Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just Machines

I am constantly perplexed by the way some people perceive animals. For example, I've written about how language gets warped and changes people's perceptions (i.e., the phrase "dumb animals" is NOT supposed to mean they're stupid), and I frequently will comment on how the scientific community is only now beginning to crawl out from under the horribly damaging notion that animals are mere "biological machines".

But while the biological sciences may be leaving the "machine" idea behind, the electromechanical field is bringing it back. There are an increasing number of robotic "pets" and apparently some people find them an acceptable substitute for the real thing.

That's the premise of this video from Slate V:

I notice that the one robot that was considered the most pleasing was the Pleo, a robot dinosaur. I would guess that the biggest reason for its success is that no one has ever seen an actual dinosaur, and so the robot was working with a blank slate. Anything that it did would be realistic enough, because there was never a real standard to judge by. On the other hand, none of the robot dogs looked any more like a real dog than that joke robot in the Woody Allen movie.

But can anyone get the same satisfaction from a machine as from a real animal?

I guess it depends on how they connect with real animals.

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