The latest edition of RadioLab is a wonderful exploration of how we interact with machines and whether it is possible to simulate the humanity at the core of who we are.
While most discussions on this topic tend to focus on theoretical artificial intelligence of the future, the programme instead looks at technologies that attempt to connect with us emotionally and might already be allowing us to form intense emotional bonds to machines.
Both delightfully playful and profound, it covers everything from emulated romance to sentient toys.
We begin with a love story–from a man who unwittingly fell in love with a chatbot on an online dating site. Then, we encounter a robot therapist whose inventor became so unnerved by its success that he pulled the plug. And we talk to the man who coded Cleverbot, a software program that learns from every new line of conversation it receives…and that’s chatting with more than 3 million humans each month. Then, five intrepid kids help us test a hypothesis about a toy designed to push our buttons, and play on our human empathy. And we meet a robot built to be so sentient that its creators hope it will one day have a consciousness, and a life, all its own.
A beautiful hour of radio.
Link to RadioLab on ‘Talking to Machines’.