Saturday, January 27, 2007

On Electing a Robot President of the US

Although he seems reticent to discuss some of the more exotic implications of his research, Indiana University Professor Karl MacDorman is bringing a more Asian approach to humanoid robots to the US. After spending five years researching the Japanese approach to lifelike robots, MacDorman is prepared to make IU the Mecca of humanoid robotics in North America.

The team is now so advanced in the skill of developing humanistic androids that a nearly exact double of a person can be created. It was Ishiguro who was robotically cloned.

"Some say it's narcissistic," MacDorman said. "I think they're wrong. If you look at the great artists, all of them have a self portrait."

....MacDorman said the replication of a celebrity is a possibility, but he sees serious legal complications accompanying such an undertaking, not to mention challenges presented by cultural differences.

"Japan actually has a very extensive sex-doll industry," he said. "And sometimes the public does get confused with our androids and their purpose."

While Japan has embraced the sexuality of humanoid dolls and robots without embarrassment, the US is much more prudish about that type of alternative sexuality. Still, if it can be done it will be done.

Which brings up the idea of a robot president. Eventually, humanoid robots will appear identical to humans--even be able to walk, talk, and interact in ways indistinguishable from a human. When robots are able to possess the intelligence of a normal human--hold press conferences, give stump speeches etc.--it will be very tempting for powerful interests from all major parties to create a robot just for the purpose of being president. Some have even suggested that Al Gore is an early prototype of such a robot, gone tragically awry.

And who hasn't wanted to be able to clone himself so as to be able to be two or more places at one time? With a robot clone, you can do exactly that. MacDorman's research seems to suggest that such things will be possible, eventually.

Have you received two or more invitations for speaking engagements on the same night, in different cities? No problem. You can do both. Have you been dreading going on that book-signing tour? Send your robot instead. Do you have multiple families living in different parts of the country who don't know about the others? There's no need for awkward confrontations. Your clones can keep the other beds warm until you get a chance to be there yourself.

MacDorman, although quite coy, is a worldly fellow, and surely understands where his research is leading. The rest of us should stay tuned for further developments.

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