The New York Times arrived this morning and there on the cover of the magazine section was Barbie! I had not had any coffee yet so I had to blink my eyes a few times to take it all in. Yes, The New York Times Magazine was taking a very serious look at the new "Hello Barbie", not as a toy per se but as a first step in our coming relationship with intelligent, empathic robotic friends.
The article, written by James Vlahos, is lengthy, in depth and loaded with hand-wringing over what "Hello Barbie" means for children and our future. The piece carries three titles, each of them either snarky or ominous. Depending upon whether you are reading digitally or ink on paper, they are: "Now I Have A Brain" , "Artificially Yours" and "Barbie Wants to Get to Know Your Child."
"Hello Barbie", if you have missed the news, is an interactive doll that listens to what you have to say; remembers what you have to say and responds to what you have to say (for more see my earlier article: "Hello Barbie, A Major Breakthrough in Play"). The more you talk to her the more she learns about you (your name, how many siblings you have, what worries you, what makes you happy etc.). It is a major step forward in artificial intelligence and I think a major breakthrough in how children and eventually adults will play and live their lives.
Mr. Vlahos has done copious research and quotes any number of experts who are worried. Why they are worried and why I am not in my next posting.