Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Holmes . . . or Watson . . . in every home.

Facebook is telling me that the people who like Sherlock Peoria haven't heard from me in a while. "Write a post," Facebook tells me.

Let's all agree right now not to ever get into the robot thing, okay?

Because you know one of the first generations of the mechano sapiens are going to be Facebook enabled, and I really don't want one of those showing up on a Sunday night, nagging me about my blogging responsibilities to Facebook followers. And here's the big question . . . are we going to get robot Sherlock Holmeses or robot John Watsons, and would either of those be a good thing?

Robot Sherlock Holmes.

You can see Robo-Sherlock evolving from Siri, as he starts out as the solver of mysteries. "Robo-Sherlock, where did I put my keys?" "Robo-Sherlock, what happened to Agnes Moorhead?" "Robo-Sherlock, why does my dog not love me any more?" He not only uses the internet, he can actually wander around looking for clues, interviewing other people, retrieving lost items. To be a true Robo-Sherlock, of course, we're going to have to install a disgression function to his personality so he knows when not to tell us the true facts of a matter . . . and perhaps let the culprit go free. But you're not just his client! Ask Robo-Sherlock to allow you to accompany him on an adventure, and he's suddenly a travel-guide into parts, people, and situations unknown.

That's where it gets interesting, and, perhaps, a little dangerous.

And while fiction has attempted robot Sherlocks, I don't think we have yet to see a . . .

Robot John Watson.

Your faithful biographer, accompanying you to turn every little adventure of your life into readable prose. He's an able, supportive robot companion, but just not smart enough to have any answers you are proud to come out with yourself. Good at looking after your physical well-being, whether it's with medical help or protective services. Doesn't follow you when you don't want him to. Great to chat with, but also comfortably silent when you need that. Robot John is an easy friend to have, and since he's a robot, he's not going to leave you for a wife! We can knock that part out of the programming on day one, just like possible drug addictions in Robo-Sherlock.

Of course, whether you choose a Robot John or a Robot Sherlock depends upon your personality. (We're not letting you buy both just to watch them go at it, in this scenario.) And that choice is certainly rather telling.

It's a choice that I hope we never get to make.

Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson were two of the greatest friends we know. And to attach yourself to a robot match like that, whether you're a John or a Sherlock, is apt to make you so comfortable with your robot pal that you make less of an effort to connect with your fellow human beings. And suddenly the fabric of society really takes a hit, as if it hasn't been dinged enough by events of late. Having a household appliance that relieves loneliness is a lot like those medicines that relieve pain -- good for the serious cases, but dangerous to rely on in everyday life.

Robots! Always causing come kind of trouble, whether it's in a cowboy-themed amusement park, taking jobs on the factory floor, or fulfilling a fan's wildest dreams. Perhaps we can put our robo-future off just a little bit longer.

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