Imagine government robots in homes and in schools, teaching English as a second language and encouraging children to exercise. This seems like a dystopian science fiction novel, but if the government has its way, it will happen in the near future.
After all, the government already is planning to spend $10 million to “deploy” robots to children in homes and schools to do these very tasks — teaching English as a second language and urging kids to exercise. The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Yale University in 2012 one of its biggest grants ever for a 5-year project known as “Robots Helping Kids,” and the government has spent $2.15 million so far.
According to the NSF, this grant is necessary due to “critical societal problems” that “require sustained, personalized support that supplements the efforts of educators, parents, and clinicians.” The robots will be deployed in “schools and homes” to assist children, NSF said.
Robots Helping Kids
In a press release, Yale University described the purpose of the project as to develop “sophisticated ‘socially assistive’ robots” designed to help children:
- Overcome disabilities
- Enjoy physical activity
“The big idea is that we’re building robots to help kids,” said Brian Scassellati, the Yale computer science professor who is leading the project.
“At the end of five years we’d like to have robots that can guide a child toward long-term educational goals, be customized for the particular needs of that child, and basically grow and develop with the child. We want the robot to be the equivalent of a good personal trainer.”
Scassellati sees a future where robots are an integral part of children’s lives.
“We want them to help children learn language, we want to help them learn better eating habits, we want them to learn new social or cognitive skills through their interactions with these robots,” he said. “And the robots will be supporting with the efforts we already have with human therapists, and their parents, and their communities. The robots will supplement those activities and allow us to give children more continuous and more detailed support.”
The robots will be personal companions to children for up to a year and establish a trusting relationship with them.
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“We want to build a healthy relationship of trust and respect between the child and the robot so that the child will work hard to achieve the goals set by a teacher or clinician,” Scassellati said.
Who’s Really In Charge?
No doubt, the trust that the government wants to develop between children and robots may point to a future in which millions of robots are in households across the US Yet in a time when we can’t protect our borders and families are having a difficult time making ends meet, it’s irresponsible and even frightening for the government to spend so much time and money on robots.
Not only is the government spending more and more on promoting a “robot agenda” and ignoring serious problems such as securing the border, but there are some serious concerns about making robots an important part of our daily lives. Allowing robots in our homes to become “personal trainers” for our children may allow the government to monitor our lives.
But our government protects us from evil, right? Sadly, this isn’t always the case. When the government turns to artificial intelligence to raise our children, they aren’t protecting us. In fact, they may harm our children. If our government thinks our vulnerable children should be trained by robots and that the solution to our problems is through artificial intelligence, we need to remember that we are responsible to a higher authority. And that authority is God.
Do you think that using robots as “personal trainers” will help or hurt children? Why or why not? Write your response in the comments section below.