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Westworld and the Human Connection with our Future Companion Robots


B. J. Murphy
By B. J. Murphy
Serious Wonder

Posted: Nov 6, 2016

If you ever had the opportunity, would you have sex with a robot? Keep in mind, when I reference robots, I’m not thinking about completely mechanized machines, with sharp ridges and gears. Rather, these robots would be the culmination of years of research in the fields of soft robotics, synthetic skin and organ printing, and artificial intelligence (AI). In other words, unless you were to cut them open, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate them from actual human beings

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, since one of the most popular TV shows on HBO right now have been exploring these exact same concepts and questions – Westworld!

If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, then let me walk you through the gist of it right quick, all the while not spoiling anything for you. Essentially, there is this Western-themed amusement park that is so technologically advanced that all of its hosts are robots – the cowboys, the deputies, the gamblers and thieves, and, yes, even its sex workers. Each host is programmed to cater to their guest’s every wish, no matter what and without fear.

As a result, throughout the show, we are given several glimpses of how the human condition might respond to these synthetic androids – these robotic companions of ours. On the one hand, we bear witness to unconditional violence and abuse (both sexual and otherwise), whereas, on the other hand, we also witness empathy, care, and even love. Especially as one of the guests in Westworld begins to slowly realize that these humanoid robots are much more than what the park owners want him to believe.

Which then raises the question: what if Westworld were to become a real thing? That is, what if you could have access to your own companion robots, of which would be used for various purposes – to help clean your home, cook your food, babysit your children, or even as nothing more than a sexual companion? How might you treat this robot? Would you treat it like any other human being – with empathy, care, and love? Or would you treat it cruelly – with violence and destruction?

For robotics company BodAi, who are currently taking measures to bring about a real-life Westworld, they wish to strongly emphasize the importance of care and love over violence and destruction towards companion robots. (Full disclosure: I’m associated with BodAi, thus my opinions in this article will obviously be biased.)

“For the past century, sci-fi stories have fetishized humanlike robots by portraying them as merely toys made for the fulfillment of our most carnal human fantasies and Westworld is the poster child of just that. Here we have a futuristic theme park where wealthy elites can pay to play out their darkest desires, without any compassion for the robots who cater to them. Our company BodAi aims to redirect humanity away from the most materialistic and hedonistic aspects of sex robots by designing experiences that cater to a higher purpose, one with connection, emotion, knowledge, and exploration.” - Miss Metaverse, Co-Founder of BodAi

At first, BodAi is exploring the use of virtual reality (VR) as a means of simulating similar experiences as one would in the HBO Western/sci-fi series. And as the robotics industry continues advancing, your experiences in the virtual world will then begin to materialize within the physical realm. These worlds – whether VR or otherwise – would expand upon selected narratives of your choosing. In doing so, the hope is that the experiences that you’ll gain from these narratives will, in turn, build a positive and even peaceful relationship between yourself and the companion robots that’ll be provided by BodAi.

“We at BodAi are pursuing the goal of strengthening the relationship between man and machine. As we already know the smartphone has replaced the dog as man’s best friend, our Bods by BodAi will build a relationship that’ll allow us to walk hand in hand into the future.” – Zak Field, Co-Founder of BodAi

Fact of the matter is that, Westworld-type theme parks and/or experiences are going to happen in the relatively near future. The robotics industry is advancing every single day, as are other crucial industries, such as AI, synthetic bio-printing, etc. It will only be a matter of time before you come across someone you thought was human, but is, in all actuality, a humanoid robot. They might cater to you for certain things, they might become your friend, or your sexual partner. Hell, they might even someday become someone that you have romantic feelings for.

What matters most, however, at least right now, is that we begin building a pathway for human and robot relationships that’ll correlate with Westworld insofar as they’re built upon emerging and changing experiences; that not only do you grow and evolve with time, but so does your companion robot. In doing so, it would have to distance itself as well from the Western/sci-fi series – to learn from it and to understand why it shows a pathway which we must do everything possible to avoid. That is the future BodAi wishes to create.


B.J. Murphy is a Technoprogressive Transhumanist activist within the East Coast region of the U.S. He's worked with the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources as a member of their Planetary Community Vanguard, helping campaign funding for the ARKYD 100 Space Telescope, an open-source means of space exploration. He is a Writer, Editor, and Social Media Manager for SeriousWonder.com and runs his own blog called The Proactionary Transhumanist. He's a co-author of both Longevitize!: Essays on the Science, Philosophy & Politics of Longevity and The Future of Business: Critical Insights On a Rapidly Changing World From 60 Futurists.
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COMMENTS


A hypothetical conscious BodAI robot with human-level intelligence
might be a good friend, perhaps even a sweetheart, if you can trust it.

But if it is implemented with nonfree software, or using a server
operated by BodAI, then you’re a fool to trust it.  Nonfree software
is controlled by the developer, and has control over the users.  (See
http://gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html.)  It
is often designed to snoop on users, restrict them, or mistreat them.
(See http://gnu.org/proprietary/ for many examples.)  If it depends on
a server that isn’t yours, that’s also a path to mistreating you
(see http://gnu.org/proprietary/proprietary-tethering.html).

A robot that operates this way would surely collect data about you for
the use of profilers, not to mention Big Brother who would check
whether you’re a dissident.  Don’t mistake that robot for your friend.

To develop a robot that you can trust to be present in your home
may require a sophisticated system of loyalty, comparable to a wise
human who never fails to reflect.





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