The holidays are here, and so are the robots. Welcome to the revolution.
Scientists have finally started to catch on.
The Associated Press reported this week that robotics scientists are beginning to wonder about robot/human interaction. As more and more bots enter our daily lives, so will questions of liability and responsibility. While the scientists reassure us that no Terminators are in development (yet), ‘even simpler, benign robots will have legal, social and ethical consequences.’
Eric Horvitz of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence recently commissioned research into robot/human interaction. He told the AP that the study comes partly from his experience of being stuck in a hospital elevator with a large droid.
“I remembered thinking, `Whoa, this is scary,’ as it whirled around, almost knocking me down,” the Microsoft researcher recalled. “Then, I thought, `What if I were a patient?’ There could be big issues here.”
Big indeed. Researchers are concerned with the emotional connection robot-owners might develop with their metallic friends. Think, a flannel sweater as a Christmas present for the little diddums botty named Fifi. Then imagine the marketing campaigns –‘The taste your robot will love! Imagine, and fear.
So, who gets sued when the robots revolt? The company that made them, the homeowners who programmed them?
Or won’t there be any survivors to worry about that?
Let’s invite the droids over for the holidays! With Chanukah already beginning in some parts of the world, robots are joining in the celebration. StarWars.com offers enthusiastic fans instructions on how to make a Droidel. Don’t panic yet–it’s allegedly just a paper cut-out of R2-D2.
For the moment, at any rate. What it might be programmed to do in response to the spinning and the singing of ‘Droidel! Droidel! Droidel!’ is anyone’s guess.
But that’s not the only way robots can join in the holiday. On December 4, Ann Arbor, Michigan, held its grand Holiday Season Kick-off. Featuring, chillingly, singing robots. Or something close.
Downtown Ann Arbor lit up Friday night as shoppers packed the streets and stores, Santa posed for pictures, registers rang like silver bells, dollars flew into Galen buckets and robots sang Christmas (and Hanukkah) carols.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Amid the usual standbys of Santa Claus, donations to charity, and discounted prices, Liberty Robot Supply and Repair Store contributed a robotized flavour. Volunteers and staff costumed themselves as bots and cyborgs, and sang the songs of the season, bot-style.
“Who doesn’t like a good excuse to dress up like robots and sing atonal Christmas and Hanukkah carols, substituting the word robot for angels and dreidls?” said Amy Sumerton, project director and store manager.
That’s interesting. Robots we have heard on high | Sweetly singing o’er the plain? Little robot, spin spin spin? ‘Tis the season, I suppose. As Sumerton explained at the store’s website explains, ‘So please! Join us Friday night so you can heeeeeaaaaaarrrr the robot vooooooooices! O niiiiiiiiight diviiiiiiiiine…’
Liberty Robot Supply and Repair Store has more than just a passing interest for us here at the Paradoxes, as well. They’re a project of 826michigan, a chapter of 826 National, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging children to write.
Even in robotic holiday revolutions, our craft is close on hand.
‘826 was founded on the principle that everyone deserves the opportunity to become a better writer and build a better future,’ says the official website. A better future apparently includes positronic brains, robotic ducks, and two varieties of grasping appendages.
All things we here at the Paradoxes enthusiastically endorse. Perhaps, if you’ve children to keep the holidays with, you can encourage them to write a story of how the robots took over the holidays?
‘All your gifts are belong to us.’
Happy Chanukah. Long live the revolution.