News  |    |  December 7, 2017

Why these friendly robots can’t be good friends to our kids

News article by Sherry Turkle.
Published in The Washington Post.


Jibo the robot swivels around when it hears its name and tilts its touchscreen face upward, expectantly. “I am a robot, but I am not just a machine,” it says. “I have a heart. Well, not a real heart. But feelings. Well, not human feelings. You know what I mean.”

Actually, I’m not sure we do. And that’s what unsettles me about the wave of “sociable robots” that are coming online. The new releases include JiboCozmoKuri and M.A.X. Although they bear some resemblance to assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, these robots come with an added dose of personality. They are designed to win us over not with their smarts but with their sociability. They are marketed as companions. And they do more than engage us in conversation — they feign emotion and empathy. . .

About the Author

Sherry Turkle is a professor of the social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author, most recently, of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. She has been studying children and computers since 1978 and the release of Merlin and Simon, the first electronic toys and games.