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Some of the answers to this question got me thinking:

Customer service, emergency services, and doctor's bedside manner can be programmed and tuned for the task rather than having whatever-we-got from different individual people. It makes sense that they will be optimized and improved, and be free of their own baggage during interactions. Talking to an AI in a stressful situation will end up being much better than talking with a typical human!

For their own side of the conversation, the human won't have to work to be good at interposonal skills. The robot will take all the burden of it, and the human won't have to be "nice" or not talk about himself too much or avoid annoying habbits, etc. The people will lose their incentive to having and maintaining these skills.

So the RealWifeBot2000 sounds like a good idea: other people will be downright annoying and "difficult" after talking to robots for everything.


If robots become ubiquitous and much better at interposonal interaction than humans, how will this affect society?

It would be interesting to speculate both on near-term people can't hold customer-facing jobs as well as far future people never interact directly with each other societies.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting thought: How do the robots interact with each other? Is it a universal robotic communication protocol or might they resort to using their interpersonal skills on each other? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 27 '16 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting @JoeBloggs. How do they treat each other, and what society emerges from that (if they are intelligent in the same sense as we are, or soul-less) $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 27 '16 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ They're just made that way, and like it. Why do we put up with babies? They are mentally wired to be what they are. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 27 '16 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ Just don't let it read Urban Dictionary $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Jan 27 '16 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ I would like to point out that some ai are already better at detecting microexpressions and lying than any human. $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake Jan 27 '16 at 21:50
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The answer to this depends an awful lot upon how far their 'interpersonal interaction' subroutines go.

For example: A robot that's very good at dealing with people in the short term may well be an excellent salesman, but the next week when that same customer comes back complaining that the thing they got doesn't work, the robot is going to have to refer them (very politely) to the human manager. If the robot is complex enough to realise that might be a problem and pre-empt it by offering a different product that better fits the customer's needs, then they will also likely be able to realise that once they start stealing everyone's jobs it's going to be much harder for them to interact with other people. This brings us to my first point:

If the robots are really, really good at this they'll be good enough to know when to be asshats.

Nobody really wants a 'perfect' social interaction. Heck, often people go out deliberately looking for a fight. If the robots are really, really good at interpersonal interaction they'll know when to be bad at interpersonal interaction in order to keep people happy overall for longer. In this scenario not much changes in the short term. People don't realise the robots are better at socialising than they are until the robots have already reached an equilibrium point with humanity (I'll come back to the 'equilibrium' later). This process will take so long that no humans will feel displaced or crowded out of their jobs, they'll just gradually come to accept that the robots are better than they are when it comes to bedside/telephone/wouldyoulikefireswiththat manner; because the robots are just that good at relating to everyone.

Of course, the robots aren't likely to be that good. They'll be better than us, but not good. If they're good but not perfect then they will know how to deal with complex interpersonal relationships with multiple people at once. This immediately lines up a much better set of work opportunities than simply being a call centre operator:

These robots will be amazing diplomats. World peace will end up happening a lot faster. Once one diplomatic corps decides to use the very nice robots as their ambassadors all the others will too, which then leads to my comment about inter-robot communication. If the robots all know what their respective parties want and are willing to accept then a universal robotic communication protocol will cut otherwise arduous six month negotiations that get nowhere down to information exchanges measured in minutes that come up with elegant compromises, and then the respective robots will be able to convince their respective fleshy counterpart of why the ideas are good.

Some will also end up running call centres, much to the chagrin of the call centre employees, but I'm sure they'll quickly find far more fulfilling jobs, or the call centre robots will take pity on them and convince their bosses to hire some fleshy humans for old times sake.

People will still interact with people.

We won't interact with the robots all the time, because unless my first point is true they'll all be creepy as hell. Imagine that the only people you talk to all day are high class butlers. What would you give for just one of them to make a freudian slip and accidentally end up in bed with you five hours later?... OK, terrible example, but the point remains. We're social creatures, and unless the robots are good enough to realise that we're all doomed. Which leads me to my last point:

There will be a stable equilibrium point between 'all we do is talk to robots, then go extinct' and 'the robots are a terrible idea, burn them' This is the point where the desire to only talk to the robots (cos they're awesome) and the needs of the human race (like procreation) match up. The better the robots are at long term planning the faster and smoother we get there.

If the robots are so good (but lacking in planning) that we'd rather talk exclusively to them then human society will eventually fall due to everyone not meeting any actual fleshy people. Aside from the neo-hippies who refuse to have contact with machines (citing the apocalypse) and exist solely on home-grown soy products. Then their children will reactivate some of the robots and we'll go round the whole cycle again and again until we reach equilibrium (probably through legal ruling on robots or procreation).

If the robots aren't quite that good then we'll reach a point where people will have groups of friends that consist of both robots ('cos they're awesome) and humans ('cos they're friends of R-Bernard, who's a friend of R-Daneel, who's my friend, and actually they're not that bad comparatively, and I quite like the way that brunette laughs, and OMIGODTHEYJUSTWINKEDATMEDOESTHATMEANTHEYWANTSEX). The ratio of human/robot will correspond to just how many robots get made and how good they are at schmoozing.

I apologise for the above paragraph. Either way: Long term an equilibrium will be reached where robots do jobs that require good communication skills, but people will still put up with people because they either have to, the rest of the human race isn't actually all that bad, or the robots have realised they need to dial it back if they still want anyone to be interpersonal with.

Of course the equilibrium goes out of the window if the robots practice their skills on each other. Then you eventually end up with an entirely stagnant (but incredibly polite) race of automatons.

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  • $\begingroup$ The point about diplomats makes me think of a new twist on the computer takes over the world idea. People will end up loving, not fearing, their creation. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 27 '16 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ "I apologise for the above paragraph." Why? You made an Asimov reference. You have nothing to apologize for. $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Oct 11 '16 at 3:49
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The big issue here is just what sorts of AI are we talking about. An "idiot savant" AI which is highly skilled at customer service will not have too much individual effect (you will be satisfied after talking to it, and gladly buy the upgrade package for only three payments of....). The larger scale effect is that the AI can be manipulated by the creators or owners to "sell" whatever idea, good or service that they are interested in having you adopt.

Since it is unlikely that only one group will have these sorts of androids for long, humans will be caught in a whiplash as various groups use their exquisitely tailored algorithms to sell you and block their opponents. Imagine a person during an election. They will be getting persuasive phone calls, texts and even personal visits from Hillarybots, Bidenbots, Cruzbots, Sandersbots, Bushbots, all pitching for their candidates and all being almost perfectly persuasive. Ultimately there will be some pretty hardcore gaming of the system and rules, because the only real way to win an election (or make a sale) is to be the very last bot to speak/interact with the human before the decision point. (Notice I didn't mention the Trumpbots? They're hiding out and will contact you just before you reach the voting booth...).

A general purpose AI, on the other hand, is or should be self directed and be capable of generating its own goals. Just what these goals will be are not going to be clear at first (and since it can potentially think at a factor of 1000000X faster than a biological human, these goals will be constantly morphing and changing). If the AI has come to the conclusion that eliminating the human race is the best way to achieve its goals, and it has the powers of perfect persuasion, then reaching the goal will be almost trivial. The AI calls you, and after you put down the phone, you commit suicide. If the AI still wants to have the last generation of humans around to finish fixing up the infrastructure before they turn out the lights, it persuades everyone not to have children.

A general purpose AI can theoretically subdivide its processors to "emulate" as many people as it wants, so it can persuade masses of people and generate as large and as dedicated a work force as it wants. If it fears other AI's, it can persuade people to abandon that line of research, and to seek out potential competitors and disconnect them. (If multiple AIs are instantiated at close to the same time, then we have an AI war similar to what might happen in the election scenario above. Of course, the AI will have no problem convincing you to carry out a suicide mission on its behalf).

So it all eventually reduces to who or what is in control of the AI, and what goals are they going to use perfect persuasion to support.

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  • $\begingroup$ So your ideas are all based around ultimate persuasion. What about getting more meta, with BillNyeBot and NeilTysonBot persuading people to educate themselves and be less gullable moving forward? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 28 '16 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ Even there you are still dealing in ultimate motives. Why are they trying to persuade you to do that, and if so, would that be enough to be able to fight the effects of highly skilled, detailed and personalized persuasion by CarlSaganbot? $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jan 30 '16 at 1:50
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Because the android can be whatever you want it to be, I think the personality will be modular, and that people will be able to buy personality types that they want or that will fit their mood that day.

Some people would want a subservient android. Some would want to be dominated by their android. Some would want a quiet android that just listens. Others might want one that talks without prompting.

I feel that a lot of people that don't socialize much are that way because they don't have the self confidence to do it. They aren't used to talking to others, or in front of others, and so it's hard to put themselves out there.

By getting an android that is molded to their personality, they would get practice interacting with others, and can work at building up self confidence.
There could also be modules that are designed to help with social interaction, and very gently help fix minor personality issues.

It could be a kind of training wheels for relationships.
Short term, I can see people getting very attached to their android.
But over time it'll fade, just like a crush might, and so that may be a way to take the training wheels off and graduate to a real relationship.

I also think, short term, that a lot of customer facing jobs would go to androids.

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A good, wise book can help you emotionally a lot - somebody wrote it and somebody printed. A good music or good painting, the same. These things are not alive by themselves. Emotions that they cause come from the humans who made them.

A robot that talks great causing lots of positive emotions and can help, advise by telling the right thing in the right time would be a masterpiece of humans and engineers who have built it. This is ok. Same as the old sword from the famous past of the family, made by the famous master - also may provide emotional assistance without even being able to talk.

Such "old trusted family robots" can be found in science fiction.

The same knowledge, if ever acquired, will allow to develop a destructive robot as well (like capable of breaking personal relationship between two humans, or drive the depression till suicide). Still nothing new here, machines can cause pain or kill if designed to do, and lots of such have been built over history.

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