After my post about how computers are learning to "read" human emotion through facial recognition and measurement with bio-sensors, I came across this video explaining the "Emotion Jacket" created by Philips Research. Using haptic technology, the jacket employs the human response to touch to stimulate emotion.
The applications for movies and gaming are obvious, and we may see jackets like this joining 3D glasses to create the real life "feelies" that kept people compliant and entertained in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." And I don't even need to mention the fact that the sex industry is always an early adopter--and driver--of technological innovation. (Check out the wikipedia entry for Woody Allen's orgasmitron. Devices that simulate/stimulate orgasm are fairly common in movies and science fiction.) Beyond that, it doesn't take much to imagine how useful such technology might be for a torturer, who could put a victim through sheer hell but never cause lasting bodily harm.
Although many a dog lover would argue otherwise, most people assume that the ability to feel emotion and respond to the emotions of others is a core attribute of being human. I feel, therefore I am. Yet these technologies are rapidly erasing that distinction between man and machine. Once again we are forced to confront the question: What does it mean to be human? Or does that even matter if you get stars in your eyes and butterflies in your stomach everytime your new robot boyfriend touches your hand?
So what do you think? If it looks like love and feels like love is it really love, even if induced by skin conductance and a haptic interface?