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Surprising Science

Robots That Seduce Us

MIT ethnographer Sherry Turkle warns of the dangers of social technology after herself experiencing what was like a schoolgirl crush on a human-looking machine.

Imagine standing in front of a robot, gazing into its wide, plastic eyes, and falling in love. It happened one summer to Sherry Turkle, at a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she is a professor studying the impact of technology on society. She met a metallic robot named Cog — made to resemble a human, with moving arms and a head — which was programmed to turn toward whoever was speaking, suggesting that it understood what was being said. To Turkle’s surprise, she found that she deeply wanted Cog to interact with her rather than with a colleague who was there that day.


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