TL;DR Amazon created a “big eyes” screen to weaponize surveillance “especially problematic for children, who don’t have the capacity to understand” such overt manipulation tactics. Calling their robot stupid is like saying kid cereal is just sugar. Children “fall in love with” something targeting them with harm.
A new MIT thought piece called “Amazon’s Astro robot is stupid. You’ll still fall in love with it” purports to cover the trust and ethics issues with product design in a robot. It leaves a lot to be desired.
Here’s the most important section:
When you develop a relationship with your robot, what are the ethics of it trying to sell you something from its manufacturer?
This could be especially problematic for children, who don’t have the capacity to understand advertising…
The relationship with the “Astro” is going to be based on it having a huge screen with a pair of disproportionately sized eyes (known as neoteny — juvenile physical characteristics such as large expressive eyes and clumsy gestures to trigger psychological habits of welcome instead of caution against them)
Disney is known for this, as explained in “…Why Princesses Look Like Babies”
In other words, Amazon intentionally created a cruelly weaponized device designed for profiting on human surveillance using simple manipulation of victims… especially children.
While the article goes on to make a point about a “secret” that this robot has little to no actual functional benefit (as if people don’t know Tesla is an obvious scam), they miss the point that less functionality means faster mass production and thus faster spread into private lives.
Actual functionality would rise up to the level of delivering real value to society. That’s something expensive and hard, pretty much the opposite of Amazon’s ethos of a race to the bottom.
The Tesla debacle itself has been proving that robots falsely promoted with all kinds of fraudulent promises of a future capability somehow will find a market, all the while just stealing as much information from their owners as possible.
Sadly, despite all the deaths of Tesla owners, not to mention those around them, this seems worse.