Confessing to the Blab Droid

I like John Campbell’s work. It’s always interesting.

The abstract for his last book starts like this: “A blab droid is a robot with a body shaped like a pizza box, a pair of treads, and a smiley face. Guided by an onboard video camera, it roams hotel lobbies and conference centers, asking questions in the voice of a seven-year-old. “Can you help me?” “What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?” “Who in the world do you love most?” People pour their hearts out in response. This droid prompts the question of what we can hope from social robots. Might they provide humanlike friendship?”

Campbell thinks not. He has a philosophical reason, and it’s very plausible.

Blabdroid, Belgeselci robot | Roboloko
Bless me, blab droid, for I have sinned…

But I got stuck at this intro. WHY do people pour their hearts out to the blab droid? Do we, as the Catholic church discerned, have an inate desire to confess? Or are we all such egotists that we can’t help talking about ourselves? And like social media, the blab droid raises an ethical question. What happens to the answers it receives? What happens to the DATA? If you tell the blab droid/confessor your secrets, where do your secrets go? Who gets to access them, and what will they do with them?

Forget the droid, and its fascinating ability to expose the universality of both human egotism and loneliness. Social media is the real blab droid, and it doesn’t even need to ask us questions in little girl voices to make us confess. But the same issues apply. Where does the data go? What happens between me posting this on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg banking his next billion? Shouldn’t we know?

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