I’m Sorry Dave, I Can’t Do That — Accept Your Friend Request That Is

Hasn’t anyone else seen The Matrix? Or 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or that movie with Haley Joel Osment where he played a sad little robot boy? Okay, well I don’t expect anyone to actually have seen that last one. But still, a new Terminator movie is right around the corner, and all the Robocop movies are up on Hulu now, so really, there’s no excuse for the tech community to continue showing such a blatant disregard for the fact that, if we keep making our robots smarter, they’re just going to end up wanting to enslave us all.

After all, a robot that cleans my carpet is just fine (hint hint to everyone looking to get me something for my birthday), but a robot that wants to be my friend, that’s just plain creepy. Unless of course we’re talking about the robot from Iron Giant. I’d be friends with him any day. But, he was an alien. And that’s a whole other story.

Anyway, the point is that according to this BBC article scientists at the Interactive Robots and Media Lab at the University of the United Arab Emirates are planning to put a robot on facebook. The robot, which is currently called Sarah, will also be getting a sex change before its big social networking debut, as scientists plan to swap it for a machine “with the face of Arabic scholar Ibn Sina aka Avicenna.” Of course, that will make it the site’s first transgendered robot user. I knew it was only a matter of time before everyone started jumping on the Real World’s transgendered castmate bandwagon.

According to Dr. Mavridis, the spokesscientist for the project, the goal is to overcoms the “reluctance of people to stay in touch with robots” by “giving humans and robots a pool of shared memories” and putting them in the “same social circle of friends.” Now, I’m reluctant to stay in touch with plenty of my flesh-and-blood facebook friends, even some of those who I do have shared memories with. Especially those with whom I share facebook photos of memories I’d rather forget. Actually, in that context, maybe the robot does get a few keep-in-touch points because he doesn’t have any embarassing photos of my drunk ass attached to his profile. Still, I barely have time to keep in touch with all the people whose lives, work or opinions I actually have a vested interest in.

S0, even though I’m as fascinated by robotics and AI technology as the next nerd, I still can’t find much reason to maintain more than a passing connection with a robotic facebook friend. Sure, it’s going to be cool to talk to him a few times. But, do I really want to put the time and effort into maintaining a long-term relationship with some random automaton on the other side of the world when there are so many more people I want to spend my time, my tweets and my terabytes talking to? Come to think of it, maybe the robot isn’t so different from a lot of my real facebook friends.

I just hope he doesn’t try to use my body heat for energy when I don’t respond to his latest 25 Things list.

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