iRobot, meRobot, youRobot…?

Programming vs. Feeling

Dan Chen is an engineer and designer who explores the limits of intimacy using his skills to create robotic machines.

His exploration started with questioning human social interaction itself and the motives that guide us through such social interactions. In his talk at TEDxVienna’s Future of Intimacy, he points out that social interactions between people always are accompanied by a certain feeling of doubt: Is the other person being honest? Is his or her empathy real? Does the other person feel pressured to do certain things or am I being judged by the other person?

As we grow up with an understanding of how social interactions should work, we are told by our cultural frame of reference how we should interact in certain situations. Therefore we rarely question simple gestures like a pat on the shoulder or saying certain things because we expect them. We grow up with an understanding on how to interact with other people, but the authenticity behind these gestures is questioned by Dan Chen. He challenges us to re-think our way of interacting with people, because as much as we can follow our little guidebook on social interactions they can still lack real emotion and empathy.

pet robot

Robots vs. Humans

Bearing that in mind, the engineer challenges us on our social interactions, questioning the motives behind certain ways of interacting and wondering if robots may be more honest, because they can’t judge, they cannot feel pressured and robots don’t say things just because it’s what you have to say. There is no ultimatie guidebook for robots how to behave in certain situation. So why not substitute a caretaker with a robot? If Chen’s observations are true, then our lack of empathy and sympathy do not make our actions more honest than those of a robot or maybe what the world needs to remind ourselves of our ability to feel and act according to our intuition are his innovations.

Dan Chen pushes intimacy to a new level, by creating robots that try to create intimacy. Boldly he still points out that intimacy maybe thrives on the unknown and the risk that every social interaction holds. So while designing and creating robots, he still asks the important question: What is intimacy without humanity? And can it really be recreated?

Watch his Talk at the TEDxViennaSalon and see how Chen’s robots will change the future of intimacy:

Picture credits: Pixabay, Merlin Dickie

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About Julia Unteregger

Julia is a writer and a mental health professional. In her free time she likes to hike, even though she fears heights. She also drinks a lot of coffee and plays an excessive amount of solitaire.

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