My robot dog, ten years ago,
Could do amazing things;
She’d bounce around the house, you know,
As if her legs had springs.
She’d hide behind a kitchen chair
(She’d learned this little quirk)
Then bound out, leaping from her lair
When I returned from work.
She’d come to me, and she’d implore
To scratch behind her ears;
Uniquely her—and so much more
Than actuated gears.
Her singular behavior hid
The programming thereof
She loved me—that is what she did…
And I returned her love.
Ten years ago, my robot pup
Seemed safe from Father Time
A robot’s time is never up—
Immortal as a rhyme—
Ten years ago, she melted hearts,
Now hers falls prey to rust
And she’ll return to scraps and parts
And I’ll return to dust.
Remember when your dog died, and broke your heart, and you decided you’d only get another dog when they invented one that couldn’t die, and then you got all excited when genuine robot dogs came around because finally your heart wouldn’t get broken again?
Guess again. As of last year, Sony, who made the robot dogs, no longer repairs them. And parts are running out for the independent rob-vets who do. The linked Newsweek story reports on the funerals of 19 robot dogs who had reached the end of their functional lifetimes.
Now, people can certainly get attached to things, even if they are not dog-shaped. They can act as pets, or as family members (do I repeat myself?). But the Newsweek article makes me wonder one thing, from an ethics standpoint.
What about robot-dog organ donorship? Would you want parts from your dog going to someone else’s? If you repair them, and could cobble together parts from several defunct units to make one that is functional, is that Frankensteinesque? Or more like Christian Barnard? Would you have to get a consent form signed?