Love me, love my bot. Yes, it’s true; for many of us, it’s beyond an attachment to a phone or mobile device. But that’s where it started. We grew up with phones, connected to the global zeitgeist, and we became dependent on them. Co-dependent, you might say, as they couldn’t function without us either.
Then came Alexa, and Siri and Google, but it was Astro that invaded our living rooms in 2021, and followed us around the house. And who could say no to those cute googly eyes? Which is part of the problem. We humans are hard wired to trust things that respond to us in that way. Just think about your pet dog, for instance. Okay, a Labrador is more intelligent than Astro, but still.
Yeah, I know some people in Japan have married their companion robots – even virtual ones – but let’s ignore the whole topic of sexbots for now. Just think how attached the fanboys and gadgetplayers have been for decades to the latest iPhone or Xbox or custom gaming rig, often giving them names like ‘The Beast’ or similar. It’s not just fun, it’s a psychological phenomenon. And think how quick we are to toss out the old device in favour of a new one. Like instant divorce, with no recriminations.
A decade ago, people even got seriously involved with their Roombas, and if the device collapsed, so would they! It’s not just because it’s so cute when your cat takes a ride on the smart vacuum, giving you great Instagram material; you also appreciate the fact that it dependably keeps your floors clean. You trust it like you would a long-serving domestic helper, so it becomes part of the family.
And that’s the problem with robots and trust. As long as they work the way they should, we’re happy to trust them. But if they behave irrationally, or worse still, get hacked and spy on us, that trust can evaporate in an instant. Which can be traumatic for kids, so be prepared for some robo-counseling when things go wrong.
But for now I’m in love with my home bot. And for the companies who make them, that’s great news – and big business!