Some social critics see the use of robots with such patients as a sign of the low status of the elderly, especially those with dementia. As the technology improves, argues Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it will only grow more tempting to substitute Paro and its ilk for a family member, friend — or actual pet — in an ever-widening number of situations.What's fascinating about Paro, to me, is that the rise of technology has increasingly made our world less organic -- most of us are, of course, sealed up in air-conditioned bubbles for the vast majority of our lives, cut off from the realm of, well, experience. But as Paro demonstrates, the aim of much technological research is to duplicate (using circuitry) that which already exists in the realm of flesh, blood and bone.
“Paro is the beginning,” she said. “It’s allowing us to say, ‘A robot makes sense in this situation.’ But does it really? And then what? What about a robot that reads to your kid? A robot you tell your troubles to? Who among us will eventually be deserving enough to deserve people?”
Turkle's question -- who will deserve people? -- raises another. Why not people? Why not pets? Why spend $1,000 on a fake baby seal when there's somebody's grandson who could come in for free?