We currently live in a world where technological advancement drives our progress. From things as little as an on-off switch to our house cleaning assistance – hoovers, help us live a better, perhaps, more content life.
With machine-led advancements, the invention of robots has almost given a new dimension to our way of living. But it comes with a price. Humans are anxious about robots, or as experts term it suffer from a ‘robot panic’.
Over the years, humans have seen machines take over their jobs, from factory assembly lines to service-oriented jobs. In fact, robots as waiters is the new phenomenon in some societies, leading to further insecurity and anxiousness as new technological advancements are announced or, perhaps, are still under way. However, the growth of tech industry maybe daunting at some point or the other but the more it grows; the more we realize the limitation and incompetence of robots and robot-led progress.
Robots cannot take over our societies, as they can barely operate properly without us. Yet, their existence can be taxing in times to come. And the nervousness relating to their existence shouldn’t entirely be shunned away. No, it’s not to do with the job or physical aspects of it but in fact, what robotic inventions can do to our brains.
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After the invention of violent video games, researchers and experts came to the conclusion that these games perpetuate the likelihood of violence and crime in our society. Studies after studies rolled out stating the negative psychological impact of video games that use violence or a criminal activity, such as the famous Grand Theft Auto series, to move onto next levels, on its players – be it children or adults. The result: the more players indulge in playing such games, the more they become desensitized to the violence they practice or is around them.
But what makes these results relevant to robot revolution? It’s quite simple. About two years ago, a well-established robotic company uploaded a video that showed its employees kicking a dog-like robot. For Boston Dynamics the action was to identify, at the same time let the audience know, how the machine could spring itself up smoothly every time after it was kicked askew. The robot named Spot was hence, kicked by the employees of the company, best known for its development BigDog, to show how it could regain its balance after being knocked over.
But little did the Boston Dynamics anticipate the harsh criticism that was hurled its way.In the aftermath of the release of the video,viewers criticized the company for propagating animal violence. The viewers were horrified so much so that their comments led PETA to weigh in its stand in the ongoing conversation. The animal rights organization released a statement saying that “PETA deals with actual animal abuse every day, so we won’t lose sleep over this incident,” but adding that “most reasonable people find even the idea of such violence inappropriate.”
Whether the company’s efforts fell short of delivering its actual message or whether viewers overreacted is hard to say as different people may view the video differently. However, we cannot ignore that gradual desensitizing wired into our brains may have been the eventual outcome. That would have led to people practicing the same behavior on their dogs at homes.
And that’s not the only effect of robots on human beings. Twenty years ago, the invention of Tamagotchi, a handheld digital pet, took us by a storm with everyone owning one to nurture their digital pet. However, the immediate success spread across nations only to be banned after some of the digital pets’ owners, lost their sleep, livelihood and lives – quite literally – to help aid and take care of their digital pet. Reportedly, some owners committed suicide after their Tamagotchi pet died owing to a battery loss. This was about two decades ago, when machines didn’t even have actual features to appear more human like and yet people found themselves getting emotionally attached to a machine. This further puts emphasizes on the fact that humans often become affectionate towards their machines and robotic inventions, no matter how small, can have hefty repercussions.
This is not to say that some robots do actually assist humans in a good way. The classic example of this is robots invented as therapy aides to assist autistic children. The invention helped children to a great extent. But as not all grass is greener on the other side, the flipside of robotic inventions can be taxing, especially when reflected with human empathy.
We often credit human empathy with a positive reinforcement and connotation, often forgetting that it’s unstable and unpredictable. If it can be manipulated for good, it can also be manipulated for bad. And more recently, experts have found the invention of child-size sex robots to be taxing.
On the one hand, the invention helps individuals derive sexual pleasures without actually involving themselves in a relationship with someone – acting as a useful outlet for sex offenders – but on the other, perhaps, much more taxing and darker side, it may actually be normalizing pedophilia. It is true that pinning it exactly to that may be quite difficult but there is definitely room for concern.
There is definitely a greater challenge in identifying the actual repercussions of a robot evolution but perhaps, the results sketches a picture one needs to be wary about. As they say, it’s better safe than sorry.