Even when thinking about eating disorders I can’t help but ask myself: “wwbbd? --what would Botboy do?”
Who the heck is Botboy?
Well, the short answer is that Botboy is a social robot of my imagining, about whom I have written a book. He is clever, dedicated, and in appearance looks something like a squarish metal human—but not too much. A longer, more significant answer is that he—and social robots like him—could be game-changing assistants of the future for people with chronic illnesses, age-related disabilities or people who care for a loved one with a serious or chronic illness.
Social robots are robots designed to communicate with humans in a social way: by talking, by helping, by interacting with us in ways we formerly thought of as restricted to other people. Social robots could help when help is needed, make suggestions when the mind blanks, not get angry or impatient, remain ever loyal, and dedicated to the well-being of their master. Social robots could potentially help older people stay in their homes by helping them move around, bathe and dress, monitor their vital signs and by doing household chores. Already our world and the way we deal with each other socially and professionally have been profoundly changed by electronic social media. Robots are simply not that far off. And truly social robots like Botboy would have, at a minimum (but likely greater than), the impact on our lives that the internet has.
Sound silly? Consider, those of you who are parents of a child with an eating disorder:
1. a robot could do the measuring and cooking for your child while you spent some quality time doing other things (earning a living, relaxing, holding your child, spending time with your other children and spouse….)
2. a robot could supervise meals in a neutral non-judgmental way or—better yet—do the laundry or dusting or vacuuming while you were able to supervise your own child’s meals, and to eat with them in an unhurried way.
3. a robot would be an excellent and safe chauffeur for all of your children; alternatively, the robot could drive around the block while you went grocery shopping and then pick you up.
4. it would be simple for a robot to contain a complete medical database for your use and reference (and a mobile one at that).
So in moments of repose I like to fantasize about how a social robot would help the beleagured parents of children with eating disorders cope with their challenges. What do you think about parts of your daily life and responsibilities that Botboy could help you do? Sometimes it seems that just thinking about Botboy can help me draw on reserves of patience and humor that make it possible to deal with the human situations in life that otherwise can bring me nearly to tears.
I ask you, and you ask me, wwbbd?