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Textproduktion: Comment/Letter "Talking, Walking Objects" by C. Diana


Choose one of the following tasks:

  1. Using examples from the Text, comment on the effect that emotional bonding (cf. l. 26/27) with technical devices might have on interpersonal relationships. (40 %)
  2. Compare the development of sentient objects as described in the Text with another groundbreaking invention in the history of mankind. Assess the impact these inventions have on our lives. (40 %)
  3. After reading the article you have become worried about the potential risks mentioned in the Text. Write a letter to Carla Diana in which you reflect on her responsibility as a product designer and creative consultant to guard against such risks. (40 %)

Address your letter to:  

 Carla Diana
 c/o The New York Times 
20 Eighth Avenue 
New York, NY 10018 USA




As designers have created numerous humanlike technical devices in order to enable an emotional bond between the users and the machines, there are several effects on interpersonal relationships.

Firstly, a lot of mutual activities with your partner are lost when robots do the housework (ll.46f.). Many couples enjoy cooking, cleaning or working in the garden together because it enables them to develop a deeper relationship. If you possess a robot taking care of the household chore, there will be nothing left to do but relaxing on the sofa, which, especially with couples that have been married for many years, leads to boredom and sloth.

Secondly, technical devices can render certain jobs redundant. Robots like Autom (ll.24f.) substitute personal trainers and do not require face-to-face contact to humans anymore. Furthermore, machines can replace doctors taking your pulse or checking your blood pressure (l.47) and even fitness coaches, such as the game “Wii Fit” by Nintendo which enables you to work out at home.

And thirdly, robots can be substitutes not only for domestic animals (ll.50f.) but also for friends (ll.55f.), which is why technical devices might be responsible for the loss of interpersonal relationships. If you possess a machine at your home that is able to behave like a human, namely dancing (ll.44f.) or talking with you (ll.22-24), there will be no need to leave the house and make new friends. Moreover, there are even humanoid robots that can act as your partner and satisfy your sexual needs, which also leads to social exclusion and isolation.

In a nutshell, emotional bonding with technical devices decreases the interaction with other people because machines might replace not only our fitness coaches but also our friends and partners.

(291 words)


Both the development of sentient objects and the introduction of the television are groundbreaking inventions in human history. But what are their effects on our daily lives?

First of all, it is apparent that they are designed for your personal entertainment representing diverting leisure time activities. Simon the robot, for instance, behaves like a child you can play with (ll.12-14) and Siri, the iPhone application by Apple, is a good listener as well as a likeable discussion partner (ll.22-24). Similarly, the television offers interesting shows and exciting movies to keep you busy all day long.

Furthermore, sentient objects and the television simplify our daily lives because they can facilitate certain tasks or render them redundant. Autom, for example, the personal trainer for people wanting to lose weight, obviates the need for a visit at your local fitness centre (ll.24-27) and the television enables you to watch movies, concerts or sports events without even leaving your home.

However, both inventions can also have negative effects. They can be used to manipulate us because the emotional bond between humans and machines makes it possible to indoctrinate people with specific modes of behaviour (l.32). Technical devices can change your eating habits or make you buy things you do not need (ll.34f.), such as commercials on television or Autom, which suggests how much you should eat (l.26f.).

Moreover, the humanization of technical devices (l.55f.) and the excessive use of television can cause the loss of interpersonal relationships because it means spending more time at home with these inventions than with your friends, which leads to social exclusion and isolation.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that both sentient objects and the television have a major impact on our daily lives. As they have positive as well as negative effects, they should rather be treated with caution than welcomed with open arms.

(316 words)


                                                                                                      Lindenstr. 15
                                                                                                      86150 Augsburg


Carla Diana
c/o The New York Times
20 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018 USA             

                                                                                                  12 September 2014


Comment on the article “Walking, Talking Objects”

Dear Carla Diana      

I am writing in response to your article “Talking, Walking Objects” published in the New York Times on 27 January 2013 and I would like to comment on your responsibility as a product designer and creative consultant to guard against the risks you mentioned.

I completely agree with you that robotic objects can be used to manipulate us and change your eating habits or make you buy things you do not need. Furthermore, I am also convinced that they pose a security risk because they do not possess any protection against hackers and thus thieves could use the inbuilt cameras to spy on your home.

Therefore, it should be your highest priority to develop these products anticipating the risks mentioned above and to think of possibilities of how to prevent them. One solution is to design robotic objects with neutral colours such as black, white or grey to avoid iconic relationships with popular brands or companies. A machine with a red case and a yellow “M” on its chest might be a good colour combination but it would definitely be connected to a well-known fast food chain. Accordingly, a rainbow-coloured apple, which would definitely be encouraging for people who want to lose weight, should not be used because it represents a world-wide known computer firm. Thus, please try to remain independent and do not accept donations or endorsement deals.
Moreover, I think the implementation of potent firewalls or the elimination of the requirement of a permanent Internet connection, which is highly popular today in order to assess consumer behaviour and usage patterns, should contribute to the safety of your products making it more difficult for hackers to access them illegally.

In a nutshell, as the development of robotic objects involves several risks, please consider them carefully and try to avoid them in advance to ensure a pleasant and safe co-existence of humans and machines.

Yours faithfully


Max Mustermann

Max Mustermann

(330 words)
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