Expertise can not remedy the loneliness it causes

Technology is often accused of causing loneliness. The US Surgeon General recently warned that technology can increase isolation, increase fear of missing out and reduce social interaction. Surveys often show that young people's isolation increases as their use of social media increases.

But how could these problems caused by technology possibly be solved? Of course more technology!

This is a common response from (who else?) technologists who have a remarkable variety of marketable solutions. From interactive streaming and online gaming to AI lovers and virtual friends, our generous tech lords offer countless alternatives to in-person interaction. Unfortunately, the cure is often worse than the disease.

“It is not surprising that those who replace online relationships with real relationships do not see a decrease in loneliness, but may even see a worsening compared to people who use online interactions to supplement their in-person relationships,” says Louise Hawkley , a Isolation expert, said the American Psychological Association.

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However, when technology is simply supportive, it has been proven to alleviate isolation.

“For older adults who use Skype to talk to their grandchildren who live on the other side of the country, technology can really improve their sense of connection,” Hawkley said.

The latest attempt to find a healthy balance is virtual hugs. The system, developed by researchers in Germany, uses intelligent textiles to create a second skin. When someone puts on the smart fabric, they can experience the feeling of physical touch.

The developers have a noble goal: to enable patients in isolation to have a digital hug with their loved ones. The could well Comfort the lonely – and create others Symbol of our descent into digital isolation.

The dirty among us can also imagine other uses for haptics that mimic human touch: sex robots. If the researchers ever find themselves short on cash, they could pursue a lucrative career change. On the other hand, this market does not meet expectations.

Lonely sex robots

A decade ago, Pew Research predicted that sex robots would be “commonplace” by 2025. With only a year left until that deadline, they are far from the mainstream. Sales have declined since the pandemic and sex robot brothels have been forced to close their doors.

We may always need real lovers, relationships – and hugs. As Professor Tania Leiman, an expert in the field, told the Guardian last year, there is something “fundamentally human” about intimate interaction.

Or maybe the androids are simply not an acceptable replacement yet? The “uncanny valley” is scary enough in the lab, let alone in the bedroom.

One day the robots could escape this valley. And when they do, they are promoted as another digital solution to social isolation.

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