On Friendship

I was asked to express my opinion in regards to Gatebox. Essentially it’s a “home robot” that controls your home (turn the lights on and off, basically) and annoyingly texts you ever so often “when are you coming home?” and “I miss you”. I say “annoyingly” because the robot doesn’t really *care* for the owner’s well-being. It’s just programed to ask him X times a day. Would the owner miss an opportunity to go to a date with a real person just because his robot told him to “come home quickly!”?
Long time ago, when I watched “A.I.“, I fell for the Teddy robot. I thought that it’s the perfect companion to a young boy. But then a friend asked me “what’s wrong with having a real-life person as a friend?”. That’s a good question. Well, not all kids can have a real-life person as a friend. Some are in remote places or forced in solitude for whatever reason that keeps them away from other people. But to be frank, that’s a very small minority, and with connectivity to the internet and its anonymity, they should be able to easily find online friends.
And what about the AI-boy in the movie? Is he a legitimate substitute for a real life person?
Without dwelling into the robots’ right for independence and freedom from suffering, the robot-boy in the movie came as a substitute for the real son. In our modern world, other solution to fill the void created by the coma-state of the son (he’s not dead!) would be either to have another baby, or to adopt (people are spending fortunes to have their gene replicated instead of helping an already living child in need), or simply get a shrink to solve one’s psychological issues. As a side note, I know it doesn’t go with the movie’s narrative but what about cloning the son?
Is a real-life friend better than a artificial one? how about a friend for hire? that sure makes life easy – whenever you need a good-looking friend – hire one. Although I do wonder how does it work exactly. Do people hire a good-looking friend just to spend an evening at home with or is it important to have him impress your peers? It’s true there is a big difference between a Geisha and a prostitute, which is the involvement of sex, but sex isn’t everything (some would argue otherwise) that we’re trying to get in a relationship. it’s only a benchmark. So you’ve finally decided to hire a good looking man for your friend’s wedding. What should you say when your peers will be impressed by him being so witty and thoughtful and caring towards you? should you tell them the truth that he is paid by the hour? that kinda takes the sting out of it, isn’t it? So it comes down that the big problem with any hired friend, real or artificial actually boils down to the question “why can’t you have a real friend?”
Ruby Sparks addressed it quite elegantly as the protagonist wasn’t ready for a relationship as he couldn’t accept Ruby as an independent individual and wasn’t ready to change for her sake. A real friend will not only be there for you whenever your need him. A real friend will also get mad at you whenever you mess things up. Because a real friend care about you. He might be forgiving, she might be patient, but if it doesn’t make you better than you are – it’s a very lousy friend. Man’s nature is to be a social animal, but it only means we need friends; not that we are born with social skills. And Social skill are mostly learned by experience, trial and error but also from observation and a great deal of empathy. A hell load of empathy.
Interventions is another thing that friends do, whether it’s useful or not. It’s probably a wrong technique, trying to go like “we’ll stop you from doing something we think is wrong for you by threatening to break away our friendship” but coming off as “your friendship isn’t important enough for us to accept you as are”. but in it’s core it comes from the right place – friend will intervene because they care. And that’s actually the thing that we really crave – someone that will care. Care for our happiness, and health, well-being and also our future. That’s what’s true friendship is all about. Preferably is mutual. Companion – whether they’re mechanic, or hired, or a simple one-night stand simply don’t do that and would only leave you empty.

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