Posts Tagged ‘MIT’

Our last week’s reading was “Alone Together” by Sherry Turkle. Due to the fact that I used this reading extensively in my end of term presentation (, I had to dig a bit to find another angle to approach the reading from, and then I came across Turkle’s ideas about robots and technology being “alive enough,” which fascinates me!

In response to the question,

You start the book off with observations from watching people interact with some artificial intelligence that isn’t quite mainstream yet: caretaking robots, robot pets and even robots meant for sex. How do robots relate to digital communication, to that flashing BlackBerry light?

from Meredith Melnick of Time magazine, Sherry Turkle explains,

The reason that I put the robot part first, even though it hasn’t really arrived yet, is that with robots, there’s this new diction of “alive enough.” This generation of kids has something very specific in mind when they say that things are alive enough: “[The robot] is alive enough to be a friend — it’s alive enough to do X with me.” They’re willing to move the whole discussion of what it means to be alive off of the philosophical terrain and onto the pragmatic terrain, where things become alive only for various purposes.

I could imagine the introduction of mass anthropomorphic robotics into society simultaneously causing an uproar and immense gratitude. What could be more convenient than a robot that vacuums for you, right? Or how about one that actually serves as a caregiver for the elderly (a robot that would literally take my job away from me, I might add, being a Care Aide), or even better, a sexual partner that does everything you ask for? I could see these arguments being used by people supporting the convenience and opportunities that anthropomorphic robotics could provide; however, Turkle wisely warns us of the possibility of social collapse with mass “consumption” of technology that is “alive enough.” A company is actively pursuing this angle, introducing us to the “Nao” robot:

There is also the phenomenon of sex robots. A US based company called True Companion LLC has introduced the “Roxxxy” robot, which has,

a laptop connected to cables coming out of its back. It has touch sensors at strategic locations and can sense when it’s being moved. But it can’t move on its own, not even to turn its head or move its lips. The sound comes out of an internal loudspeaker. Douglas Hines, founder of Lincoln Park, N.J.-based True Companion LLC, said Roxxxy can carry on simple conversations. The real aim, he said, is to make the doll someone the owner can talk to and relate to.

‘Sex only goes so far – then you want to be able to talk to the person,’ Hines said. The phrases that were demonstrated were prerecorded, but the robot will also be able to synthesize phrases out of prerecorded words and sounds, Hines said. The laptop will receive updates over the Internet to expand the robot’s capabilities and vocabulary. Since Hines is a soccer fan, it can already discuss Manchester United, he said. It snores, too.  (HuffingtonPost, 2010).

What do you think about “doll love” ?


HuffingtonPost. (2010, March 18). Roxxxy Sex Robot (PHOTOS): World’s First ‘Robot Girlfriend’ Can do More Than Chat. Retrieved from

Melnick, M. (2011, January 10). Is Technology Making Us Lonelier?. Retrieved from,8599,2041714,00.html#ixzz1qY5JrKNr