What, your kids are three and you're tired of them already? Don't worry, roboticists are hard at work.
(iPal Nanny Robot Will Raise Your Kids)
The 3ft tall iPal has wide eyes, working fingers, pastel trimming, and a touchscreen tablet on its chest. It can sing, dance, and play rock paper scissors. It can talk with children, answer questions like “Why is the sun hot?”, and provide surveillance/video chat for absent parents.
“It’s a robot for children,” said Avatar Mind founder Jiping Wang. “It’s mainly for companionship.” The iPal, he boasted, could keep children aged three to eight occupied for “a couple of hours” without adult supervision. It is perfect for the time when children arrive home from school a few hours before their parents get off work, he said.
The iPal takes the debate over the automation of human jobs to the next level. The ethics of how robots should interact with children is necessarily more fraught than the ethics of robots in the workforce. Childcare has rarely, if ever, been a particularly well-remunerated or respected job, but it is essential.
If children are raised by robots – even just for “a couple of hours” a day – what are the consequences?
What are the consequences? Children everywhere would be thrilled!
"Come on!" Bobby shouted.
Abruptly Nanny moved, spinning slightly as her treads gripped the floor and turned her around. One of her side doors opened. A long metal rod shot out. Playfully, Nanny caught Bobby's arm with her grapple and drew him to her. She perched him on her back. Bobby's legs straddled the metal hull. He kicked with his heels excitedly, jumping up and down.
"Race you around the block!" Jean shouted.
Philip K. Dick saw how attached children might get to robots. In his 1955 short story Nanny, little Bobby and Jean couldn't be more excited to play with their robot nanny!