The Droids We’re Looking For

“Over the several months we are in contact, Ishiguro will share information that strikes me as deeply personal: He has contemplated suicide twice in his life; though he has a family, he considers himself a lonely man. I will hear him use that word to describe himself—lonely—about half a dozen times.” That’s a line that seems out of place in an article about robots. But as Alex Mar writes in Love in the Time of Robots, “Hiroshi Ishi­guro builds androids … but his true quest is to untangle the ineffable nature of connection itself.” To make androids realistic, we have to gain a deep understanding of our own communication modes and motivations. Even if we can pull that off, are we ready for intimacy with robots? (Hopefully, they treat us better than we treat each other.)

+ “Ellie’s capacity for subtle and supportive engagement reveals fascinating things about humans, and how we choose to guard our secrets.” Virtual therapists help veterans open up about PTSD.

+ “In each grisly permutation, the Moral Machine invited visitors to cast a vote about who the vehicle should kill.” In order to teach computers (like autonomous cars) how to react, we need to figure out what the average human would do.

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