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I find people willing to seriously consider robots not only as pets but as potential friends, confidants, and even romantic partners. We don't seem to care what these artificial intelligences "know" or "understand" of the human moments we might "share" with them. At the robotic moment, the performance of connection seems connection enough. We are poised to attach to the inanimate without prejudice. The phrase "technological promiscuity" comes to mind.

I don't understand this: We are poised to attach to the inanimate without prejudice. But they already know that these robots do not understand our emotions, so why does the author say that they are poised to attach to the inanimate without prejudice? We sure have prejudice!

  • I can recommend to you the stage play Comic Potential by Alan Ayckbourne (1998), in which a TV production company develops robotic actors for creating soap drama. A young director falls in love with a female actoid and they have an affair. The actoid is restricted in her thinking by her programming, and can only relate to roles she has played. The conversation between the lovers, in a restaurant, in the presence of other diners is absolutely hilarious. It is one of the funniest plays you will ever see. – WS2 Mar 6 '15 at 19:02
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It's saying that even though humans know that robots can't share an emotional connection with them, humans themselves develop an emotional connection to the robots. They do this without prejudice because they connect to a robot just as they would connect to a human, even though they know that the robot is incapable of reciprocating the connection.

Consider humans' interactions with the chatterbot ELIZA, who imitated a typical psychiatrist's responses (e.g., ELIZA would respond to "I feel sad" with "Why do you feel sad?"). The humans interacting with ELIZA knew it was a program, not a person, but many of them felt emotionally connected to it and even attributed human emotions to it.

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    People develop an emotional connection with anything that appears to demonstrate a certain amount of "intelligence" or "independent thought". How many times have you interacted emotionally (probably in frustration) with your computer or smartphone? – Paul Rowe Mar 5 '15 at 21:17
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I like Nicole's answer, but I want to bring a different perspective to this.

One possibility why people are poised to attach to the inanimate without prejudice is because it is "safe" (or "safer") to do so. When I attach to another person, there is the nagging possibility that other person will refuse the attachment or, once accepted, drop it. A live pet allows for a certain attachment for a limited amount of time with a limited amount of reciprocation; I would never consider a romantic relationship with a dog, cat, fish, or rabbit.

Anime in particular has explored the idea of attaching to a robot in human form. Chobits stands out in my mind as a particularly good example of this. With sufficient programming, a robot could impersonate a person and remove a lot of the unknowns that pepper human interactions. This is particularly appealing to those people who feel that they are socially inadequate, socially inept, or outright ostracized. A robot could be programmed to be loyal to their "person" and offer a consistency some people would prefer to the "real thing".

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why does the author say that they are poised to attach to the inanimate without prejudice? We sure have prejudice!

The author is saying that, although we have prejudice now, the examples he gives indicate that in the near future ("they are poised to") we (or at least some of us) will lose that prejudice.

And as for

they already know that these robots do not understand our emotions

well, don't you know anyone who has fallen hopelessly in love with someone who they know perfectly well will never return their feelings? Or children who love their selfish, abusive parents?

Emotional attachment has never paid much attention to what we know. If it did, we would not have the separate words "emotional" and "intellectual" or "rational".

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