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Robots, Future Collaborators Or Overlords? An Interview With Dan Chen

Interview Tech by Mick Joest

We did an article last week about the semi-controversial End of Life Care Machine. The device is designed to provide comfort and care to alone individuals as they experience death without the comfort of family and friends. Is it right? Is it wrong? What will our relationship be with robots as they become an ever increasing facet in our lives? I actually had some time to speak with the creator Dan Chen. Chen has studied, designed, and experienced many human/robot experiences and knows quite a bit about the subject.

If the robot suggests some aspect of life-like behavior, we could easily associate them with something that we already encountered or something that we imagine that could exist.

The key is mental commitment, if we pretend (or play along) with the device, allows the imagination to fill the gap of the real, it might be even more effective than the life-like robot.

Because you stop comparing it to the real thing or stop thinking about how you are been deceived

You can read the interview below, or listen with the help of two other well known bots. Special surprise to the reader who can make a sweet remix with the audio.

The goal, it seems, in other intimate interaction robots we see today is to make things as life-like (non-mechanical looking) as possible. You believe this is not always a necessity for your creations. Can you explain why?

"If the robot suggests some aspect of life-like behavior, we could easily associate them with something that we already encountered or something that we imagine that could exist. The key is mental commitment, if we pretend (or play along) with the device, allows the imagination to fill the gap of the real, it might be even more effective than the life-like robot.Because you stop comparing it to the real thing or stop thinking about how you are been deceived."

Explain your ideal creation that you wish to make and what lasting impression you wish to leave on the field of robotics.

"I am not trying to make lasting impression on the field of robotics, making robots is very personal for me, it is my way of connecting with others. I am simply making Friends by making them (robots). I am also fascinated by sense of touch and how it's been conducted, because body say things that words can't not."

There's many movies that delve into the world of human/robotic relations. Are there any in particular that you are a fan of and why?

"Castle in the Sky (not the English dub version). The robots in the movie has capability for compassion and the main characters are also projecting compassion towards the robot."

Robots can be programmed to give the illusion they express feeling. Perhaps one day they will be even able to develop and express their own feelings. Do you see this happening in the distant future?

"Furby is an example of this. When you place Furby upside down, it talks back to you, things such as "I am scared". So I do see this happening in the future and more so. Artificial Intelligence researchers are working towards ways to bring synthetic consciousness to robots. While I don't know if it's possible for the robot to be conscious, but if that does happen I do think there should be two sets of ethics (one for human one for machine) for two different physical properties."

Do you see any problems in creating free thinking robots?

"It could be good and bad. They could outsmart us and use us as batteries or help us solve world hunger.Everyone is different, so I think all the free thinking robots would have different thoughts and behavior as well. I am interested to see if a free thinking robot knows how to create art, or something original because that requires having a sense of self and personal connection with their work (true for most artist I think). If we do have free thinking robots, there will probably be some end up in robot jail, some works in wall street, some clean houses, some as doctors, some suicidal and some philanthropist. I guess they will be like humans but with different physical and chemical properties."

Some of our readers are uncomfortable with the notion that in some of our most intimate experiences (death: for example) it's a possibility that our only comfort can come from robots. Any words of wisdom or ways to respond to this?

"There are many stories of people dying alone in the nursing home without families and friends. By making this robot, I programed my sense of caring and loving into the device to hope that I can give them some comfort. So you can see the device as me, delivering the caring and comfort through the device. The device is a representation of me, doing my best to guide you and comfort you. But I do understand this machine is not for everyone, sone people have strong sense of solitude and some would seek any sense of intimacy that is good enough. I also want to create some sense of urgency to make people needing to make real friends, friend that could have deeper and meaningful exchanges."

Email Me: MickJoest@Geektyrant.com Twitter: @MickJoest

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