Soon virtual children?

A British researcher predicts that within 50 years a market for “Tamagotchi children” will develop.

Catriona Campbell, a specialist in artificial intelligence, announces in her book AI by Design: A Plan For Living With Artificial Intelligencethe future emergence of “Tamagotchi children” [1]with the name of the virtual pets marketed in the late 1990s.

These virtual children will look like their parents, they will be able to recognize them and respond to them thanks to voice analysis and face tracking. Also able to simulate emotional reactions. And when it’s bath time or cuddle time, just put on a high-tech glove to get tactile feedback and feel physical sensations. These are genuine.

Children who also want to grow up according to their parents’ wishes only skip adolescence or keep them infants forever. In short, perfect children?

Utopia or dystopia?

The view may seem distant, but Catriona Campbell confirms it: In 50 years, the technology will be so advanced that the babies found in the metaverse », This universe of virtual reality destined to replace the internet we know[2]” will not be distinguishable from them in the real world “If we went 50 years back, would it seem realistic for us to be able to pay with a cell phone that fits in our pocket?

Moreover, there is already a proof of concept, admittedly, perhaps still a bit rudimentary. “BabyX” is developed by the New Zealand company Soul machines, and aims to “humanize” artificial intelligence to make it more appealing to the public. The “brain” of this virtual baby is made up of algorithms that derive what is good or bad. And allow him learn to respond to interactions like a real baby As for her movements and expressions on the screen, they are designed based on the movements of real babies.

A virtual answer to real problems?

For the researcher, it is the concerns associated with overpopulation that will encourage society to adopt digital children. Whether it’s overpopulation, environmental protection or the cost of raising a child, there’s no doubt that the arguments will not be lacking.

But is this not fundamentally the paroxysm of individualism? A child, if I will, exactly how I want and when I want. Children are defined via a monthly subscription, which can easily be suspended or interrupted. In short, “practical” kids like everything the digital promises – and accomplishes – from making doctor’s appointments online to delivering the jam jar when all the stores are closed.

But is a child a consumer good? Having a child, is it not acceptable to be surprised, pushed, exceeded? The “Tamagotchi children” may not be there tomorrow, but they are already making us question this rejection of restrictions, this excuse for comfort, ” only ideology to reach consensus today »[3]which our society is permeated by.

[1] The Guardian, Tamagotchi children: could the parenting of the future be to have virtual children in the metaverse? (31/05/2022); Daily Mail, Sam Tonkin, Rise of the ‘Tamagotchi kids’: Virtual kids playing with you, cuddling you and even looking like you, will be common in 50 years – and can help fight overpopulation, predicts AI- expert (31/05 /) 2022)

[2] Généthique, “Metavers”: virtual reality, but very real risks (22/11/2021)

[3] Usbek & Rica, the presidential election: what if the search for comfort was the only ideology that reached consensus ?, Elena Scappaticci (14/04/2022)

This article by the Gènéthique editorial team was originally published on Aleteia under the title: On the metavers, my virtual child “as I will”

Photo: iStock

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