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June 25, 2017

11:04 PM

How soon before we reach interpersonal synchronization with intelligent robots?

Francisco Miraval

A recent study by experts at the University of Colorado in Boulder, published in Scientific Reports, reveals that when two persons very close to each other (parents and children, husband and wife) hold hands they can synchronize their hearth and respiration rhythms, thus helping to reduce and sometimes even eliminate a person may be experiencing.

This effect is known as interpersonal synchronization and it may even happen, but without physical contact, in other places and under other circumstances, such as between teachers and students, o between therapists and patients. However, the closer two people are, the more attracted they are two each other not for professional reasons, the deeper the effect becomes.

In some cases, when two people are very close to each other, there is no need for them to hold hands. They could just be close to each other and that will be enough for them to synchronize their hearts, respiration, and even their brain waves.

According to Dr. Pavel Goldstein, who led the research, some couples achieve a high level of empathy and synchronization when they sing together or when the watch a movie together. In that way, having similar heart and respiration rhythms becomes a tool to transmit empathy to each other.

When that transmission is interrupted, that means that at least one of the persons holding hands is in pain. In that case, the empathy could be reestablish holding hands again and, as a consequence, the pain is usually reduced or dissipated.

But now, according to Dr. Dan Szafir, of the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder, there is another possibility for synchronizing our feelings, that of achieving interpersonal synchronization with intelligent robots. According to Szafir, artificial intelligence will not replace us: it will live with us.

The reason is that robots have an ever-increasing ability to understand language, including nonverbal expressions, such as body language, tone of voice, and gestures.

Those robotic capabilities are still in their early stages, yet, Szafir hopes that in the near future there will be intuitive robots, that is, robots not only able to interact with humans as humans now interact with other humans, but also able to anticipate human behavior. And it is not just science fiction.

So, we should prepare ourselves to interact with almost human robots, so human they will be able to anticipate their own actions and they will allow humans to anticipate the robotic actions.

In other words, now that we are finally beginning to understand what many of us already knew, that being next to a person who loves us calms us and heals us, at that very moment when science understand that wonderful interaction, we need to prepare ourselves to repeat that interaction, but this time with intelligent robots.

What’s the best way to do it? Re-reading Asimov? Watching the episodes of Futurama? Analyzing the behavior of Data in Star Trek TNG? Perhaps we only need to be human, too human, for as long as we can. 

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