Robots and Homeopaths

How robots mess with our minds is a great arti­cle on emo­tion­al respons­es to robots by artist and engi­neer, Alexan­der Reben. In it he explores how peo­ple are able to speak inti­mate­ly to machines, and the impli­ca­tions of that as robots gain ‘per­son­al­i­ty’. I was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in a quote from the philoso­pher John Camp­bell:

One of the pos­si­bil­i­ties this opens up is automat­ing aspects of our emo­tion­al lives where we usu­al­ly depend on oth­er peo­ple for sym­pa­thy and sup­port. Rather than rely­ing on your part­ner to lis­ten to the prob­lems you’ve had at work all day, why not explain them to a sym­pa­thet­ic robot that makes eye con­tact with you, lis­tens with appar­ent inter­est, mak­ing all the right nois­es, remem­bers and cross-index­es every­thing you say?

This made me think of home­opa­thy. Although there’s no evi­dence at all that the treat­ment itself is effec­tive, many peo­ple who use it claim that after treat­ment they do feel bet­ter, or even ful­ly cured. One expla­na­tion for this is that a con­sul­ta­tion with a prac­ti­tion­er can have a pos­i­tive effect on well-being; just hav­ing some­one lis­ten com­pas­sion­ate­ly can make you feel bet­ter.

So in the future we could be pre­scribed a ses­sion with a sym­pa­thet­ic robot to make us feel bet­ter.