Sherry Turkle, an ethnographer at MIT, has been studying the impact of technology on society for over thirty years. A recent focus of Turkle’s work has been sociable robots – everything from interactive toys to more complex devices which seem to mimic human traits.
In her new book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, she explores human-robot interactions and the dangers of an overly tech-obsessed culture:
“We talk about ‘spending’ hours on e-mail, but we, too, are being spent,” Alone Together concludes. “We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, and yet we have allowed them to diminish us.”
In Turkle’s view, many of us are already a little too cozy with our machines—the smartphones and laptops we turn to for distraction and comfort so often that we can forget how to sit quietly with our own thoughts. In that way, she argues, science fiction has become reality: We are already cyborgs, reliant on digital devices in ways that many of us could not have imagined just a few years ago.
Perhaps it’s not so far-fetched to think that walking, talking machines will soon come a-courting—and that many people might welcome their advances.