HIGHTOWER: Digital Dolls

Ahh, progress! Thanks to the digital revolution, our society has made enormous advances in just the past few years. Yes, we still have that pesky problem of poverty in the midst of plenty; yes, there's still the nagging matter of racism running through our society; yes, the money powers have substituted their plutocracy for our democracy -- BUT ... we now have digital dolls!

With electronic sensors, computer chips, and 32 megabytes of memory, today's dolls can "talk" to a child, turn, blink, wiggle, burp ... and, yes, even poop. There's progress for you! Simple Raggedy Anns, straw dolls, and beautiful porcelain babies once served as an imaginative source of fun, learning, and security for a child, and it was the child's creativity that directed the relationship and made it special.

But the complete computerization of our society has shifted that power relationship. It is now the doll that is the creative one, with artificial creativity preprogrammed, while the child's role is to react to the "voice" and "movements" of the doll. The head of research at big-time doll maker Playmates Toys Inc. informs us that a Rubicon has been passed: "Dolls are becoming less like toys," he says, "and more like miniature robots, digital companions."

For example, the Orange County Register reports that Playmates Toys makes "Amazing Baby," a doll that uses an infrared sensor to detect where voices are coming from, then turns its head in that direction. Also, Amazing Baby randomly asks a child for a cookie, a blanket, or various other objects -- if the child obeys the robot by putting the correct object in its hand, the doll responds positively.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Worse, Amazing Baby is able to sense when another doll is present, then they start to "talk" and "sing" to each other. In the Brave New World of robotic companionship, children are expendable. "What a doll!" by Stephen Lynch. Orange County Register: December 28, 2000.


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