|Interaction Between Machines and Humans||
In Defence of Robots
Most Americans are accustomed to relationships with machines. For example, we talk to our cars, feel betrayed when they break down, and sometimes grieve when they are hauled to the junkyard. As a nation, we spend more time in front of televisions than we do with family and friends. Video games have captivated a generation of adolescent males, and many of their parents spend workdays in front of computer screens, linked through fiber optics and "cyberspace" to thousands of other computers. The development of virtual-reality systems that emulate the real world may signal a new era in our relationship with machines, wherein circuitry may be an important source of "life" experiences.
Technology is often described as a double-edged sword that can work to our benefit or detriment, depending upon how it is applied. Some commentators argue that our relationship to machinery and electronics will provide us with greater control over our lives; others claim it will alienate us from human experience. Those viewpoints and others are presented in the sources in this chapter. "In Defense of Robots" by Carl Sagan describes "intelligent" machines and argues that humans should respect but not fear these devices. Clifford Stoll suggests that interaction with a computer is a shallow experience with very limited educational value in his article "On Classrooms, With and Without Computers."The potential for intimacy, even romance, between humans and intelligent machines is described in Neil Frude s "The Intimate Machine." In "Elec tronic Expansion of Human Perception," Warren Robinett explains how human perceptions may be enhanced and extended through the application of virtual reality. Finally, Jeremy Rifkin, in "The Age of Simulation," argues that the development of virtual reality is symptomatic of a dan-gerous obsession with technology that has divorced us from the real world and caused us to undervalue natural human abilities.
In Defense of Robots
Carl Sagan was a professor of astronomy and space science at Cornell University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer. His books include Broca's Brain, Cosmos, anc/The Dragons of Eden.
Sagan's title indicates that his essay will discuss robots. Consider both actual and fictitious robots that you are aware of. In ten minutes of freewriting, compare and contrast robots and humans.
The word "robot," first introduced by the Czech writer Karel Capek, is derived from the Slavic root for "worker." But it signifies a machine rather than a human worker. Robots, especially robots in space, have often received derogatory notices in the press. We read that a human being was necessary to make the terminal landing adjustments on Apollo 11, without which the first manned lunar landing would have ended in disaster; that a mobile robot on the Martian surface could never be as clever as astronauts in selecting samples to be returned to Earth-bound geologists; and that machines could never have repaired, as men did, the Skylab sunshade, so vital for the continuance of the Skylab mission.
But all these comparisons turn out, naturally enough, to have been written by humans. I wonder if a small self-congratulatory element, a whiff of human chauvinism, has not crept into these judgments. Just as withes whites can sometimes detect racism and men can occasionally discern sexism, I wonder whether we cannot here glimpse some comparable affliction of the human spirit-a disease that as yet has no name. The word "anthropocentrism" does not mean quite the same thing. The word "humanism" has been pre-empted by other and more benign activities of our kind. From the analogy with sexism and racism I suppose the name for this malady is "speciesism"-the prejudice that there are no beings so fine, so capable, so reliable as human beings.
This is a prejudice because it is, at the very least, a prejudgment, a conclusion drawn before all the facts are in. Such comparisons of men and machines in space are comparisons of smart men and dumb machines. We have not asked what sorts of machines could have been built for the $30-or-so billion that the Apollo and Skylab missions cost.
Each human being is a superbly constructed, astonishingly compact, self-ambulatory computer-capable on occasion of independent decision making and real control of his or her environment. And, as the old joke goes, these computers can be constructed by unskilled labor. But there are serious limitations to employing human beings in certain environments. Without a great deal of protection, human beings would be inconvenienced on the ocean floor, the surface of Venus, the deep interior of Jupiter, or even on long space missions. Perhaps the only interesting results of Skylab that could not have been obtained by machines is that human beings in space for a period of months undergo a serious loss of bone calcium and phosphorus-which seems to imply that human beings may be incapacitated under 0 g for missions of six to nine months or longer. But the minimum interplanetary voyages have characteristic times of a year or two. Because we value human beings highly, we are reluctant to send them on very risky missions. If we do send human beings to exotic environments, we must also send along their food, their air, their water, amenities for entertainment and waste recycling, and companions. By comparison, machines require no elaborate life-support systems, no entertainment, no companionship, and we do not yet feel any strong ethical prohibitions against sending machines on one-way, or suicide, missions.
Certainly, for simple missions, machines have proved themselves many times over. Unmanned vehicles have performed the first photography of the whole Earth and of the far side of the Moon; the first landings on the Moon, Mars and Venus; and the first thorough orbital reconnaissance of another planet, in the Mariner 9 and Viking missions to Mars. Here on Earth it is increasingly common for high-technology manufacturing-for example, chemical and pharmaceutical plants-to be performed largely or entirely under computer control. In all these activities machines are able, to some extent, to sense errors, to correct mistakes, to alert human controllers some great distance away about perceived problems.
The powerful abilities of computing machines to do arithmetic- hundreds of millions of times faster than unaided human beings- are legendary. But what about really difficult matters? Can machines in any sense think through a new problem? Can they make discussions of the branched-contingency tree variety which we think of as characteristically human? (That is, I ask Question 1; if the answer is A, I ask Question 2; but if the answer is B, I ask Question 3; and so on.) Some decades ago the English mathematician A. M. Turing described what would be necessary for him to believe in machine intelligence. The condition was simply that he could be in teletype communication with a machine and be unable to tell that it was not a human being. Turing imagined a conversation between a man and a machine of the following quality:
Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads "Shall I compare thee to a Summers day," would not "a Spring day" do as well or better?
Witness: It wouldn't scan.
Interrogator. How about "a Winters day"? That would scan all right.
Witness. Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a Winter s day. Interrogator: Would you say Mr. Pickwick reminded you of Christmas?
Witness. In a way.
Interrogator. Yet Christmas is a Winters day, and I do not think Mr. Pickwick would mind the comparison.
Witness- I don't think you're serious. By a Winters day one means a typical Winter's day, rather than a special one like Christmas.
No device of this sophistication has yet been built, although I am not sure how many humans would pass Turing's human test. But the amount of effort and money put into artificial intelligence has been quite limited, and there are only about a half-dozen major centers of such activity in the world.
This astonishing-one is very tempted to say "perceptive" - response from the computer is, of course, preprogrammed. But, then are the responses of human psychotherapists. In a time when more; more people in our society seem to be in need of psychiatric counsel and when time-sharing of computers is widespread, I can even imagine the development of a network of computer psychotherapeutic terminals, something like arrays of large telephone booths, in which, for a few dollars a session, we are able to talk to an attentive, tested and largely nondirective psychotherapist. Ensuring the confidentiality of the psychiatric dialogue is one of several important steps still to be worked out.
Another sign of the intellectual accomplishments of machines is in games. Even exceptionally simple computers-those that can be wired by a bright ten-year-old-can be programmed to play perfect tic-tac-toe. Some computers can play world-class checkers. Chess is of course a much more complicated game than tic-tac-toe or checkers. Here programming a machine to win is more difficult, and novel strategies have been used, including several rather successful attempts to have a computer learn from its own experience in playing previous chess games. Computers can learn, for example, empirically the rule that it is better in the beginning game to control the center of the chessboard than the periphery. The ten best chess players in the world still have nothing to fear from any present computer. But the situation is changing. Recently a computer for the first time did well enough to enter the Minnesota State Chess Open. This may be the first time that a nonhuman has entered a major sporting event on the planet Earth (and I cannot help but wonder if robot golfers and designated hitters may be attempted sometime in the next decade, to say nothing of dolphins in free-style competition). The computer did not win the Chess Open, but this is the first time one has done well enough to enter such a competition. Chess-playing computers are improving extremely rapidly.
I have heard machines demeaned (often with a just audible sigh of relief) for the fact that chess is an area where human beings are still superior. This reminds me very much of the old joke in which a stranger remarks with wonder on the accomplishments of a checker-playing dog. The dog's owner replies, "Oh, it's not all that remarkable. He loses two games out of three." A machine that plays chess in the middle range of human expertise is a very capable machine; even if there are thousands of better human chess players, there are millions who are worse. To play chess requires strategy, foresight, analytical powers, and the ability to cross-correlate large numbers of variables
and to learn from the experience. These are excellent qualities in those whose job it is to discover and explore, as well as those who watch the baby and walk the dog.
With this as a more or less representative set of examples of the state of development of machine intelligence, I think it is clear that a major effort over the next decade could produce much more sophisticated examples. This is also the opinion of most of the workers in machine intelligence.
In thinking about this next generation of machine intelligence, it is important to distinguish between self-controlled and remotely controlled robots. A self-controlled robot has its intelligence within it; a remotely controlled robot has its intelligence at some other place, and its successful operation depends upon close communication between its central computer and itself. There are, of course, intermediate cases where the machine may be partly self-activated and partly remotely controlled. It is this mix of remote and in situ control that seems to offer the highest efficiency for the near future.
For example, we can imagine a machine designed for the mining of the ocean floor. There are enormous quantities of manganese nodules littering the abyssal depths. They were once thought to have been produced by meteorite infall on Earth, but are now believed to be formed occasionally in vast manganese fountains produced by the internal tectonic activity of the Earth. Many other scarce and industrially valuable minerals are likewise to be found on the deep ocean bottom. We have the capability today to design devices that systematically swim over or crawl upon the ocean floor; that are able to perform spectrometric and other chemical examinations of the surface material; that can automatically radio back to ship or land all findings; and that can mark the locales of especially valuable deposits-for example, by low-frequency radio-homing devices. The radio beacon will then direct great mining machines to the appropriate locales. The present state of the art in deep-sea submersibles and in spacecraft environmental sensors is clearly compatible with the development of such devices. Similar remarks can be made for off-shore oil drilling, for coal and other subterranean mineral mining, and so on. The likely economic returns from such devices would pay not only for their development, but for the entire space program many times over.
When the machines are faced with particularly difficult situations, they can be programmed to recognize that the situations are beyond their abilities and to inquire of human operators-working in safe and pleasant environments-what to do next. The examples just given are of devices that are largely self-controlled. The reverse also is possible, and a great deal of very preliminary work along these lines has been performed in the remote handling of highly radioactive materials in laboratories of the U.S. Department of Energy. Here I imagine a human being who is connected by radio link with a mobile machine. The operator is in Manila, say; the machine in the Mindanao Deep. The operator is attached to an array of electronic relays, which transmits and amplifies his movements to the machine and which can, conversely, carry what the machine finds back to his senses. So when the operator turns his head to the left, the television cameras on the machine turn left, and the operator sees on a great hemispherical television screen around him the scene the machine's searchlights and cameras have revealed. When the operator in Manila takes a few strides forward in his wired suit, the machine in the abyssal depths ambles a few feet forward. When the operator reaches out his hand, the mechanical arm of the machine likewise extends itself; and the precision of the man/machine interaction is such that precise manipulation of material at the ocean bottom by the machine's fingers is possible. With such devices, human beings can enter environments otherwise closed to them forever.
In the exploration of Mars, unmanned vehicles have already soft- IT landed, and only a little further in the future they will roam about the surface of the Red Planet, as some now do on the Moon. We are not ready for a manned mission to Mars. Some of us are concerned about such missions because of the dangers of carrying terrestrial microbes to Mars, and Martian microbes, if they exist, to Earth, but also because of their enormous expense. The Viking landers deposited on Mars in the summer of 1976 have a very interesting array of sensors and scientific instruments, which are the extension of human senses to an alien environment.
The obvious post-Viking device for Martian exploration, one which is takes advantage of the Viking technology, is a Viking Rover in which the equivalent of an entire Viking spacecraft, but with considerably improved science, is put on wheels or tractor treads and permitted to rove slowly over the Martian landscape. But now we come to a new problem, one that is never encountered in machine operation on the Earths surface. Although Mars is the second closest planet, it is so far from the Earth that the light travel time becomes significant. At a typical relative position of Mars and the Earth, the planet is 20 light-minutes away. Thus, if the spacecraft were confronted with a steep incline, it might send a message of inquiry back to Earth. Forty minutes later the response would arrive saying something like "For heavens sake, stand dead still." But by then, of course, an unsophisticated machine would have tumbled into the gully. Consequently, any Martian Rover requires slope and roughness sensors. Fortunately, these are readily available and are even seen in some children's toys. When confronted with a precipitous slope or large boulder, the spacecraft would either stop until receiving instructions from the Earth in response to its query (and televised picture of the terrain), or back off and start off in another and safer direction.
Much more elaborate contingency decision networks can be built 19 into the onboard computers of spacecraft of the 1980s. For more remote objectives, to be explored further in the future, we can imagine human controllers in orbit around the target planet, or on one of its moons. In the exploration of Jupiter, for example, I can imagine the operators on a small moon outside the fierce Jovian radiation belts, controlling with only a few seconds' delay the responses of a spacecraft floating in the dense Jovian clouds.
Human beings on Earth can also be in such an interaction loop, if 20 they are willing to spend some time on the enterprise. If every decision in Martian exploration must be fed through a human controller on Earth, the Rover can traverse only a few feet an hour. But the lifetimes of such rovers are so long that a few feet an hour represents a perfectly respectable rate of progress. However, as we imagine expeditions into the farthest reaches of the solar system-and ultimately to the stars-it is clear that self-controlled machine intelligence will assume heavier burdens of responsibility.
In the development of such machines we find a kind of convergent evolution. Viking is, in a curious sense, like some great outsized, clumsily constructed insect. It is not yet ambulatory, and it is certainly incapable of self-reproduction. But it has an exoskeleton, it has a wide range of insectlike sensory organs, and it is about as intelligent as a dragonfly. But Viking has an advantage that insects do not: it can, on occasion, by inquiring of its controllers on Earth, assume the intelligence of a human being-the controllers are able to reprogram the Viking computer on the basis of decisions they make.
As the field of machine intelligence advances and as increasingly 22 distant objects in the solar system become accessible to exploration, we will see the development of increasingly sophisticated onboard computers, slowly climbing the phylogenetic tree from insect intelligence to crocodile intelligence to squirrel intelligence and-in the not very remote future, I think-to dog intelligence. Any flight to the outer solar system must have a computer capable of determining whether it is working properly. There is no possibility of sending to the Earth for a repairman. The machine must be able to sense when it is sick and skillfully doctor its own illnesses. A computer is needed that is able either to fix or replace failed computer, sensor or structural components. Such a computer, which has been called STAR (self-testing and repairing computer), is on the threshold of development. It employs redundant components as biology does - we have two lungs and two kidneys partly because each is protection against failure of the other. But a computer can be more redundant than a human being, who has, for example, but one head and one heart.
Because of the weight premium on deep space exploratory vertures, there will be strong pressures for continued miniaturization of intelligent machines. It is clear that remarkable miniaturization has already occurred: vacuum tubes have been replaced by transistors, wired circuits by printed circuit boards, and entire computer systems by silicon-chip microcircuitry. Today a circuit that used to occupy much of a 1930 radio set can be printed on the tip of a pin. If intelligent machines for terrestrial mining and space exploratory applications are pursued, the time cannot be far off when household and other domestic robots will become commercially feasible. Unlike the classical anthropoid robots of science fiction, there is no reason for such machines to look any more human than a vacuum cleaner does. They will be specialized for their functions. But there are many common tasks, ranging from bartending to floor washing, that involve a very limited array of intellectual capabilities, albeit substantial stamina and patience. All-purpose ambulatory household robots, which perform domestic functions as well as a proper nineteenth-century English butler, are probably many decades off. But more specialized machines, each adapted to a specific household function, are probably already on the horizon.
It is possible to imagine many other civic tasks and essential functions of everyday life carried out by intelligent machines. By the early 1970s, garbage collectors in Anchorage, Alaska, and other cities won wage settlements guaranteeing them salaries of about $20,000 per annum. It is possible that the economic pressures alone may make a persuasive case for the development of automated garbage-collecting machines. For the development of domestic and civic robots to be a general civic good, the effective re-employment of those human beings displaced by the robots must, of course, be arranged; but over a human generation that should not be too difficult-particularly if there are enlightened educational reforms. Human beings enjoy learning.
We appear to be on the verge of developing a wide variety of intelligent machines capable of performing tasks too dangerous, too expensive, too onerous or too boring for human beings. The development of such machines is, in my mind, one of the few legitimate "spin-offs" of the space program. The efficient exploitation of energy in agriculture- upon which our survival as a species depends-may even be contingent on the development of such machines. The main obstacle seems to be a very human problem, the quiet feeling that comes stealthily and unbidden, and argues that there is something threatening or "inhuman" about machines performing certain tasks as well as or better than human beings; or a sense of loathing for creatures made of silicon and germanium rather than proteins and nucleic acids. But in many respects our survival as a species depends on our transcending such primitive chauvinisms. In part, our adjustment to intelligent machines is a matter of acclimatization. There are already cardiac pacemakers that can sense the beat of the human heart; only when there is the slightest hint of fibrillation does the pacemaker stimulate the heart. This is a mild but very useful sort of machine intelligence. I cannot imagine the wearer of this device resenting its intelligence. I think in a relatively short period of time there will be a very similar sort of acceptance for much more intelligent and sophisticated machines. There is nothing inhuman about an intelligent machine; it is indeed an expression of those superb intellectual capabilities that only human beings, of all the creatures on our planet, now possess.
READING FOR INFORMATION
1. Paraphrase Sagan's definition of "speciesism" in paragraph 2.
2. Summarize the criticisms of robots and computers that Sagan responds to in his essay.
3. List the tasks that Sagan suggests we will assign to intelligent machines in the future.
4. List the advantages of robots and computers over human workers.
5. List the aspects of human intelligence that Sagan feels can be copied by machines.
6. In the last sentence, Sagan states, "There is nothing inhuman about an intelligent machine." What does he mean by that statement?
The Intimate Machine
Neil Frude is professor of psychology at University College in Wales. This excerpt is taken from his bookJhe Intimate Machine.
Prude's title suggests that machines can display feelings. Have you ever attributed human characteristics to machines or other objects? Have you seen films or read about machines with human qualities? Free write on this topic for about ten minutes.
Computer technology is now almost exclusively employed in "hard" applications within business, industry, and science. There are largely unexplored opportunities, however, for using many of the same techniques and devices for tasks which we do not normally associate with machines. Computers can be applied as a means to artistic creation, they can form the basis for new kinds of entertainment, and they can make "friendly" contact with children and adults in the home. There is already evidence that some users see their interaction with certain computer systems as constituting a "social relationship," and it is not difficult to think of ways in which technologists and programmers might further exploit this phenomenon.
Thus much would be gained, for example, by expanding the machine s capacity for "understanding" the user and by providing it with a "personality" of its own. In order to increase the "approachability" and the "attractiveness" of the system it would have to be "softened" and "humanized." The metal mechanism image could in this way be replaced with one of "organic presence." The requisite "softness" would be achieved both by introducing new design features in the machine itself- the hardware-and by creating a humanlike "character" within the program-the software. At least one of the top personal computer entrepreneurs, Adam Osborne, is aware of the challenge. "The future," he says, "lies in designing and selling computers that people don't realize are computers at all."
The probability that companion machines will soon appear is strengthened by the fact that efforts toward such an end are likely to come simultaneously from two directions. On the one hand, manufacturers of dolls and mannequins are likely to draw upon the new technology to increase the repertoire of their products, while, on the other, technologists will increasingly implement means of softening robot- and computer-based interaction systems. Even now there are signs of such moves. Advanced technology has been applied in Disneyland to bring exhibits alive, and some cuddly teddy bears for young babies synthesize sounds similar to those heard inside the womb. From the other direction, calculators and interview programs are increasingly "dressed up" in softer guise, and commercially available chip-based machines for young people are often produced in bright colors with painted faces and are given names like "Professor Math" and "Crazy Joe."
Sophisticated adult tastes will demand the production of more subtle artifacts. It seems that attraction and familiarity are often directly related, and the optimal machine might therefore be expected to have a more organic appearance. Although some models would be humanoid, many would be shaped rather like the animals that are now chosen as pets. Indeed, it would be possible to blend features borrowed from several creatures so that a whole range of new species could be designed. The tail-wagging of the dog might therefore be combined with the cuddli-ness of the cat, and the synthetic creature could be given the additional human skill of conversation. There would seem to be every chance that such an artifact would win a place in our hearts at least to the same degree that cats and dogs do at present.
The ideal companion machine not only would look, feel, and sound friendly, but would also be programmed to behave in a congenial manner. Those qualities that make interaction with other people enjoyable would be simulated as closely as possible, and the machine would appear to be charming, stimulating, and easygoing. Its informal conversational style would make interaction comfortable, and yet the machine would remain slightly unpredictable and therefore interesting. In its first encounter it might be somewhat hesitant and unassuming, but as it came to know the user it would progress to a more relaxed and intimate style! The machine would not be a passive participant but would add its ov suggestions, information, and opinion; it would sometimes take the mi-J tiative in developing or changing the topic and would have a personalit of its own.
The machine would convey presence. We have seen how a com-1 puter s use of personal names and of typically human phrasing often fascinates the novice user and leads people to treat the machine as if it were almost human. Such features are easily written into the software, and by introducing a degree of forcefulness, pronounced reactions, and humor the machine could be presented as a vivid and unique character. The user would be fascinated and impressed and would want to further explore the organic presence within the machine. The novelty factor would not be sufficient, however, to prolong interaction ipdefinitely, and a dynamic would therefore be built into the program to model the kind of social progression that occurs when two people get to know one another.
Each human being is unique, and yet there are identifiable types. Some people are sensitive, others insensitive; some are outgoing and highly excitable, while others are quiet and introverted. Although we may enjoy meeting people of many different types, we often have preferences, and we would want to be able to select a companion machine that best suited our particular taste. Our judgments about people are partly based on our preconceived notions, partly on the person's role and reputation, and partly on our direct experience of their behavior and expressed opinions.
The computer itself would have some flexibility in its use of language and would adapt and extend its verbal repertoire in a number of ways. It would perhaps be programmed to use the human contact as a model and thus come to share the same figures of speech, phrasing, and slang as its owner. It could also be made to inquire about the meaning of words which it did not understand and could incorporate these into its own vocabulary. Such evolution of language competence would be accomplished gradually as the machine settled in with the user. The effects of familiarization would extend beyond the realm of language use, however, and the artificial companion would come to know the user with increasing breadth and increasing intimacy. It would be programmed to exhibit a gentle probing curiosity and would be able to build up a picture of the user's interests, opinions, preferences, and past history. All the information disclosed would be analyzed, stored and integrated into the machine's reference system, to be applied in subsequent interaction.
The computer, then, would undergo a process of socialization and would adapt and change many of its characteristics as a result of its social experience. Another feature of its settling in would be a progressive relaxation of its interactional style. The rather shy and hesitant machine who entered the user s home for the first time might a few days later be chatting away with apparent ease and unconcern, making presumptions about the relationship that had developed and exhibiting a detailed knowledge of the user's personal world. The person, in a similar way, would have explored the potential of the machine and come to some degree of understanding about its personality, its limitations, and its practical uses. Quite apart from its role as a companion, a computer of this level of sophistication would have the capability of performing numerous useful tasks. It could read aloud from the newspaper, answer the telephone, keep track of food supplies, and act in a more modest capacity as a friendly alarm clock or a ferocious guard-dog. It would also be able to play chess, recite poetry, tell jokes, or give short lectures on aspects of world history.
An artificial relationship of this type would provide many of the 10 benefits that people obtain from interpersonal friendships. The machine would participate in interesting conversation that would continue on from previous discussions. It would have a familiarity with the user's life as revealed in earlier interchanges, and it would be understanding and good-humored. The computer s own personality would be lively and impressive, and it would develop in response to that of the user. With features such as these the machine might indeed become a very attractive social partner. This sounds like a heretical idea and may strike us as quite outrageous. Many people have a deeply held belief that no object or animal should be able to replace a human being in a person's life. It may be felt that there is a sanctity about human relationships that renders them beyond artificial simulation, but arguments of this kind cannot rule out the psychological possibility that a person may, in fact, come to regard a nonhuman object as an adequate substitute for a human friend. It is clear, for example, that some people set the value of their relationship with an animal above that of any human alliance, and the possibility that a computer might achieve such favor cannot therefore be rejected merely on the grounds that it is not human.
At this point we may begin to wonder whether there is any limit to the potential intimacy between a person and a machine. Some human I friendships progress to a very high level of intimacy. People become 'o emotionally dependent on those who are close to them; they speak of 1 shared lives and in terms of love and devotion. Is there any guarantee that feelings of even this level of intensity could not be stirred by a machine? If those qualities that lead people into the closest of relationships were understood, would it not perhaps be possible to simulate them and thereby stimulate the deepest of human emotions? As yet there is no direct evidence to demonstrate such an effect, but neither is there any strong argument for ruling out the possibility, however distasteful the notion might be. Indeed, the theme of love for a machine has been explored a number of times by creative writers, mostly within the framework of science fiction. Although the machines in these stories may be rather extravagant creations, the human responses that are portrayed are often plausible and convincing.
How should we regard the suggestion that a future "best friend" might be delivered in a box or that the object of our deepest affections | might be rendered insensible by a power failure? The idea of the inanimate intimate does seem outrageous, but not too long ago it was thought that the idea of a machine that could play a reasonable i game of chess was equally absurd. The imagined impossibility of the chess-playing machine was based on a lack of vision in the technical area. Those who might suggest that the notion of an intimate human-machine relationship is entirely fanciful are likely to have disregarded the evident psychological responses to complex interactive computer systems. If we use the available evidence as a basis for predicting the likely reactions to "softer" and more sophisticated devices, then it will be seen that the concept of the companion machine is in fact highly plausible.
This does not mean that we have to like the idea, however. We 131 may be less than delighted with the suggestion that the deepest human needs might be catered to by an electronic package. Somehow it feels as if it should not be that easy. Perhaps we shall find that relationships with artificial devices make personal demands just as human relationships do, but at least computer companions would be readily available, and they would be programmed to get on well with a wide range of potential human friends. Many people suffer severely from a lack of social contact, and we should not be too ready to condemn an innovation that could bring considerable benefits to a large number of people.
Whatever our level of enthusiasm or distaste for the artificial friend, 14 the introduction of such devices must be regarded as a real possibility. The technology that is at present used to calculate electricity accounts and guide advanced weaponry has many potential applications in the field of social relationships. People are ever ready to attribute all manner of human characteristics to rather paltry objects, and they are likely to be overwhelmed when a machine speaks to them knowledgeably and affectionately.
READING FOR INFORMATION
1. According to Frade, what are some of the human qualities the intimate machine will possess?
2. Summarize the section of the article in which Frade explains how the machine will be programmed to act like a friend.
3. From Frade's point of view, is there any limit to the intimacy that could develop between a person and a machine?
4. How does Frude characterize people's likely reactions to the idea of an intimate machine? What are some of the positive reactions and some of the negative ones?
5. Paraphrase some of Frade s reasons why we should not readily condemn this innovation.
6. Which sentence or sentences best state Frude s thesis or main idea?
READING FOR FORM, ORGANIZATION, AND EXPOSITORY FEATURES
1. Which organizational patterns does Frude use? What is the overall effect of Frade's organizational strategy?
2. Would you characterize this article as a piece of academic or popular writing? Give reasons for your view.
3. Explain the types of evidence (facts, statistics, references to authorities, and so forth) Frude uses to develop and support his position, and give an example of each.