Here's a great article that explores the oncoming intersection between artificial intelligence and human services. An important development, considering that there aren't nearly enough elder-care workers for the aging baby-boomers.

Unfortunately, there's a shortage of people working in nursing homes and caring for old people and the disabled, said Maja Mataric, director of the University of Southern California's Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems. The average stroke victim gets 39 minutes of active exercise a day when six hours a day is needed, she said, so robots can free up the few nurses for more nurturing activities.

Mataric adjusts her robots' personalities to fit the needs of stroke patients -- nurturing buddy or goal-pushing coach.

And in the case of low-functioning autistic children, they actually seem to relate better to robots than humans, Mataric said. "You'll see a child smile that has never smiled before. No one knows why it happens."

The scientists trying to engineer robots to work with humans are learning more than they expected. They have a new appreciation for our own unique abilities.

Said Deb Roy, director of MIT's Cognitive Machines Group: "It's not until you try to build a machine that does the same task (that people do) ... that you realize how incredibly hard it is."

I've said the same thing before. Studying artificial intelligence has given me a real appreciation of just how amazing humans are.

I like this quote:

"We're cheap dates," [Sherry Turkle from MIT] says. "If an entity makes eye contact with you, if an entity reaches toward you in friendship, we believe there is somebody there ... But that doesn't mean that there is. That just means that our Darwinian buttons are being pushed."



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