Will we humans one day truly love robots just like we love other humans?

Battlestar-Galactica-Cylon.jpg Battlestar-Galactica-Tricia-Helfer.jpg

Photos: Sci Fi Channel

So "Battlestar Galactica" is back for its final season. "Battlestar," which some call the "smartest sci-fi TV show ... maybe ever," is probably also the most theorized series on television these days, full of mysteries, twists, and parallels to real world events.

The show chronicles the journey of the last human survivors as they search for the long-lost Earth and are chased by Cylons, a cybernetic race created by humans that decided to take over. Some Cylons look like the metal robot above, left. Others look like Tricia Helfer, right.

In the episode that aired last Friday, viewers are left wondering who is a Cylon and who is not, and I found one dialogue particularly interesting. Lee Adama, a character that some say "represents the 'conscience' of Battlestar," tells his father, Commander Adama:

Battlestar-Galactica-Adamas.jpg

- Dad, what if Zak had come back to us in that Viper? If my brother had climbed out of that cockpit would it matter if he were a Cylon? If he always had been? When all's said and done, would that change how we really feel about him?

That may well be one of the greatest questions not only in "Battlestar" but also in the field of artificial intelligence. Will we, humans, one day truly love robots just like we love other humans? Will love for a person and for a robot be indistinguishable?

Those questions lead to another: If robots reciprocate our feelings, will their emotions be just a very sophisticated simulation, or could we see them as the "real thing," the same kind of "stuff" as our own emotions?

IEEE Spectrum is preparing a special report that will discuss many of these issues and we'd love to know what you think. Leave a comment below or write to automaton@ieee.org.

(If you aren't familiar with "Battlestar," you can catch up by watching this 8 minute summary.)

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Automaton

IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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