By Vugar Adigozalov
While the possibilities of technological advancements grow, the gap between achievable and regulated widens. Many tech giants compete for leadership in robotic advancement and powerful artificial intelligence (AI) generation. While some argue legislators must control technology, others believe forces like Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hands’ oversee the robotics industry. Without established policy frameworks, the chances that tech companies will become robot ‘masters’ is very high.
Humans get emotionally attached to robots.
Assuming human-robot relationships can self-regulate is naive. It was hard not to get emotional when the mars rover Curiosity sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to itself. When HitchBot’s ‘Can robots trust human beings?’ journey was ended by vandals, social media users bombarded its team with messages of sadness. Social robot Jibo’s goodbye speech and farewell dance left many in mourning.
US soldiers paid tribute to Boomer, a robot designed to seek out and disarm explosives, with a funeral, a 21-gun salute and even a medal of honour.
When Sony discontinued its dog-robots AIBO, Japanese owners went above and beyond to keep their robot pets alive with the support of an ‘electronic veterinarian.’ When it was impossible to save the life of an AIBO, owners paid tribute with a traditional burial. This was not the only time. US soldiers paid tribute to Boomer, a robot designed to seek out and disarm explosives, with a funeral, a 21-gun salute and even a medal of honour.
Recently another video disturbed Internet users. The video featured a dog-like robot being kicked to prove its stability. Even though robots are not animals, people took the matter to PETA, the animal welfare charity. Clearly, humans can become very emotionally invested in robots.
The consequences of the growing influence of robots are unpredictable.
It is hard to predict how human resemblance will shape the human-robot relationship. Robots are better than humans at repeating the same tasks with precision and accuracy. But beyond housework and the military, robots are great therapeutical companions for the elderly and children with disabilities. The absence of any emotion or judgment makes robots unique caregivers. Today, robots and physicians complement each other in helping patients with developmental difficulties. Over time, patients can develop a strong emotional connection with their robot friends. However, this emotional investment may be a high price to pay – detaching oneself from a therapeutic robot is very hard for many patients.
Without a policy framework, it will not be possible to control potentially expensive additions for robots.
Thus, while current human-robot relationships may seem entertaining and sentimental, one thing is obvious – we must not disregard the manufacturer bias and the possibility of robotic self-awareness in the future. This connection requires a balancing legal framework to safeguard humanity.
How can companies benefit from this emotional attachment?
Tech giants generate enormous amounts of money by selling add-ons, updates and maintenance services. Most video games motivate players to advance their virtual prototypes. Over time, emotional connection to games’ characters urges the player to invest more. Users are willing to pay for a virtual costume or an advanced weapon to pass the level.
It is likely that robot producers will apply similar strategies. Without a policy framework, it will not be possible to control potentially expensive additions for robots. Despite the powers of AI, robots will always be manufacturer biased, and these manufacturers will try to influence people to make costly investments for their beloved robots. We must never forget AI mirrors human behaviour. Therefore, policymakers must address ethical issues of robot-human interaction’s commercial side. The legislative gap could lead to addiction, forced, and compulsive spending.
Can legislation control emotional connection to robots?
For thousands of years, there has been a regulatory need to control the relationships between humans. Civil jurisprudence oversees common human relations such as marriage, ownership, and employment. Human-to-human relationships need very complicated legislative control. We must regulate this relationship whether robots are regarded as work tools, domestic help, or just machines. Legislators must address the policy challenge to prevent future disasters and possible takeovers.