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.