Recent research out of the University of Washington suggests that soldiers may develop an affinity for their robot helpers that may impede their usefulness in dangerous situations. It’s pretty interesting stuff. You can click the link HERE to catch a synopsis of Dr. Julie Carpenter’s research.
I find this most interesting because it’s an issue I’ve encountered often in science fiction. Just think about all of the robot, cyborg, or man-machine characters you’ve seen over the years. The machines were created, no matter what form they’re made in, to take the place of humans, often in more dangerous environments. After all, better to risk blowing up a $3 million robot than a perfectly good person.
- Tony Stark’s Jarvis
- Various computer systems from the Power Rangers, Doctor Who, and the Sarah Jane Chronicles
- the friendly Terminators
- Plex from Yo Gabba Gabba
- and so many more I can’t list them all here
In fiction, you note that people often get attached to their metal and wire counterparts. We always assumed it as part of the story written in to either make us appreciate the robot’s help or mourn them when they die, but it turns out, it’s a real impulse. It’s a real impulse, even with non-humanoid robots that don’t interact with us. The robots used for explosive ordnance disposal teams and bomb squads don’t talk and joke with their human masters. They just respond to remote control systems. And yet, the human controllers still develop an affinity for them.
We’ll have to really think about this in coming years. especially in combat situations involving robots or other battleground aspects that our warfighters simply aren’t used to. What’s going to happen with women serving in full combat positions? What happens if we start using cloned humans instead of naturally born soldiers? Where exactly are we going with intelligent drones?
T.C. McCarthy broached these subjects in his Subterrene War series of science fiction novels. What happens if we clone human women specifically for frontline combat positions, basically as disposable tools rather than true people? His books are a great read on the subject and go beyond the science fiction to delve into the psychology and emotion involved.
This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!
Note- This is my sweet autographed copy of Germline that I bought from McCarthy himself at the XCon 2012.