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The Robots Are Coming. Don't Let Them Into the Crib!
Eitan D. Schwarz MD -- ZillyDilly for iPad Eitan D. Schwarz MD -- ZillyDilly for iPad
Wilmette , IL
Monday, August 09, 2010

Jaron Lanier's NY Times August 9 Op Ed "The First Church of Robotics" touches on versions of "If God made man in his own image, and man makes a robot in his own image, is the robot also made in God's image?" and "If the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. What if it a robotic hand?"

Starting with the 2nd century Golem, through Frankenstein, Pinnochio, Harvey, and today's many movies that explore the subject, constructions of humanoids and degregations of humans into humanoids have fascinated us. But technological super-progress  has made these questions super-urgent today,especially for parents raising kids.

As more human-like functions and characteristics become emulated by digital machines, the struggle of many growing children will certainly becomes more difficult to learn the meaning of what is alive and what is fake, what is human and what is machine, and ultimately what is personhood . Shirley Turkle's work at M.I.T. illuminates how robots can easily be confused in both young and old people.

What worries me is that eager merchandisers and tech-eager parents will soon place these digital interactive machines in the cribs and playpens of  very young children. In my Kids, Parents, and Technology, I argue that these practices would be dangerous because they could interfere with the formation of mind/brain functions necessary for becoming a human person --- imagination, creativity, and rich social attachment.

But in other contexts, let's go for it! Intelligent machines can also provide many benefits, from implants that replace body or brain functions absent from injury or disease, to possible robotic companions to those challenged with autistic-spectrum disorders. What we need is an intelligent, thoughtful approach to these tools and great care in how we expose our young children to them.

And leave these humanoids out of cribs and playpens please.
Ellen Leowitz
Dr. S: MyDigitalFamily
Morristown, NJ
(973) 267-0011