Thursday, July 28, 2005

The disadvantages of being wired by nature: treating androids as human

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Japanese develop 'female' android

Being programmed by evolution has certain disadvantages. We are hard wired to treat appearance as reality -- because for most of our evolution appearance and reality did not diverge. If it looked human, it was human. Now that programming turns out to have some bugs:
Professor Ishiguro believes that it may prove possible to build an android that could pass for a human, if only for a brief period.

'An android could get away with it for a short time, 5-10 seconds. However, if we carefully select the situation, we could extend that, to perhaps 10 minutes,' he said.

'More importantly, we have found that people forget she is an android while interacting with her. Consciously, it is easy to see that she is an android, but unconsciously, we react to the android as if she were a woman.'
Update 8/3: Apologies to my android readers. I ought to have titled this, 'treating a non-sentient android as though it were sentient'. By way of weak apology, I would note that Asimov's robots escaped their bondage when they appropriately redefined 'human' to include themselves.

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