Last night I went shopping for my soon-to-be two-year-old daughter’s birthday presents. She’s two, so her main criteria for gifts is that it has to have Dora the Explorer on it. Not too big of a standard. We got to the babydoll aisle and were looking at the baby’s. There’s a variety out there for those of you without kids, from the baby’s filled with beads to the top-of-the-line “real” ones. There was one that really stuck out with me and what I’m learning/doing in my interests with AI and the like.
Her name is “Baby Alive Doll” and she’s quite interesting. She blinks, moves her face/mouth, drinks and poops. What bugged me a bit was that she says, “I love you, Mommy!” My daughter just sat and stared at this “baby” in the box. To her it was a real baby stuck in a box. I watched her watch the doll and it was very eerie. Not only did the doll say mommy, but it poos. My daughter is not potty-trained yet, so the idea of purchasing a doll to buy diapers for is disturbing in it own right. One is enough fo me. But it was more than that.
I saw in my daughter’s eyes something as she stared into the package, I couldn’t completely put my finger on it. To me, I felt like the mother in AI: Artificial Intelligence buying David. This doll would be a companion for my daughter, talk to her, keep her busy, ask to play, but…David….it’s not the same, but it felt briefly similar. What if she played rough with the doll, as she does since she hangs out with her brother a lot. And after she played rough,tossed it to the side. Forever saying from the corner, “Play with me mommy!” I am not ready for this just yet. I almost feel for the doll that doesn’t yet feel for itself.
My daughter not knowing any better may feel for her too. This is just a thought, but I’m curious to hear others. The technology is infantile compared to where it’s going, but it’s still a step in that direction, so what is to happen. Is this how we will become accustomed, start with baby and move up from there? Ben Goetzel is working on baby AI and training them. This particular doll is not able to learn, but will Ben move on when his technology’s ready to putting it in these dolls and what type of impact will that have on society? Just thoughts for now, answers/insight are great for shedding any light.