chapter  6
Rhetoric and right action ahead of robot nannies
Pages 16

Half a century later, that distant moment seems almost upon us. In 2010, the journal Interaction Studies dedicated a special issue to a debate concerning childcare robots, initiated by Noel Sharkey and Amanda Sharkey (2010a). They partially quote Serling’s narration as their epigraph: ‘Who’s to say at some distant moment there might be an assembly line producing a gentle product in the form of a grandmother-whose stock in trade is love’ (ibid: 161). By omitting Serling’s ‘But…’ and his reminder that it is most assuredly a fable, the Sharkeys’ ‘who’s to say’ becomes an affirmation: who’s to say it won’t happen, it is happening. According to them, sources close to the industry predicted that we may start seeing machines capable of a wide range of childcare tasks between 2015 and 2025. Therefore policymakers must anticipate likely risks and put in place preventative measures. Others close to the industry disagree that there are realistic risks or that robot nannies are on the horizon. The Sharkeys’ article is followed by 18 commentaries written

by a multidisciplinary cast of 27 experts and then the Sharkeys’ response to the commentators. This set of 20 texts (henceforth, the sample) evinces crisscrossing cultural narratives and academic practices, all pertaining to the technology and its implications for society and persons.