Our Robot Overlords Have Cute Kids

Does the perfect child come with an off switch?
Does the perfect child come with an off switch?
As dedicated readers of this blog know (a quick shout out to both of you), The World News Center has correspondents all over the globe. Last night I was online with our affiliate in Montenegro discussing a variety of story options and a couple of cookie recipes. This morning I awoke to messages from our Singapore office wondering when I was going to come in and retrieve my bathing suit that once appeared in Columbia and now seems to be part of the furniture. It also seems there’s a pair of socks there that look suspiciously large. However, as interesting as those topics may be in the hands of skilled pundit such as myself, they pale in comparison to the story uncovered by our Tokyo Gazetteer, Rob Pongi. Just like in all those Sci-Fi movies, with bad actors and horrible special effects, it seems that the human population is declining (being sterilized?!?!?) and children are going to be replaced with robots.

As any fan of the movie A.I. can tell you, that’s not a recipe for success.

Norri Kageki from automaton + botjunkie reports there are those foolish few who think this is a great idea.

Hisashi Ishihara, Yuichiro Yoshikawa, and Prof. Minoru Asada of Osaka University in Japan have developed a new child robot platform called Affetto. Affetto can make realistic facial expressions so that humans can interact with it in a more natural way.


Prof. Asada is the leader of the JST ERATO Asada Project and his team has been working on “cognitive developmental robotics,” which aims to understand the development of human intelligence through the use of robots. (Learn more about the research that led to Affetto in this interview with Prof. Asada.)

Affetto is modeled after a one- to two-year-old child and will be used to study the early stages of human social development. There have been earlier attempts to study the interaction between child robots and people and how that relates to social development, but the lack of realistic child appearance and facial expressions has hindered human-robot interaction, with caregivers not attending to the robot in a natural way.

The researchers presented a paper describing the development of Affetto’s head at the 28th Annual Conference of the Robotics Society of Japan last year.

Does anyone but me see the irony in having a professor named after a procedure for treating meat (a/k/a carne asada) in charge of eliminating the meat sacks who currently are the dominant species?

Or maybe our robot overlords are keeping us around just because we’re tasty when marinated and grilled. With a lime on the side.

Whatever the case, I firmly believe that anyone who finds that robo-head cute is clearly deranged.

How disturbing is this story? Well, yesterday, I had written off Robert Broadus as a raving lunatic. Today I’m not so sure. As Alan Boyle of MSNBC reports, Broadus is the leading anti-robosexuality advocate.

In a case of life imitating “Futurama,” Maryland’s gay-marriage debate has somehow morphed into worries about robot-human marriages.

The rant against robosexuals came during Robert Broadus’ testimony against the gay-marriage legislation currently before Maryland legislature. “If you pass this bill, you will set the groundwork, that one day when artificial intelligence is that advanced, we will be considering whether or not people can marry their androids. … If you say that any two people who love each other can get married, then you set that precedent,” said Broadus, who heads Protect Marriage Maryland.

To make his case, Broadus referred to Lieutenant Commander Data’s ability to feel emotion and shed a tear in “Star Trek: Generations,” a science-fiction movie. “You laugh, but it’s true,” Broadus said.

People who have seen the new Battlestar Galactica series know that some of those Cylon robots can be sexy as hell, but they still are bent on only one thing; the total subjugation of humanity!


And, of course, everyone knows that Lt. Cmdr. Data boinked Lt. Tasha Yar long before he got his emotions chip.

So, there’s no need to shed a tear for him.

Anyway, as we totter forward into the impending robo-geddon, we may as well sing along.

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