Thursday, May 14, 2015

Teddy Ruxpin Kevorkian

Robots may soon be aiding you in end-of-life decisions.

The Japanese have long been experimenting with robots as companions for the elderly. Now, as both the size of Japan's senior population and its suicide rate are on the rise, engineers in robotics have developed what is certainly a cynosure for Western eyes, the SeppuKuma. The translation for that phrase is "Suicide Bear." (see above) And from what I've read at the link, the device really is something of a marvel of engineering.

"Suicide Bear" is designed to carry up to 80kb. It has advanced actuators and its base platform can raise and lower to pick someone up out of bed. It can also condense its profile to maneuver itself in and around tight spaces. All in a cute package. Impressive as all that is to robotics devotees and aficionados such as myself, I know what you're all here for.

You want to know how RoboBear will kill people. After all, it does have a sort of "Care Bear meets Terminator" look to it.

Turns out that SeppuKuma will be programmed with 23 different options from which someone may select to die. Among these are "pillow kisses," which is suffocation with a pillow, "Everlasting Sleep," which is lethal injection, favorite..."Sleepytime Hug," where the bear strangles the patient until the patient's pulse stops for a full fifteen minutes.

All joking aside, this is really a compassionate endeavor. In fact, it somewhat gets at Kurzweil's notion of the "Age of Spiritual Machines" where thinking devices become our partners and not overlords. When we consider many of the uses that robots are currently designated towards, this is an effort meant out of benevolence, not malevolence. I realize it may not seem that way to American eyes, as in this land we seem to want to prolong life beyond all thresholds of suffering and dignity. But in many parts of the world, the Right to Die is gathering momentum. Why shouldn't someone be able to make the decision for her or himself if they have had enough of life? If said decision is made with a clear mind and sound judgment, then why not have the final task be carried out by a friendly, smiling bear?

I'm just surprised there isn't a Hello Kitty version.

Quick note: I'm on a summer time schedule now and there may be lapses in posting or posts that are somewhat anemic in nature. I mean, now that I have time to do crazy stuff like, you know, write, spend time with family, so forth.

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