Robot Doubles

radio_shack1Spring is always the most listless semester in my teaching gig. Energy is low, weather is good, and class attendance basically collapses once the beer gardens open in mid-April. One weeknight not long ago, I was feeling uninspired to teach one of my more droopy classes, and remembered my robot doubles concept from many years ago:

Let’s say that everyone had (or could easily purchase, at least) a robot double that looks almost exactly like you and has about 70% of your mental capabilities. You could send your Robo off to take care of minor errands for you (say, picking up a package from the post office) and be pretty confident that he/she would be up for the task. There would probably be legalese written into many social transactions that forbid people from sending their Robos on their behalf and maybe even ‘No Robos’ stickers on certain storefronts (the DMV, for instance), but for the most part you could be confident that nobody would notice the switch.

But the question would be whether you would dare to send your Robo off to deal with more complex and critical tasks. I imagine people getting busted periodically for sending their Robo to work for them while they stayed home and slept in. In extreme cases, faltering marriages would collapse when one already-jaded partner detected that their husband or wife had sent their Robo home to deal with them so they could sit in a bar or have an affair. The Robo problem would crop up especially in school– I can almost imagine certain students of mine trying to pass off deficient robotic doubles of themselves if they had the chance. But then again, they also might notice that the person teaching them was, in fact, a Robo. The real question would be whether our Robos would be capable of detecting other Robos, and if so whether they would inform their Humans, or whether they would instead form a tacit alliance to keep it a secret among themselves.

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