Is this where we are going?

ImgresI went to see the movie Her over the holidays and am still thinking it.  The movie is about a man who falls in love with an operating system.  In my mind the movie pairs well with the Dave Eggers book The Circle which is also a social commentary on the world we live in today or perhaps will live in very soon.

After seeing the film I was talking to a friend of mine who is also in the tech community and he said something that made me laugh but also made me think.  He said that we are all so excited about the technologies we are investing in and the future we are building but perhaps we should be thinking a bit about how scary it is too. 

I had another conversation with someone who told me that in Japan there are fleets of robots that are working with the elder community, people in their 80's.  What is happening is that these robots are becoming companions to them which is not so different than the movie Her.  How weird would it be if you went to a party and one of the guests who you had struck up a conversation with wanted to let you know before you continued that they were actually a robot.  You were freaked out but the robot laughed and said I know it is weird but I learn from social interaction which is why I seem like a human.  Is that where we are going?

I admit I'd be happy to have a robot walk the dog on the cold mornings of winter.  Our dog probably could care less as long as he goes out.  If I was going to take a walk with a baby in the stroller (not that I am way past that) but that human interaction is so important at that stage.  The good news is that I hear the same thing from young people who want that connection too.  They are all looking for more human interaction.  

It is easy to fall in love with something where everything appears to be easy and perfect.  Human relationships are not easy.  We are complicated people.  Robots…not so much. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Reading this I think how brilliant and visionary Ray Bradbury was.

    1. Gotham Gal


  2. cindygallop

    I found The Circle absolutely fascinating – both entertaining and terrifying, especially because so many aspects of what is satirized are actually happening – and I can’t wait to see ‘Her’ this weekend.While some of FastCompany’s 10 Ways We’ll Be Dating, Having Sex And Breaking Up In 2025 are potentially beneficial (and I’m obviously delighted to see MakeLoveNotPorn in there) others are frankly depressing:…The interesting thing here is that this is another argument for gender equality in the tech world. When we have the same amount of women as well as men coming up with disruptive tech ideas and getting funded and supported to realize them, I believe we will have more different approaches and a better balance of humanity in and through tech, that will benefit us all. (Writing a post about this for Ladybits, or rather have been spectacularly failing to – your post is a good reminder that I need to knuckle down and complete that for Arikia!)

    1. Gotham Gal

      i do hope and believe as well that we will have more humanity through tech. keeps us on our toes.

  3. pointsnfigures

    Our weakness is we are human. When people help us, we get attached. When you are older and cannot do things, I could see how human emotions could make you attach to a robot. My grandfather had a caregiver for a year before he passed-he became very attached to him.

    1. Gotham Gal

      my grandmother did too and she became attached to her too.

      1. AnujMathur

        @pointsnfigures:disqus @gothamgal:disqus consider giving “robot & frank” a watch. it’s a entertaining movie regardless, but it does hit on the companionship topic that you both mentioned in a very humanizing way.

  4. Brandon Burns

    “We are complicated people. Robots…not so much.”Oozing wisdom.

    1. Gotham Gal


  5. leslie

    I am scared in the present day seeing so many un-present people, may as well be robots. Moms on cells carrying babies like just another accessory, at lunch with folks who’s attention is anywhere but the conversation that could be had. young adults who’s curiosity seems neither deep or broad enough for true connection. Parts are headed there , parts are there already.

    1. Gotham Gal

      seeing parents with small kids walk down the street paying more attention to their phones than their kids always scares me

      1. TanyaMonteiro

        while walking my dog last week a mother was sitting in her car, on the phone, in her drive way, while “the help” tried to get the kids in the back seat. I realise it’s due to a whole other issue here in SA, but still, technology plays a part even in this part of the world.

  6. TPKF

    With over 7 billion people on the planet, this trend towards robots for company speaks to how painfully disconnected we are that we can’t find connection with each other. Loneliness shouldn’t be as pervasive as it is with so many people all around us. What’s the bridge?

    1. Gotham Gal

      interesting. there is no doubt that technology has shown us how much we are all trying to connect differently…i.e. social media.

  7. Jeff Jones

    I’m looking forward to seeing the movie. This article from Smithsonian Mag also made me stop and think ‘where are we going’ with technology http://www.smithsonianmag.c

    1. Gotham Gal


  8. William Mougayar

    The robots I’m afraid of are like these ones, used for military purposes.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Ironically, I’d rather see robots getting blown up than people or animals. Israel has developed robots that can clean a mine field. Imagine sending them in before anything else. We are getting closer to Star Wars than you think. The Navy has an electromagnetic laser gun….it works. Reagan’s vision of being able to protect the country against incoming missiles is soon to be real. With the crazies in N. Korea and Iran, we will need it.

      1. William Mougayar

        Of course, they can be effective going after the bad guys, but what if the bad guys get a hold of them too?In Toronto, the police blew up a suspicious package a month ago via a small robot that did the work, and we saw it on TV.

  9. TanyaMonteiro

    The reference you make to old people and companions made me think that even dog’s may slowly loose their place.Overall I do believe we/humans play a part in how tech develops and in some ways its our responsibility to share/keep the importance of human contact.

  10. Mariah Lichtenstern

    Just watched Trancendence with Johnny Depp. Set in Berkeley, it is fascinating given the the emergence of sensors, smart dust, and of course, AI. If you’ve not seen it, you might enjoy it as much as I did.