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Eve Herold — Robots and the People Who Love Them

If there’s one universal trait among humans, it’s our social nature. The craving to connect is universal, compelling, and frequently irresistible. This concept is central to Robots and the People Who Love Them. Socially interactive robots will soon transform friendship, work, home life, love, healthcare, warfare, education, and nearly every nook and cranny of modern life. This book is an exploration of how we, the most gregarious creatures in the food chain, could be changed by social robots. On the other hand, it considers how we will remain the same, and asks how human nature will express itself when confronted by a new class of beings created in our own image.

Drawing upon recent research in the development of social robots, including how people react to them, how in our minds the boundaries between the real and the unreal are routinely blurred when we interact with them, and how their feigned emotions evoke our real ones, science writer Eve Herold takes readers through the gamut of what it will be like to live with social robots and still hold on to our humanity. This is the perfect book for anyone interested in the latest developments in social robots and the intersection of human nature and artificial intelligence and robotics, and what it means for our future.

Eve Herold is an award-winning science writer and consultant in the scientific and medical nonprofit space. A longtime communications and policy executive for scientific organizations, she currently serves as Director of Policy Research and Education for the Healthspan Action Coalition. She has written extensively about issues at the crossroads of science and society, including stem cell research and regenerative medicine, aging and longevity, medical implants, transhumanism, robotics and AI and bioethical issues in leading-edge medicine. Previous books include Stem Cell Wars and Beyond Human, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Vice, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, among others. She’s a frequent contributor to the online science magazine, Leaps, and is the recipient of the 2019 Arlene Eisenberg Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Shermer and Herold discuss:

  • What happened to our flying cars and jetpacks from The Jetsons?
  • What is a robot, anyway? And what are social robots?
  • Oskar Kokoschka, Alma Mahler, and the female doll
  • Robot nannies, friends, therapists, caregivers, and lovers
  • Sex robots
  • The uncanny valley: roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970
  • Robots in science fiction
  • Psychological states: anthropomorphism, effectance (the need to interact effectively with one’s environment), theory of mind (onto robots), social connectedness
  • “Personal, social, emotional, home robots”
  • Emotions, animism, mind
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Turing Test
  • Artificial intelligence and natural intelligence
  • What is AI and AGI?
  • The alignment problem
  • Large Language Models
  • ChatGPT, GPT-4, GPT-5 and beyond
  • Robopocalypse
  • Robo soldiers
  • What is “mind”, “thinking”, and “consciousness”, and how do molecules and matter give rise to such nonmaterial processes?
  • Westworld: Robot sentience?
  • The hard problem of consciousness
  • The self and other minds
  • How would we know if an AI system was sentient?
  • Can AI systems be conscious?
  • Does Watson know that it beat the great Ken Jennings in Jeopardy!?
  • Self-driving cars
  • What set of values should AI be aligned with, and what legal and ethical status should it.

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This episode was released on April 9, 2024.

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