Thursday, September 24, 2009

Skin Me A Surrogate

This article describes the search for a perfect skin for a robot.  And it's true, many times over we humans have proven ourselves to be biased against all sorts of things, and odd skin is one of them.  When's the last time you shook someone's cold, damp, pudgy-feeling hand and decided there and then that you didn't quite like or trust them?

So yes, finding a skin for a robot that we're prepared to accept is important.  But I'd like to point out something, and that is the (as the article states) social aspects of touch.  In an agrarian society, a rough dry and slightly damaged skin, and firm handshake is "normal" and acceptable.  In a city environment, you'd shrink away ever so slightly from anyone proffering such a hand to shake.

Socially touching is considered differently in different countries.  And while there are some people who can't abide furred animals and therefore don't have pets, most people enjoy stroking the cat or the dog, the feel of fur under the hand.  And some people in fact consider this a social requisite to partnership and sex, so you have a segment of the population that we label "furries" to whom fur is the socially normal skin feel.

What I'm saying is that this kind of research is good, but don't go overboard on "social acceptance" because with a few years to get used to it, people can accept pretty much anything.  As long as the covering has the mechanical properties the robot needs, and isn't razor-sharp or adamantium-hard, I'm pretty sure people would accept it.  Maybe even fur for where it's appropriate... %)

Then at the end, they mention the Surrogates movie, and suddenly, it all doesn't matter again - after all, if everyone is in surrogate, it would be easier to program the surrogates to "feel" whatever covering the other robot surrogates have as 'perfect skin..."

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