Why We Have An Emotional Connection To Robots

from TED

We’re far from developing robots that feel emotions, but we already have feelings towards them, says robot ethicist Kate Darling, and an instinct like that can have consequences. Learn more about how we’re biologically hardwired to project intent and life onto machines — and how it might help us better understand ourselves.

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29 Responses to Why We Have An Emotional Connection To Robots

  1. Aaliyah W October 25, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

    If you asked individuals years ago what robots were, they would probably have no clue and look at you as if you were crazy. But if you asked someone this day in age, they could talk about movies, television shows and new inventions that were created featuring robots. We do not realize how much technology is increasing and with that came the creation of these robots. Nowadays they are created to pick up the slack of us humans, just like the many machines we use. Instead of taking the extra minutes to make our coffee ourselves, we would rather just throw it into the coffee. As technology continues to increase, I see robots and machines running the world using us as their own machines, and not the other way around. Robots are and will be completely more advanced than us. I see them taking our jobs, which is our only source of money. If they could do things in a matter of seconds and efficiently, what is the need for us? In the future there will be robots making robots. Robots are basically like humans and Kate Darling discusses why she feels as though we have an emotional connection to them.

    One phrase that stood out to me by Kate Darling was, “They’re reflections of our own humanity”. Robots are indeed reflections of our own humanity. Robots are just like us humans, although they cannot feel, they are still a part of our society and will be a part of our future. Just as Darling stated, that is the reason why we are gentle and have an emotional connection towards them. We built them, so why would we want them broken or destroyed. For example, when your phone falls on the ground you are almost anxious to see if your screen cracked and are willing to go to the store and get it fixed. Just as if you were to break your arm, you would go to the doctor and get a cast for it to heal. But I wonder if the reason we fix these robots are for the sake of the technology being saved or for our own personal needs. Most of us cannot leave without these types of technology and robots. We become so content and hold them to a higher standard than ourselves.

    All in all, robots are our future and we do have an emotional connection to them as Kate Darling mentions on her Ted talk.

    • Marissa Sarden October 29, 2018 at 12:01 am #

      In the Ted Talk, “Why We Have An Emotional Connection To Robots,” by Kate Darling expresses her fascination with Robots. Darling questions herself about having maternal feelings toward a robot. She discusses how the military uses robots to drag themselves along into fields and blow up and how the sergeants called it off because of his feelings towards it (Darling). Consumers even have connections towards robots that vacuum their house and even those with facial features.
      When objects have physical features, human characteristics, and sensors that make them aware of their surroundings can make humans have a connection towards them. Even though robots do not have feelings, our reactions towards them are embedded in our daily lives. Robots have multiple purposes that assist in the value of consumer lives which cause the attachment. Consumers put life into machines and create an emotional attachment to it.
      One of the devices that cause an emotional attachment is our cell phones. There is a need to always have it around, talk to it, and to rely on it to make consumers lives better. Cellphones might not have facial features or physical characteristics but personally, I couldn’t destroy my phone because of the emotional attachment I have with it. Cell phones are kind of like a piece of an organ. Without the device, consumers become completely uncomfortable. Cellphones are a mental and physical attachment and it affects consumers in their work and school lives. Cellphones create an accessory that humans who are more tech-savvy need in order to function normally based on societal norms.

      • marissa sarden October 29, 2018 at 12:02 am #

        In the Ted Talk, “Why We Have An Emotional Connection To Robots,” by Kate Darling expresses her fascination with Robots. Darling questions herself about having maternal feelings toward a robot. She discusses how the military uses robots to drag themselves along into fields and blow up and how the sergeants called it off because of his feelings towards it (Darling). Consumers even have connections towards robots that vacuum their house and even those with facial features.
        When objects have physical features, human characteristics, and sensors that make them aware of their surroundings can make humans have a connection with them. Even though robots do not have feelings, our reactions towards them are embedded in our daily lives. Robots have multiple purposes that assist in the value of consumer lives which cause the attachment. Consumers put life into machines and create an emotional attachment to it.
        One of the devices that cause an emotional attachment is our cell phones. There is a need to always have it around, talk to it, and to rely on it to make consumers lives better. Cellphones might not have facial features or physical characteristics but personally, I couldn’t destroy my phone because of the emotional attachment I have with it. Cell phones are kind of like a piece of an organ. Without the device, consumers become completely uncomfortable. Cellphones are a mental and physical attachment and it affects consumers in their work and school lives. Cellphones create an accessory that humans who are more tech-savvy need in order to function normally based on societal norms.

  2. Amy Rheel October 26, 2018 at 11:58 am #

    This is a very interesting TED talk that made me open my eyes for what was already in front of my face. Meaning this connection we have towards robots has already began and has taken over our society. We as a human society are completely attached and fully reliable to our technologies. We look to our phones and computers to bring us news, entertainment, information at our demand and a way to connect to our loved ones. People have full relationships through their technologies in order to reach one another. My phone is the last thing I put down when I sleep and the first thing I pick up in the morning; that sounds like a very committed relationship/ addiction to technology. If individuals are not getting what they need from another humane we turn to the robots to receive the emotion we are missing. For example if I have no plans, I turn to my laptop to watch Netflix. The way a notification affects our brains is very similar to winning a game when gambling, it gives off a high in our brains that creates the addiction. Our dependency on robots is frightening as it seems like we do not know how to balance the emotion away from the technology. As in imagine how many times someone has gotten frustrated or upset when their phone isn’t working, we should be able to move on from this because it should not consumes our lives so much that we cannot go one day without them. We go to technology for what we are not receiving from human interactions, while instead we should be focusing on fixing those interactions we have with humans instead of turning to the robots.

  3. Alex Fialkowsky October 26, 2018 at 12:14 pm #

    To be completely honest, I have watched a fair amount of sci-fi movies that all tell me we are heading on the wrong path. But all jokes aside, I do feel that with the growing progress of robotic intelligence there will arise issues in regards to respect and treatment of these machines. As explained in the TED talk, robots have a very strong presence in our society today that will continue to progress with human necessity. In my opinion, I feel that these autonomous robots must have a limit as to how far they are allowed to progress in “human behavior” so that some of these issues mentioned could be avoided. These creations are meant to be tools, whether for comforting a child or defusing land mines, they all have purpose. We must acknowledge the purposes of these robots and not see them as more than what they are. However, upon saying this, I do also feel that these machines deserve proper respect for the jobs they are undertaking. The point I am trying to make is that we must find an equilibrium between tools and companions for these machines to give them the proper amount of respect, as well as not prioritizing issues that the robot would not even be considering.
    A perfect example of a middle ground that must be established is in regards to bomb defusing robots. These machines help save human lives by detecting and defusing explosives. In the TED talk the woman mentions a story of a commander who ordered a bomb defusing robot to stop in order to prevent the robot from inflicting any more damage to itself. To be fair I believe it was only a demonstration, not a real dangerous situation. However, if it were a real situation of life and death, the commander should have never stopped the robot. Human life, or life in general, should always be prioritized over machine, alive or not. Machines can be replicated, but when a human life is lost, that individual cannot be recreated and will live on only in memories.
    The expansion of technology is inevitable, so proper measures must be taken now to account for these changes in the future. Hypothetically speaking, if in the near future most households possessed humanoid robots that served as helping hands around the house, there should be laws put in place to protect these robots for many reasons. First of which being that if harmed, would be a destruction of property and most likely an expensive one at that. On top of this I also agree with the TED talk when I say that human violence towards autonomous or humanoid robots could be a very big red flag for that individual. By this I mean the person harming the robot could be pretending that the robot is in fact alive, meaning this person desires taking life. Destroying autonomous robots is not a healthy substitute for murder, in fact it probably would amplify these tendencies. To prevent this, I feel that if these robots were to exist, they should be treated primarily as tools or machines, as intended, but they must also have rights to their protection, like humans, for the fact that people “killing” these robots could be a sign of something much worse.

  4. Nicole Faerber October 26, 2018 at 2:07 pm #

    All of my life I have owned a dog. They were apart of my life and seen as family. One year for Christmas I got a robot dog toy. Even though I was young I knew the difference between my pet dog and my robot dog. However, I still treated the robot dog how I would treat my real dog. I did not play roughly with it, I pet it when it whimpered, I walked it, and gave it treats. I was empathetic to this piece of technology. I think that is really important especially as technology advances and becomes more integrated into our lives. Humans especially Americans tend to personify and give life to things that in definition are not considered alive. I believe that this has caused the ability to help people. Not only do people personify robots like said in the video, but people often do this with cars. My mother has a car that is as old as me. My family loves that car. It will not be a happy day the day we have to replace it. I think the reason because is that it has become a part of our life. My mom always called it her baby, and I feel the need to treat it with respect. I have a love for it, and it pains me to know that it is older. It will one day not run. To me watching this car break down is like watching a grandparent get older and older. I think this all stems from me being an empathetic person. I think that human’s ability to project an emotion a biological reason to connect with unliving things is so important.
    All of my life I have treated something not living as if it was. I believe this is why I am an empathetic person. I do not think it is weird, it helped me grow into the person I have become. Kate Darling in this TED talk reassured me that it is not weird, it is indeed human. I think that it can help a lot of people grow in ways that living beings might not enable. For example, kids with disabilities, sometimes are too rough. They do not understand that their touch might hurt. This is where a robot can come in. A robot dressed up like a dog will allow the child to experience the emotions and empathy of having a pet, without putting an actual living animal in any kind of danger. It does not just have to be kids who experience the help. Robots could provide comfort to adults who cannot have pets for whatever reason. As technology in robots grow and they act more and more human-like, I believe for the average person it is important. It is important for people to feeling and treating the robot like it is alive. I think that is what makes humans desire peace. It is the understanding and respect that we give to things that are not alive that help us grow. Even in the video, Kate mentioned that robots in the military were being treated as soldiers getting medals, funerals. She said this could be dangerous, and I understand that our emotions towards these robots could put real human lives in danger. But the minute robots and inanimate things becoming nothing more but things to us will be disastrous. I believe the amount of empathy humans have will decrease, we will become more unsensitive to the violence that already occurs in the world.
    Humans formed relationships with animals at first to jobs, and as a tool. But then we noticed they were alive, and they were like us. This changed our entire dynamic and how most live now. It created a better world. I believe if we can do the same thing with robots, and continue to expand their abilities, the world will change for the better. Empathy towards robots will not hurt us more than it is going to help us.

  5. Amber Stile October 26, 2018 at 2:20 pm #

    This was such a fascinating TED talk to watch. I related to every word that Kate Darling said, from my reaction when the robotic dinosaur was hanging upside down to not wanting the battlefield robot to explode. I agree with her research and her examples. When she mentioned the question of parents scolding their child for kicking a robotic dog, my reflex reaction was yes they should be punished because that reinforces the behavior. In reality, “abuse” of technology, should not cause that reaction. If a child hit a computer, I would scold them because it’s expensive, not because I would worry about that causing them to want to hit a human.

    These blooming reactions to robots make me wonder about our future, as technology continues to advance and our empathy grows. Robots have evolved from our assistants to our friends, and that doesn’t seem right to me. I don’t understand the reasoning of having robots look like humans, because it just fosters that empathy. “We feel bad when the Roomba gets stuck under the couch” – we, as humans, are sad for a robotic vacuum getting stuck while doing it’s job. Let that sink in. It sounds ridiculous but it’s an emotional response we have no control over. While this may assist human interaction in the coming years, particularly with children who may not socialize as much in person, it also leads to replacing human functions, such as with autistic children. I understand that scientists were able to program a robot to interact with autistic children in ways that doctors were not, but now that child will better relate to a robot than a human. This could negatively affect them more moving forward because they will lack human trust and want to associate more with robots.

    As people, our duty is to ensure that we maintain relationships with each other, not shove other humans into robotic relationships because we gave up on establishing that connection. I think the same applies to elderly care and using robotics to assist. It’s one thing to have a robot prepare certain aspects of life (cleaning the house, making the bed, etc) but it’s another to have a robot maintain a relationship with a grandparent rather than the children. I know the intentions are good, but I feel as though the actual affects will be opposite to what we envisioned. I think we rely too much on robots and need to reaffirm human connection before we jump into a different one.

  6. Brandon Ruiz October 26, 2018 at 5:05 pm #

    According to Kate Darling’s Ted Talk, humans project intent and life onto machines. She used examples such as a children’s toy, a Roomba, and the paro baby seal robot. I understand why a person would get attached to certain machine simply due to the autonomous nature of some pieces of technology. When a piece of technology starts moving by itself immediately as human beings we are intrigued by it. The reason why we’re intrigued by it is because we’re interested in how an inanimate object can seem so lifelike. As human beings our capacity for empathy is enormous.

    The movie Real Steel is a good barometer for how much human beings can actually connect with machines. The movie is about a guy who used to be a boxer who now works in the robot boxing industry. Throughout the movie his son persists on keeping a robot that they found in a junkyard. It was found by an expert to be a very old sparing robot that wasn’t worth much. The expert said that the robot wasn’t worth more than it would be worth to sell its part separately. However, the kid persisted on and didn’t allow them to throw out the robot. Because the robot could move like a human and because it was made in the shape of a human, it made it easy for the boy to sympathize with it. The guy and his boy spend time throughout the movie training the robot. In a way the training can be seen as a type of bonding between the robot and the two human beings who were its owners.

    A story like the one in Real Steel related to a lot of peoples’ hearts in that the audiences who went to watch the film really connected with this robot. If no one connected with the robot in the movie then the movie itself would not have done well. Judging from the fact that the movie has made over 300 million dollars worldwide since its release in 2011 it is easy to see that humans can feel empathy for robots. Even if we don’t know it yet, it is possible. If we see a robot acting in autonomous ways we are going to relate that thing to being human in our minds in some sort of fashion. The way that we are intrigued when a Roomba moves as it cleans our house, the way a children’s toy works, and the paro baby seal robot is a result of them all showing some form of autonomy in the way that they function. I think that that fact all ties back into the yearning that we have as human beings to connect. Even if it isn’t the same thing as connecting with another human being, robots have the ability to connect with the human yearning for connection.

  7. Petar Micevski October 26, 2018 at 5:55 pm #

    The way that Kat Darling was able to change the common questions about robots and emotions is astonishing. Throughout any robot’s life, people’s big question about them was whether or not robots could evolve emotions. However, the emotional aspect of the robot isn’t in the robot itself. It is found in the way that people react to the robot which makes the robot “develop” feelings and emotions. When humans see anything that resembles autonomous movement and activity, they are naturally wired to respond either in the ethos or pathos manner. An example that made me think about such events is ventriloquism. What makes ventriloquist acts so successful is the incorporation of ethos and pathos for the audience. Even though the audience knows that the person is the one saying something, it is through the audience’s imagination and emotion which makes them get a personal attachment to the puppet. But does it work the other way around?
    We must remember that a robot is at its core made up of 0’s and 1’s. In my opinion, a robot could never reach to the full potential of a human because, in order to do that, you must be able to quantify emotions into algorithms, and some algorithms are too complex to code. The one case I can think of would be the gut feeling. A gut feeling is something that you cannot program because coding takes data from previous trials and uses that to make a decision. However, gut feelings sometimes make the person stay in the middle of a gray area. A robot cannot experience this type of feeling because, in order for somebody to program it, we must first understand how and why it comes from us naturally. That is why Kate Darling stated that in her time studying technology, she has studied psychology more than actual technology. The last part that she brought up towards the end also made me raise a couple of questions. Personally, I believe that if we allow people to beat up robots because it is “not the real thing”, it would be morally wrong because people would be exercising their “cruelty muscles”. If we accepted such a notion to go through, that would mean that beating a robot up wouldn’t be morally wrong since people are able to do it. This would not only imply violent behavior but would also vouch for it.
    All in all, robots are made to better humans. The reason why we connect with them is that we feel our own presence of humanity in them. Through a pathos and ethos emotion, we care for robots as if they were real, even if they are a program from another person.

  8. RJC-Rider October 26, 2018 at 6:09 pm #

    This is hands down one of the most interesting topics I have ever seen. This concept of feeling emotion and empathy towards non living objects is something I have never really heard verbalized and yet I can definitely relate to this topic. Like most people, technology has become an interconnected necessity in my life. I have begun to notice how much I personify technology and treat it as if it has feelings. For example, when using siri, the iphone AI, I find myself saying “thank you” to it after it answers a question. This is somewhat silly when one considers that the appreciation I showed in the form of a “thank you” really has no meaning to the machine and shouldn’t have any meaning to me. After all, my phone is really just a bunch of computer parts. Even the AI itsself I automatically assign a female gender to simply because of the tone of its voice; but again this is a software, it does not have a sex so this gender assignment has no backing.
    I find this interesting for another reason regarding how we view living and nonliving things (as a disclosure, I am atheist and very much devoted to the science community so I apologize for any possible bias). At the end of the day, life is built on atoms. Specifically, living things share common characteristics of combined atoms such as DNA, RNA, amino acids, lipids, and proteins, but these are all made up of atoms. Robots too are also made up of atoms and yet we deem these things to be nonliving beings because they do not fit the scientific definition of life. What we classify as living and nonliving are both made up of atoms and chemical compounds. We just find the big bags of atoms that fit our classification of life as living. With this understanding in mind, I think it is understandable for people to empathize with something we consider nonliving because it is simply a different set of atoms functioning in a way we usually see our atoms function. Furthermore, when people look at another living object they probably seldom consider that it is just a complex of atoms; no, they view it as a living thing because it acts like a living thing. It can move, feel pain, respond to stimuli etc. And when a robot can elicit a cry of distress and act like a living thing, we aren’t thinking about it as a bunch of parts made of different atoms, we are viewing it as we view lifeforms. I look forward to hear more about this growing area of interest!

  9. Marco V. October 26, 2018 at 7:49 pm #

    Robots are part of our everyday lives and we are emotionally connected to them. One very simple example is our smartphones. These handheld robots facilitate our everyday lives by providing us a means of communication as well as different apps for entertainment. When our phones fall and the screen cracks, we tend to get emotional and upset because the device got “hurt”. As seen in the TED video, military personnel get emotionally attached to their robots when used for detecting explosive devices. It is still painful to watch their creations get injured, but it is far better than having human lives taken away. Kate Darling also mentioned a study of how the dinosaur received an emotional attachment from the people in the groups. As humans, technology intrigues us and we build an emotional connection because it is something we have not experienced before. We can also relate the dinosaur to having a pet such as a dog and we would never hurt our pets. In this case nobody wanted to hurt a robotic dinosaur.

  10. Nicholas Stefanelli October 26, 2018 at 8:06 pm #

    This was a very interesting Ted talk. I feel as humans we evolve constantly, but this is in the wrong direction. I am all for building Ai and robots. What I am not for is the human population to develop feelings for them. At the end of the day, they are just mechanical parts that we create to do certain tasks. I feel we are getting into a very gray area of our culture. We hear about people falling in love with nonliving objects all the time but this is not the case. This is something that can act and react but not in the same ways as you and I would in certain situations. I think people are going to get the idea that we can create humanity.
    We cannot create humanity. Robots can be intelligent and self-aware as much as a pet can. An adult dog, for example, has shown that it can only understand a few things, most of them pack/hierarchy related. A dog seems to understand love, but really, it only understands action and reward and respects the pecking order. It must have this order to be happy. This is not so different from a small child. They cannot feel complex emotions like embarrassment or regret, for example. They just look like they do feel human emotions and humans anthropomorphize them.
    A fully functioning robot cannot “feel”, even though we want to believe they could. The emotions would be fake, even if you could recreate the entire human brain and central nervous system electronically. This is not a new puzzle.
    It seems many people have strong feelings about it. It is a very delicate question because it suggests that humans can create something as smart and care as themselves outside of natural procreation. Most high-end AI people I have met say they can make a robot pretend, but you will never get a vibe from them.
    In conclusion, this whole thing has made me think of the movie her. I think if people watch this movie they will understand where I am coming from. We as humans should not be trying to find comfort with robots.

  11. Kent Flores October 26, 2018 at 8:51 pm #

    In the TED Talk “Why We Have An Emotional Connection To Robots” by TED, we are brought into a conversation about emotional attachments towards robots. We live in a world where automated technology has advanced so far that are able to create robots that can react in ways that seem to make them alive. The speaker then goes on to give examples of people who have interacted with robots and have reacted to these life like machines as if they were actually alive. She puts out an analogy of animals being closely related to these automated robots as in we can either use them as tools and or household spaces. The most compelling example that hit home was when she explained about an incident in which a strong hearted colonel had the task of seeing a robot in the testing field getting blown up by minefields and carrying itself all the way to the end. The colonel ended up cancelling the field test, because he felt like it was completely immoral to have the automated robot go through with blowing itself up. This shows that humans are extremely hard wired to give anything that moves or reacts to their favor as if it had a life of its own. This is just the beginning of how human interactions can be affected by automated robots. The future is sure to hold more automated robots that are going to be more and more integrated into all of our lives and even if they do not feel anything, we give them life like feelings through our empathetic human nature. These robots can open up gates of new robot laws that protect these objects; laws that resemble those of animal cruelty protection laws. I can relate to what the speaker said when she compared her experience to saving a struggling automated baby dinosaur to my first time interacting with the Amazon Echo, Alexis. I was rude to Alexis, because it did not do what I instructed it to do, and I later caught myself apologizing to the machine. If everyone is just like me and I am just like everyone, then we as a human race are about to have new companions that will rome this Earth with us; those companions being automated Human Robots.

  12. Jake Malek October 26, 2018 at 11:52 pm #

    This was one of the most interest ted talks that I’ve listened to. Kate’s first encounter described with the electronic dinosaur is something many children have felt with non-robotic items. When she first described the dinosaurs crying manor and her reaction, I could only believe she was introducing the study behind the crying baby voice and how that triggers a maternal instinct. Rather, Kate went on to describe human’s reaction to life like cues in a non-living object.

    Two very interesting points that she brought up during her presentation included a person resisting the destruction of the robot. As an outsider, I am easily able to claim how stupid it sounds for a army soldier to deny the use of robots with disposable legs due to emotional issues. I thought this reasoning was completely invalid and ridiculous in regards to the soldiers hesitant to use the robot. But, after really thinking about the situation and envisioning the suffering robot, I could understand them not using it which is even crazier. After I imagine the situation I feel the same way as the soldier even though we both know it is only a robot!

    I think this emotional connection to robots is a topic that should be researched into more before the world fully accepts the implementation of everyday robotic use. As Kate mentions at the end of her presentation, human’s action toward robots have effects on the individual’s behavior towards living items. There needs to be research done on how these two are correlated and the effects of different emotions and actions towards robots. If robots are going to be used by some of our most vulnerable citizens (people in hospitals) then the results and lasting effects should be researched more.

  13. Victor Prieto October 31, 2018 at 8:57 pm #

    Kate Darling did a great job explaining something that not many think about. The example she started with describing the robot is a metaphor to what happens in real life. By holding the robotic dinosaur from the tail and watching it suffer is a direct mirror image of how babies squirm when they are held upside down. In 2007, the Washington Post wrote about a robotic product being used to detect mines. After the colonel decided it was inhumane to watch the robot drag itself along the mine field and eventually blow up, Darling dug even further into the research of humans wanting to treat any moving being in our presence with respect and a desire to make it happy. Before Darling brought up the analogy of our relationship with animals, that was the first thing that I thought of. In other cultures, animals such as dogs are looked at as food. However, in the United States, we obsess over giving dogs a better life and loving them as pets. This is a direct analogy of animals, living beings, having people want to love them.
    The use of robots to engage kids in learning is a sign that Darling is correct, and we are headed in a direction to care for robots. Darling’s research is what makes this TED talk easy to relate to. This raises some great points regarding the direction we are headed in in having empathy for beings that have similar reactions to humans. I can personally relate to this while growing up in a household where the majority of animals are treated as foods, and not pets. My parents were born and raised in Ecuador, a South American country where certain animals are used during a big celebration for food. For example, during many important holidays, guinea pigs are treated as food only. Growing up in America, I own two guinea pigs and treat them with the same empathy that I treat humans with. This is a prime example of the difference in cultures in both countries. In the United States, caring for robots and moving beings shows where we are headed. My sister even grew up in this household and turned out to be vegetarian: Not because she did not enjoy the foods we ate growing up, but because of her love and empathy for animals.
    Both are examples of us having feeling and love for moving beings, as Darling states during her TED talk. It is our responsibility to care for the things that we use. Great talk by Darling bringing something imperative to everybody’s intention.

  14. Peter Duca November 1, 2018 at 8:12 am #

    Robots and automation are increasingly becoming more prevalent in how we perform everyday tasks. Whether it be the coffeemaker, the automated vacuum, the Smart TV, or a child’s doll, robots are everywhere in our lives. The TED Talk talks about how humans tend to project their emotions onto robots in order to create a purpose or “story” for them to make them more relatable. Many people in studies, however, have taken their emotional attachment to robots to a new level, exposing the power robots have over us due to our attachment to them. Robots for household items are becoming “part of the household,” not just a tool used to assist in performing tasks. While the convenience brought upon these machines are great, people need to seriously evaluate the emotional stake they put into their machines because it could negatively affect the way we interact with other people and we could lose touch with reality.

    The risk of robotics and consumer privacy and protection are high; robots could be utilizing voice recognition, conversation listening, and other data collection programs to acquire consumers’ data. If we become too emotionally attached to our robots, we will rely on them too much and expose ourselves to companies that will be utilizing our private data to generate revenues. Robots could change the way our society interacts with each other in the future; our emotional attachment to robots might be so high that we incorporate laws to protect the rights of robots. While some of these conclusions might seem extreme, the TED Talk supports these ideas and provides stark evidence to suggest that this is a direction our society is heading in. As people, we need to understand the role of robotics in our society. Robots are good to assist us in tasks and interact with us to make our lives easier; we should not be growing emotionally attached to machines that we rely on. People need to remember that a robot is only as powerful as the humans who leverage its capabilities.

  15. Eyal Kleiman November 1, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

    I understand her feelings towards the robot dinosaur when it starts to squirm upside down. It is basic human nature to want to take care of something and protect something that is yours. That being said, this machine cannot feel, it cannot think, it can only do what it was programmed to do. Just like with the mine testing robot, it was the colonel who let emotions best him watching the robot lose “limbs”. The robot knows no pain. Now, the colonel makes a good point saying that it is too inhumane to watch the robot slowly lose it’s limbs and continue, but that is its’ primary objective, without which, the robot is nothing. Robots run on directives and code, not blood, sweat and tears. I never want to see the day where a fully conscious robot walks the earth alongside man. The internet itself is already a dangerous tool that most people abuse or do not understand. If you put that knowledge into a machine that can comprehend it all, then the human race is done for. I do not love or care for my technological possessions because they mean something to me, I care for them because of their monetary value, and that is all. The advancement of technology is more a threat to our existence as a race than it is a savior. Sure many tasks are more easily accomplished now, and things in general can be handled more swiftly, but think of all that we have lost in the pursuit of convenience. For this so called “freedom” we have lost a great deal in security, both individually and nationally.

  16. Jaden Tate November 1, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

    After watching this TED talk, I have come to the realization that we as humans do have a special place in our hearts for those things that are said to have somewhat realistic characteristics. In the video when she had spoken about the study that she had done with the different groups in the baby dinosaurs, I was shaking. I felt as though I was there and I genuinely felt sorry for the dinosaur that got his head chopped off. One thing that I would have done differently if I were in the study was that I would have gotten up and rushed over to kill someone else’s dinosaur to ensure the safety of my own dinosaur. Though my instincts are different from others, I feel as though protecting the safety of my robot was more important than the safety of the other robots. With the advancement of robots, becoming more realistic there is almost a sense that they are somewhat real. We subconsciously believe that these objects have feelings and can processes how humans can when in reality they do not. Yet, we are unable to detach ourselves from thinking that these pieces of plastic or steel or rubber have feelings. I enjoy how they are implementing the use of robots in places such as nursing homes. My grandmother has been diagnosed with Parkinsons and Alzheimers and has been living in a nursing home going on 5 years now. With so many patients to treat and take care of it is hard to ask for a nurse to spend particular time with my grandmother. The robot that represents a therapy dog is very convenient in the sense that they give companionship when those need it most. Often times in homes like this they stick two people in a room and separate them with a curtain because of this they have little communication with each other if they can communicate. These dogs can give them a sense of comfort when their loved ones are not there. It also allows for them to tap into the instincts that they had when they were not sick. Abilities such as for women they can tap into their motherly instincts and put it into the robot. By using these robots, it allows for the patients to grow and remember how they were before they had gotten sick. For example, before my grandmother had gotten to the point of no memory, she was able to remember peoples name when presented with a picture. Now she cannot even communicate with us but I feel as though if she had a robot companion things would have turned out differently.

  17. Sophia Bjerregaard November 1, 2018 at 6:20 pm #

    The idea of robots instilling empathetic emotions on humans is a scary idea to think about. I understand where Kate Darling is coming from when she said that empathy toward robot animals translates towards empathy toward actual animals. However, robots are always something that I’ve always been hesitant about. Certain robots are completely useless. For example, the rumba robot, which vacuums peoples floors automatically for them. This robot seems completely useless because it just does the work that someone is too lazy to do themselves. It’s small tasks like vacuuming that scientists have created to do for us, pretty soon robots will take care of us completely. In this scenario we would be reliant on robots and they would almost be superior to us. I hope that the evolution of robots in our day to day lives never happens or at least happens after I am dead.

  18. Michelle Vekshteyn November 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

    I like how Kate Darling started the TED talk with the example of the dinosaur being held upside down. She knew exactly that the dinosaur was programmed to start crying if it was being held upside down, because it had a sense of direction. Yet, she felt bad for it and after hearing it cry she wanted to put it back down and started to pet it to comfort it to stop crying even though it was a toy. She thought that it was weird that she felt the need to be kind to it even though it was a toy. She discovered that in a world where there is an increase in robots, this could have consequences. A second example that she gave was how the military used a robot to test a field to see if there were explosives, and as the robots legs blew off, the colonel called it off because it was “inhumane” to watch this… even though it is a robot. I think that the most interesting conclusion that she came up with from these observations is that, “well of course we’re primed by science fiction and pop culture to really want to personify these things, but it goes a little bit deeper than that. It turns out that we’re biologically hardwired to project intent and life onto any movement in our physical space that seems autonomous to us. So people will treat all sorts of robots like they’re alive…”
    I think that what she is saying is very true. With inventions like Amazon’s Alexa, Siri, etc. I think its almost humorous the way people talk to them. I honestly feel awkward talking to Alexa, but my five year old nephew talks to her like she is another person in the room. That being said, the fact that the robot has such a normal human name. Darling states that we are far from having robots that will feel things, but the main concern is that we feel for them. We use robots in our every day lives now and in some cases robots can replace human care. I think that this is so interesting, but the emotional attachments that we have towards them can also bring trouble in the future.

  19. Hannah Roselli November 2, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

    I chose to blog about this topic because Robots are becoming a bigger part of the world today, you always hear about new robots being created and new software being put into said robots to make them more and more like humans, and develop more and more of human communications, understandings, social traits, etc. The title stuck out to me also which is why I decided to click this link because I never would have thought that humans could possibly have an emotional connection to a robot… I mean, how could they?

    This video started with a woman named Kate telling us how she had her friend hold a little dinosaur robot upside down—it was called a pleo. She was showing her friend the robot and asked the friend to hold it upside down, and since the robot has a source of center it knows what direction it was being help in it begins to cry when you hold it upside-down. Once the dinosaur started to cry she began to feel uncomfortable and asked her friend to put it down and began to put it. Kate says that robots represent us, she specifically says, “They’re reflections of our own humanity”. This really meant something to me because it is true because that is how they are created to be. I can somewhat relate to this because when I was growing up I has connections to my stuffed animals and I hated leaving them alone, and I hated if they fell of the bed or on the floor, I began to feel bad for them as if they had feelings. Obviously, they don’t like robots do because they are just stuffed animals, but I do feel like it is a similar affect.

    Robots now are created to be more and like humans as I previously stated because a lot of jobs can weirdly enough, be completed by robots if they are properly made, so it does make sense that people would emotionally connect to them, and get upset if they are causing pain or uncomfort to the robot. Robots are really becoming a larger part of our future and it is important for people to know how important they are and how similar to us they are being designed.

  20. Abbey Johnson November 2, 2018 at 5:09 pm #

    In the Ted Talk discussed by robot ethicist Kate Darling, she discusses why we have an emotional connection to robots. She brings up a story about she had a Toy Dinosaur when she was younger, that was a robot due to the fact that it moved and responded to certain motions. She brings up how at some point she starts to feel emotion for this toy, even though she knows that it is in fact just a toy. But the fact that when the toy was upside down, it began to cry like an infant, took advantage of your natural instincts to make you feel like you need to care for the toy like you would a person. In her research, she discovered that in a world where are constantly trying to use robots of all kinds to make our lives easier and more convenient, having this sense of emotion towards this technology. She also brings up an interesting point about robots that are used to defuse landmines for the US military. But eventually, this gets called off because Military Officers claimed that it was inhumane. Kate actually brings up an easily relatable point by discussing the Rumba, the robotic vacuum, stating that because of the robot being able to move and function on its own, it is actually hardwired into the human brain to associate personality with things that move, leading to people personifying their Rumba or their Amazon’s Alexa. This is something that we naturally do, and this is helping boost the robotic industry, making it more common in homes and businesses.
    This is similar to how humans have domesticated animals, specifically dogs being companions to humans. She brings up how even though the two are fairly different, they are similar in the aspect that even though dogs have feelings, we take responsibility of interpreting their feelings. In contrast though, robots do not feel anything, so Kate and her fellow roboticist have to feel for the robots. Becoming emotionally attached to Robots is a quite natural thing for humans to do, however robots have been simply been used to replicate animals for those that need support animals, but the specific setting is not applicable for the setting. However, this brings the fear that robots will eventually outsmart us humans, as we are only adding to their knowledge about human nature. However, robots are a way for humans to better understand themselves, as they are seeing a new form of life that has no bias. This is experienced often by new parents when their baby is born, as they instantly feel a connection with the baby, even though they have only just met him/her. The baby has no hate, bias, or anything against anyone, and is sometimes seen as a fresh start for parents. This is similar to when people get a robot toy, vacuum, or even when hospitals use robot animals to help sick patients, this is a way for people to feel closer to something that will always be there for you. An interesting concept she brings up is whether Robots can be used to create empathy to those who lack it? I think that she brings up an excellent point, and I would have to agree that having a robot animal sometimes is appropriate for some children, in order to see how they would interact with a robot dog, before bringing in a real life puppy. This is a way to further prevent incidents, as well as to see the level of empathy your child naturally has. Even though robots are becoming more and more common each day in society, I think it is something that is going to benefit society in the long run. Robots are being used to prevent tragedies, and even help the ill in hospitals. This is an extremely innovative way to help people.

  21. Alexis Job November 2, 2018 at 8:33 pm #

    Kate Darling’s TED talk on the interactions between humans and robots was thought-provoking. The ideas she presented and the approach in which she chose to present them really tapped into the emotions. She expresses her own experiences and thoughts while still presenting her research on the topic, and poses her questions based on the way we “treat” robots and why. Robots are slowly becoming part of everyday life in certain professions, like in the army or in hospitals, as Darling stated. The tasks robots are used to complete often make life easier by providing safety or comfort. Because of the roles they play, people tend to treat the robots with forms of sympathy.

    The display of emotion towards a robot comes from the biological tendencies of humans to feel the need to take care of things smaller than them, or things that provide them some sort of assistance. Not all people will react this way due to their beliefs or how they were raised, but like Darling said: the interaction is comparable to that of companionship between humans and certain animals. With the increasing integration of robots into daily home life, the emotions felt towards the technology may become increasingly more intense.

    Darling uses the example of robots that look like animals being used in place of therapy animals. How will these sorts of robots influence our behaviors in a household setting? Imagine giving a grandparent a robotic therapy dog. The robo dog will provide emotional support and won’t die like a real dog. What other sorts of robots will be able to tap into the different emotions in the human brain? What sorts of classical conditioning efforts can be presented? Can robots be used to promote a more empathetic mindset for children, dependent on what the robot exemplifies?

    The idea of household robots and privacy can also be questioned for any number of reasons. Technology like the Amazon Alexa listen to you when you call them and do as you ask, but do they listen beyond that. What happens when other more interactive AI is introduced into the household? AI that has the access to your household dealings could quite possibly have access to your other information. Again comes the question of who has access to that information and how it will be used.

  22. Rableen Sudan November 2, 2018 at 10:23 pm #

    Kate Darling raises a great thought of humans becoming more and more empathic towards robots or any machine that moves. In the beginning, she shows a video of a dinosaur robot that was becoming uncomfortable and crying when it was held by its tail. As I was watching the video myself, at one point I was feeling uncomfortable. I wanted it to stop because I felt what was happening to that robot was inhumane. Deep down, of course, I knew that it is a machine, but as Darling said, humans have the ability to become emotionally attached to anything that moves. To me, it seemed like that the dinosaur did no wrong and should not be treated unethically. It was just another form of animal cruelty, which I am against.

    Moreover, Darling goes on with the dinosaur example and uses it in a study. Where she put people in various groups and told each group to play with the dinosaur. After a while, she told the group members to torture that same dinosaur. To her surprise, no one agreed to torture their own dinosaur as well as other dinosaurs. Lastly, with no choice left, Darling told everyone that either all the dinosaurs would die or only one had to die. When the one man got up with the hatchet, the whole room winced and then there was a moment of silence. This example shows Darling’s philosophy towards robots being a reflection of our humanity. And this idea is what really speaks to me. Because her study is so much more than robotics, its human nature and how robotics can help humanity and their actions.

    From first-hand experience, I know I have an extraordinary amount of emotional connection to robots or technology. I have a simple round shaped vacuum cleaner that goes around the house and really just vacuums. It is a simple form of technology; yet, my whole family has named it and we are all attached. I remember when my younger sister said, “Let it rest, it worked so hard today.” After listening to Darling’s argument about the ability to form an emotional connection towards robots, I am not surprised. My little sister, just like the rest of my family (myself included), have this attachment. The robot, no matter how simple, is treated as a member. It is like having a pet that doesn’t need to be constantly taken care of. Instead, it is a piece of machine that has just won our heart over because it helps us keep our house clean. Another point to bring up is how much today’s generation is dependent on technology and how much attachment it creates. I know that I treat my car, phone, and even my laptop like they are my children; and these pieces of technology do not even have a friendly face of life like attributes. Again, technology is taking over and if it can help humans become better at treating others, help resolve sickness, or give therapy/support, then imagine what else robotics can bring.

  23. Amanda Nitting November 9, 2018 at 3:25 pm #

    The combination of human psychology and the ways in which humans relate to others are two intricate concepts that keep scientists interested in this field. Kate Darling is the speaker in this particular TED talk where she delves into the connection between robots and humans. There are plenty of movies circulating that touch upon this idea and the type of reactions humans give off to robots. In these types of movies, if a character develops a relationship to the robot they are less likely to do something that would harm it. For example, the movies series, Transformers, accurately depicts this description. During the movie, both the robot and the human create a bond where feelings are displayed on both sides. However, that is not accurate at this time of the world because emotion has not been quantified yet. It is more likely that humans will have feelings for robots than robots developing emotions towards the human.
    Ms. Darling’s first example of what sparked her interest in this matter was the instance with a robotic dinosaur. To think that most people felt bad when they turned the robot upside down because that caused it to cry means that there is some type of connection. A fascinating statement that is made in this presentation is that humans are “biologically hardwired to project intent and life onto machines” because the fact that they are autonomous draws human attention. Also, her study with the dinosaur robots with the groups was interesting to listen to because they had each group name and interact with the robot. Then when asked to destroy the robot, the groups were not capable of completing this task because they had taken a nonliving moving object and personified it into a living creature with emotion. There were other studies with hex bugs that this TED talk mentions and it also reveals that those with high empathy would be more likely to hesitate to hit or harm the bug.
    The correlation between these robotic objects and animals was also mentioned. This can be derived and makes sense because if the robot looks like an animal, then it is easier for a human to think of it in that sense. Even though people recognize these robots as not living, the fact that our brains interpret them as the same to some extent is something to take note of. Robots are used for many tasks such as working with teachers and autistic kids to even assisting doctors. A valid point that is presented in this presentation happens to be when Ms. Darling states “robots plus capitalism equals questions around consumer protection and privacy.” Again, technology has a huge impact on everyone’s life and that means the robots will also have many functions. This could cause for the proper security and protections that need to come along with these items. However, putting that aside, even though they do not feel for humans, humans feel for them which then poses a key question of can robots change people’s empathy? In some regards, I do think that robots can have this impact since humans tend to associate robots are a living thing since they are moving and make noise. Humanity definitely is reflected based on how humans treat robots because if we cannot do a harmful act to a nonliving object then we are less likely to do it to a living thing.

  24. Paul Lee November 9, 2018 at 3:34 pm #

    This TED talk by Kate Darling was very insightful on human and robot relationship. As I read more articles on AI and robots being created around the world, I tend to wonder how people would interact with them on an everyday basis. The facts that Kate Darling points out that humans tend to have empathy towards things we create or towards this robot. When we develop sympathy for a robot, we do not want to hurt them or do anything disrespectful towards them. In our minds, we think we are hurting them, and they feel all of this, we start to feel bad for the robots. There is scientific research that backs up Kate Darling’s point and I was amazed to hear about it.
    First off, I was in shock to listen that Miss Darling conducted a research where she had a variety of groups play with a robotic children dinosaur for about an hour that she mentioned at the beginning of her TED talk. Then when she mentioned she presented hammers and ax for these groups, so they can torture and annihilate the robotic dinosaur. I would have believed at least one group would have destroyed it. However, to my very surprise, all the groups were against destroying it. Each and every participant did not want to harm this tiny robot dinosaur in any way which astonished me.
    It is a fact that robots do not feel pain or have the same feelings as humans but as we connect and establish a relationship with the robot. Humans create an empathy link towards that robot, humans would see the robot as an ordinary human or, in this instant, the robot dinosaur was the same as a real, living dog. Me, personally, I do not know how I would have reacted to smashing a robot dinosaur after spending an intimate hour with it.
    I could definitely see why these different participants could develop a compassion for the small robot. Spending time and playing, you develop heartful warmth for the dinosaur. Kate Darling said it best as these robots could become our pets just like we had domesticated dogs million or a thousand years ago to train them as our companion to complete simple chores.
    Besides human beings creating sympathy for robots, the strongest detail that Kate Darling was the closing sentence of her TED talk. Her words were along the lines of that these robots are not simply gears and algorithms but are the reflection of our own humanity. This is a powerful message that needs to be discussed and I wish more of my peers to understand. Kate Darling is right that these robots are simply a reflection of human humanity because a robot is the collective knowledge or humans first off. The robot will be cultured and taught through human ways. Robots will also be created through human work, through hard work. Through creating a robot, it will be difficult and take long hours so to finally develop it. The creator and his or her robot will have a relationship or at least the creator will have a loving compassion for it. The creator humanity could, a very high chance, reflect in the robot. That is why I believe Kate Darling’s last statement was very strong, hit home and something that should be pondered for the next generation of robot creation and AI.

  25. Vincent A November 9, 2018 at 6:41 pm #

    This was the best, and most interesting, Ted talk idea I have ever seen. It offers an idea, or concept, that I never would have even though of if I hadn’t seen this video. Kate Darling brings up this concept of humans having emotional connections to robots that is actually quite fascinating. I would have to agree that this emotional connection comes from our human connections with animals. The sort of concept that our connections with animals are almost mimicked when it comes to connections with robots. Her example she used about the dinosaur struggling while being held upside down is an example of this. Darling went as far as to pet the robot dinosaur to comfort it. This is a special type of emotional connection that has to stem from some sort of real life relationship, like the relationship between humans and animals. In the grand scheme of things, robots are everywhere with todays technology; a perfect example being the automatic floor cleaner. Is it possible that since these devices move and take actions on their own, humans gain an emotional connection with them, like they are real?

    I agree with her stance on how robots could potentially change the way people behave and feel empathy, especially when she offers the idea that maybe this can help children, and really anyone, with how they interact with people around them. The robots aren’t just robots, they are reflections of other people.

  26. Monique Edward November 9, 2018 at 9:41 pm #

    This TED talk is the most interesting blog post that I have encountered so far. It is incredible how complex a human’s emotions and feelings are towards other humans. It is so fascinating that humans can experience the same feelings towards robots. After watching this video, I also believe that we grow to “love” these robots. My theory for such a strong emotional connection is that we have an appreciation for what this new technology offers us. For example, my iPhone has a name, and I always squeeze it tight and rub it on it back whenever I drop it. As an individual born in 1998, I have seen technology develop so much. I remember a time when finding a movie to watch was difficult, and I have experienced how easy it is now because of the Internet. Seeing robots develop into therapy aids and companions allows me to value this new technology much more. With that being said, positive feelings towards robots would only become stronger with time due to better technology advancements.

    I also found it interesting that one’s humanity can be judged through robot interaction. In the study, the speaker stated that she asked the group that played with the toy dinosaur to destroy it after an hour of interaction but they refused. Is the person who smashed the toy dinosaur more inhumane than the ones who did not? It is a valid question because the older generations that are not as open to robots may look at it as just an inanimate object. Therefore, their view of robots should not be judged based on their lack of experience with this technology.

  27. Tyler Peteraf November 16, 2018 at 5:45 pm #

    Normally when we think of robots it’s from the futuristic and science-fantasy viewpoint. However, while maybe not to the extent that we have seen in futuristic movies, robots are starting to become more and more integrated into society. With that could possible come a connection to these robots. Their were various examples in the video that proved this point, the one that stood out the most to me was the example of robot who was supposed to disarm bombs in the military. I think that this really is significant because you wouldn’t expect an emotional connection between a robot a hardened military general. As the video brought up, this connection can almost be seen like the connection that we have to animals, with the exception being that robots are simply not alive. However, even with us knowing this there is still a connection between people and these lifeless things. Is the connection in a way dangerous? I think it very well could be. These robots have duties and various thing they are supposed to do, and I don’t think we should let our emotions get in the way of that.
    With all of that being said, I think the whole premise of this video is somewhat absurd. This supposed connection to various robots that we have is something that I have really yet to see. The video talks people have connections to robots that I really don’t thing are true. For example, I don’t think a lot of people could say that they have genuinely felt bad for a rumba at any point in time. A part of me really just thinks that this video makes our connection to robots something that it really isn’t. Do I believe as robots become more advanced that we will ultimately build a connection to them? Yes. But with the current state of robots today I really don’t see any significant connection between humans and robots.

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