In Star Wars, the real hero might be R2D2 — the only character who makes it through all six episodes without falling to the “dark side” of the force. R2D2 is a robot, but everyone in the film treats “him” like a person, even commending him for “bravery.” As viewers, we don’t have a problem with that. R2D2 was Jim’s favorite character — he even had a stuffed animal version of the robot to sleep with.
But as real robots become more a part of society, will we form human bonds with them? It’s already happening; the Washington Post has the details. U.S. soldiers who regularly use robots as minesweepers or for other battle duties do form connections with the bots:
“Sometimes they get a little emotional over it,” Bogosh says. “Like having a pet dog. It attacks the IEDs, comes back, and attacks again. It becomes part of the team, gets a name. They get upset when anything happens to one of the team. They identify with the little robot quickly. They count on it a lot in a mission.”
The bots even show elements of “personality,” Bogosh says. “Every robot has its own little quirks. You sort of get used to them. Sometimes you get a robot that comes in and it does a little dance, or a karate chop, instead of doing what it’s supposed to do.” The operators “talk about them a lot, about the robot doing its mission and getting everything accomplished.” He remembers the time “one of the robots happened to get its tracks destroyed while doing a mission.” The operators “duct-taped them back on, finished the mission and then brought the robot back” to a hero’s welcome.
Fascinating stuff, and even more fascinating when we realize where robotics is headed. We discussed some of the implications on CogDaily last year. As robots become more involved in personal care, as nurses, maids, and nannies, it will almost certainly be difficult for us not to see them as humans. The implications are staggering, and we’ll continue to follow this thread on CogDaily as it develops.