While social media is changing the means through which humans interact with other humans, the basis of human relationships is still intact. When we have need of someone to talk to, we turn to our friends or family, although through WhatsApp or Facebook. But with the emergence of artificial intelligence and robots, this last strand of human involvement in the cycle of social interaction will soon be cut out. Individuals will be completely isolated from human interaction by technology.
Dr. Sherry Turkle, professor at MIT, thinks that with the creation of emotionally sympathetic and responsive robots like Tamagotchis and Furbies, the ‘robotic moment’ is upon us. Within a few decades, artificial intelligence will have progressed to an extent that it could replace a human in its ability to converse in normal speech.
“We seem determined to give human qualities to objects and content to treat each other as things.” -Sherry Turkle
Even if technology progresses to that extent, it can be argued that robots can never fully replace another human being’s company. However, Turkle believes that while humans do crave companionship however, they fear relationships and risk of disappointment and hurt. This is the same reason netizens have turned to technology for solace in the past. They post statuses with the sole purpose to gain attention or sympathy from others. If such robots are created, it will provide people with another way to avoid social interaction. They will be able to appease their want for companionship through AI robots. Further, with robots programmed to serve them specifically, they will not risk the disappointment.
Effectively, these robots will become a being, a ‘Thou’ in the words of Martin Buber for all practical purposes. But these robots were created with specific purposes, to serve and aid humans. Can robots be considered evolving beings without an essence? According to Buber, the answer is a firm no. Therefore, a tragedy is likely to occur in the future where humans come to accept robotic friends, family, and co-workers as a part of normal human society much like we have accepted social media as an integral part of our lives. We will live in a society full of I-it relationships disguised under the illusion of I and Thou.
The internet has changed not only the way we live our lives but also how we view life. We work on the internet, we sleep on the internet, we play on the internet, we socialize on the internet, we find love on the internet, we share our knowledge on the internet and progressively we have even started to gain sexual pleasure via the internet. What once was meant to be a complement has invaded our lives so much that it has become a replacement for several other things.
What is worse is that we fail to even acknowledge the extent to which technology has changed our social lives. Our generation has grown up living our lives through the internet. We have come to trust it blindly. Growing up with the internet has made us oblivion to the fact that the internet has not grown up. We need to realize that the internet was intended to make our life easier not to replace it. We have created these tools but not developed them enough to deter human addiction. So we must check ourselves. Yet, we seem determined to use technology to end to every aspect of human society that makes it humane. Therefore, we need to look up from our phones and laptops and stop this rapid spiral towards complete emotional and social isolation we are on.