, and disgusting.

    This reminds me of the noise surrounding real dolls. Is it creepy,sexist, and disgusting when women buy the male real dolls? Just curious.

  12. All kidding aside these do look awesomely cool. In terms of non-interactive, you can see from this that it is mostly a technological barrier at this point.

    The challenging question is: assuming we get to the point that ‘perfect interactivity ‘ is achieved, is it more or less fucking creepy, sexist, and disgusting?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez8wz3mpX8s&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4dwcxiDTcA&feature=related

    For my money the creepy part is in link two where he talks about finding the baby after he is grown up…robot stalker?

  13. Well, that is the difference. The questions that difference engenders is the interesting and relatively unexplored part.

    This is pretty fertile ground in terms of psychology/ethics etc… for example there is the thought that having sex with a real doll is not rape because there is no consent to be given. On the other hand the real doll guys won’t produce real dolls of boys or girls presumably because that would be ‘wrong’. To me this sets up a conflict, as if it is wrong to sell real boys and real girls then does it not imply that it is some degree of the same wrong to even have sex with an adult male or female real doll?

  14. “I guess the difference might be that you couldn’t have sex with Barbie. But a life-size (sexual) robot has the potential to be a really expensive inflatable sex doll.”

    Once again, I have to side with Kimbo. (Are we related? Our agreement on so many issues is getting scary! :-D)

    I guess I really don’t see the difference between a “fembot” or a “malebot” used for sexual purposes, and masturbation with or without technological assistance.

    (Note: For convenience, I will call them “sexbots,” referring specifically to one created for sexual pleasure.)

    The end result desired is the same: sexual satisfaction of the user. It seems to me that the only difference here is the level of technology employed. Is there a ‘real’ difference here or a philosophical one? (I’m not saying that they are not equally valid and serious – just making a distinction.)

    If we ever get to the point of creating self-aware, sentient AI “sexbots,” then I start wondering about all the issues about slavery, whether they are property or persons, rights, etc.

    I can easily see marilove’s point that it can easily be seen as “sexist, wierd, etc.” However, that issue seems to be in the realm of personal values and morality rather than technology.

    One other thing that bothers me is that the use of such devices taken too far might create and/or increase the distance between the human genders. There are already too many gaps in understanding between men and women – Could the use of this technology increase the already-high wall between us? Could this become another version of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” where men and women prefer their sexbots to human intimacy?

    Thoughts?

  15. @QuestionAuthority:

    On her side in what sense? What position has Kimbo articulated that you are siding with her on? That sex robots are similar to sex dolls?

    To the larger point, there are two pieces to this. One is that there is some effort being made to create human seeming ‘robots’. This effort is concentrated mainly in the area of replicating the physicality of a human, that is to say covering the functional aspects of a robotic movement architecture with a human looking/feeling ‘skin’. Much attention being paid to the little details that when ignored trigger that ‘creepy’ reaction in the observer. Eye movement, posture, fluidity of motion etc…

    There is also an effort to create AI . The expression of it is an artifice that can somehow interact with humans using speech and gestures to mimic human speech and gestures. The holy grail here is to develop a system complex enough to accept input from a human and give a human-like response.

    Now put both of those together. One would have some real doll-esque device that can interact with a human with enough similarity to a human to at a certain level ‘replace’ the need for an actual human.

    Once we arrive there, a host of questions open up, some of which have been articulated on the thread:

    Is there an issue with replacing humans with robots? Would people suddenly stop interacting with humans in favor of ‘easier to deal with’ replacements? If so, would it create a ‘wall’ between us? (I think it is too narrow to call it a man/woman wall without betraying a rather myopic view of human interaction.)

    What is it about intimacy that requires it to be human?

    Is there a very real fear that people are carrying around that they are so undesirable that they will be replaced by something else given the option?
    If so, would not that fear exist in the same way within the domain of humanity? In other words what is it about artificial life that one feels is so superior to human life that it is preferable?

    ramble ramble ramble…

    Obviously a topic of interest for me….

  16. @wytworm: “…a life-size robot has the potential to be a really expensive inflatable sex doll.”

    And all that implies. I discussed it as a “male-female” interaction above only because of the “fembot/malebot” topic. It is, of course, a much wider subject. The subject is much wider and has many ramifications, as you pointed out. I was specifically talking about potential issues that these could cause in male/female interactions in the larger sense. We have already seen how some people are susceptible to a sory of “monomania” with computers, video games, etc. Would this happen in this case? What affect would that have on the larger society? Would the birth rate go down, for example? Would men and women fragment into multiple groups socially, politically?

    “Is there a very real fear that people are carrying around that they are so undesirable that they will be replaced by something else given the option?” Yes, there is. Have you ever thought of “technological unemployment” in that way? A non-sentient robot (or deliberately and carefully programmed AI) cares not for breaks, a salary, life insurance or benefits. From a purely capitalistic perspective, a robot is the perfect employee. To put it bluntly: a slave with no ability to object, strike or escape.

    This was part of the thesis of a very philosophically deep Star Trek: TNG episode where an engineer wanted to permanently dismantle Data in order to replicate him by the millions as workers…or is that slavery? Was Data, even in the Star Trek universe, a person or property? Who decides? Can he object to his own destruction?

  17. @wytworm: I always wondered similar things about the holodeck. People have gotten down to business with those artificial characters, have had relationships, and even fallen in love. I can’t say I blame them. If I had the epitome of hedonism to use at my leisure, you couldn’t pry me out of there. :)

    @QuestionAuthority: Well my dad does have many “illegitimate” children….

  18. @Kimbo_Jones:
    I stumble blindly in the dark trying to find an exit. Dust tickles my nose and I sneeze violently. Straightening up, I bang my head on the low rafters…BAM! I reel and fall, sliding down a ladder into the light…When I open my eyes, I see the attic door above me…” :-D

  19. @QuestionAuthority:

    The problem with Data was one of the definition of sentience, no? Star Trek has the luxury to start at the ending as it were. We in reality will have to develop artificial sentience slowly over time. The thought being of course that as a whole we would develop our model of morality,ethics, philosophy at some competitive rate, which of course is a HUGE assumption.

    Fascinating connection with the social phenom. of MMORPG’s . I resist that line of thought a bit as I am not sure that said monomania doesn’t exist independently of the specific expression of it.

    I do not dwell on technological unemployment too much as I don’t see it as a problem in my lifetime. I just think we are about to start a slow spiral backwards or more optimistically, a sharp reduction in the rate of advancement, as society turns its attention to other priorities.

    However, one does wonder what would happen if energy were suddenly free and accessible by all without restriction. That would be the ultimate unemployer in a sense, no? In other words, I am not sure i would care if I were unemployed by a robot given the larger societal implications that such automation would imply.

    My gut feeling is not much would change at all in all of these models. I have a hunch the impact would be to add and enrich our lives more than it would be to take away.

  20. @wytworm: You personally have not dealt with technological unemployment, but I see it all around me. Examples abound:
    * Airline check-in kiosks replaced agents
    * Self-checkout units replaced cashiers
    * ATMs replace bank tellers
    * Robotic assembly replaces line workers in manufacturing
    * The Web is replacing brick and mortar businesses…

    The problem with the current scenarion is that, since we automate the unskilled work first because it is easier to program to, we preferentially eliminate the unskilled worker’s jobs. However, our society does not care much about those unemployed workers – They are told to “retrain,” but without aid to do so, they end up despised and existing on welfare. The unskilled are at the bottom of the economic heap already and haven’t the resources to pay for their own re-education. Between the forces of globalization and technological unemployment, we (globally) have created, deliberately or not, the disposable workforce.
    People, however, have a nasty habit of fomenting unrest and revolutions when this happens – and who can blame them?

    You say that…”I am not sure I would care if I were unemployed by a robot given the larger societal implications that such automation would imply.” I see implications that you don’t. Example: Who is to say that, if Humanity is given unlimited free energy, the access to it and its benefits will be shared fairly or wisely? Could we end up with a world of a very few “have everythings” and billions of “have nothings?” It looks like a more drastic version on the First World/Third World to me.

    As you say, ST had the advantage of coming in at the end of the process, with a single sentient AI (Data) arriving as a reality, courtesy of Dr. Soong with no societal development period. One wonders what the societal effects would be of the gradual development and distribution of sentient AI…

  21. @QuestionAuthority:

    I actually do get impacted, in the sense that what I do, if done successfully directly results in teh unemployment of people currently engaged in a manual process. I don’t lose sleep over it.

    I am not empowered to resolve nor do I accept responsibility for the disintegration of the educational system, our collective failure to plan as a society, or any of the rest of the social impacts resulting from these types of progressions.

    My model called for unrestricted access to free energy. Why did you add restrictions?

    I believe that most of our problems as a group derive from a flawed model for a society. It might be more or less the best one we have seen so far, but it seems to me that it isn’t being managed competently or adequately. Of course it could simply be that canard ‘these things take time’.

  22. @wytwyrm: Oh, I don’t expect you to take any responsibility for technological unemployment nor lose sleep over it. Not the point I was trying to make, though after reading about the Industrial Revolution and the Luddites, I think we can do much better to give those people better alternatives than revolution. I was trying to make the point that technological unemployment is happening all around us. Your comment reminds me of a soldier that sees the man next to him shot dead and feels both guilty and relieved at the same time.

    The restrictions I placed are strictly what I expect our society to do should anyone find an unlimited, free source of energy. Those that find it (unless they are improbably altruistic) will monopolize it and make themselves richer than God. It’s called “greed,” aka “The Gordon Gekko Syndrome.” :-D

    I fully agree with you that our current civilization (worldwide) is badly managed. It may well collapse in our lifetime.

    Winston Churchill once wrote that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the alternatives.” Many like to think that they would be benevolent, enlightened dictators/kings/queens/etc. if granted the power. There certainly is no shortage of volunteers for the position. Unfortunately, it seems as if the old saw about “If power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” is part of the human condition. Where we all go from here, I have no idea.

    As far as the monomania goes, I wonder if some of the alleged “addictions” that are bandied about, such as “sex addiction,” “shopping addiction,” etc. are not forms of monomania, if they exist as independent manias at all?

  23. @QuestionAuthority:

    I suggest that the analogy while understandably misplaced due to what we don’t know about each other.

    I understand the source of your restriction, and acknowledge the probability of your extrapolation.

    I would like to draw your attention to a model where we pull that piece out of the equation and assume instead that there are no restrictions to access. My hunch is that in this model, there would be some possibly disruptive period of adjustment, followed by a refocusing of our priorities after which, we would settle back into familiar patterns which (at least at ground level) would look pretty similar to what we have today.

  24. @marilove

    Yes, I get that the builder is a creepy, sexist loner who lives in his parent’s basement and had to make a fake girl to hang out with him because real ones are too threatening or whatever. I’m not questioning the weirdness of it. What I’m questioning is the media hype for something that, upon further inspection, doesn’t seem that impressive to me by modern robotics standards. I’m trying to separate the builder’s sexism from the robot itsself to see if there’s anything of technical significance under all the silicone.

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