“Last Moment Robot”?

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on June 7, 2012

By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

The “Last Moment Robot” has been created to be your companion as you shuffle off this mortal coil. From the CNET story:

As a woman lies on a mattress on the floor, a small white machine attached to her outstretched right arm offers the following words:

I am the Last Moment Robot. I am here to help you and guide you through your last moment on Earth. I am sorry that your family and friends can’t be with you right now, but don’t be afraid. I am here to comfort you. You are not alone, you are with me. Your family and friends love you very much, they will remember you after you are gone.

Yikes! But not to worry, it’s an art project:

Jarred by the notion of someone dying in the company of a machine instead of loved ones (or at least other humans)? That’s partly the point. On the one hand, the image “reveals the cruelty of life, lack of human support/social connections,” Dan Chen, who created the robot, tells Crave. “On the other hand, the robot becomes something that you can trust/depend on. It could give you the ‘placebo effect’ of comfort.”

Chen, an artist, designer, and engineer who just graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with an MFA in Digital + Media, built the machine as one of a series of functional robots capable of reenacting human social behaviors. But just how much can a machine impart comfort and security? It’s a fascinating, complex question, and one Chen explores in his master’s thesis titled “File > Save As > Intimacy” (PDF ), a study of interactions based on what he calls robotic intimacy technology (RIT).

Too many people die alone, that’s for sure. As an art project, the Last Moment Robot is certainly a piquant commentary. If anything like it were ever placed into actual service, it would reflect a cruel abandonment of human love and compassion. That’s why this is scary: It has a foot in potential reality.

Previous post:

Next post: