Milo Yiannopoulos reluctantly predicts a wave of anthropomorphism in consumer electronics and web services as technology companies capitalise on our craving for greater human contact.
I found this video of a robot begging to live somewhat arresting. I suppose that was the point of it.
For the average consumer, the line between man and machine is being relentlessly toyed with by consumer electronics and gaming companies, as Hollywood’s creative imagination falls behind that of other industries. Never in the history of physical devices has that line been so fluid and so malleable. Advances in hyper-realism from game developers are also manipulating traditional boundaries, creating the sort of discomfort seen in the video above.
Consider the relationship between people and their Apple devices, too, whose status lights are designed to mimic human breathing at rest and whose charging and sync cycles mimic the structured ritualism of orthodox religion – to say nothing of Siri, which consciously invokes the female secretarial mode and understands instructions unsettlingly fluently.
If it’s true that in the post-PC era technical specifications play second fiddle to UI, the question then becomes: what will the competing visions of user interface design look like? It seems to me that slick tactility has run its course: what more can really be done with flicking and swiping? Next will be anthropomorphism, as household devices as mundane as the washing machine seek to emulate the human contact that technology has done so much to replace.
As is so often the case, the gamers are getting much of it first. But watch carefully over the next twelve to eighteen months for consumer electronics that don’t just provide efficiencies, but which also accelerate our alienation from one other. Because while the internet is currently enjoying a social software orgasm, an abundance of choice and people means that many of us have never felt more alone.
My prediction? It’s more technology, not less, that will paper over the divide. Some people are looking forward to it. I’m not so sure.