I’ve always wondered about toys for young children that mimic the behavior of living things. Is this a good thing, or does it teach (on some basic level) indifference to the pain of others?
Take this video for example: A cute toddler repeatedly throws a talking Elmo doll onto the floor or into its box. Would this child do the same to an animal or to an infant, or does he clearly identify this thing as a inanimate toy? And if so, why bother making it talk and produce a broad range of contextually appropriate responses? Just to annoy the parents? (Any toy that makes sound will quickly drive the parents nuts.)
The bigger techno-cultural question is how will increasingly life-like responses from inanimate objects affect our attitudes toward other beings? Are we more likely to wind up agonizing about hurting our toaster’s feelings, or have a higher incidence of psychopathy?