Name: Tamagotchi kids.
Age: Yet to be born, though it won’t be long, says Catriona Campbell.
Is she pregnant? No. Well, I don’t know, that’s not the point.
What is the point? That some people might decide never to be pregnant, ever again.
That already happens, doesn’t it? True, for loads of reasons, including concerns about the environment, overpopulation, the rising cost of bringing up a child, etc.
So who is this Catriona Campbell, then? One of the UK’s leading authorities on artificial intelligence. She has a new book out, called AI by Design: A Plan For Living With Artificial Intelligence.
What does she say in it? That “within 50 years, technology will have advanced to such an extent that babies which exist in the metaverse are indistinct from those in the real world.”
Does that mean that Mark Zuckerberg is going to be everyone’s dad? Or … (shivers) Nick Clegg? No. It means virtual digital children will exist in the metaverse which, as you’ll know, is the immersive digital future of the internet. Campbell predicts they will be commonplace and embraced by society within half a century. She has called this digital demographic the “Tamagotchi generation”, after those digital pet toys from Japan, remember?
So, will our new kids be egg-shaped and have three buttons? And will we soon get bored and forget about them? Technology has come on since the 90s. Campbell says virtual children will look like you, and you will be able to play with and cuddle them. They will be capable of simulated emotional responses as well as speech, which will range from “googoo gaga” to backchat, as they grow older.
I hate it when they become teenagers. Then put it off.
So we would get to decide how quickly they grow up? Or if they grow up.
And if we do get bored with them? Well, if you have them on a monthly subscription basis, which is what Campbell thinks might happen, then I suppose you can just cancel.
If you can get through! Customer services might be better in the future.
It sounds a teeny bit creepy, no? Think of the advantages: minimal cost and environmental impact. And less worry – though you might want a bit of that programmed in for a more authentic parental experience.
Any downsides? Well, you might think if you can turn it on and off it is more like a dystopian doll than a human who is your own flesh and blood. But that’s just old fashioned.
Do say: “Sold. I’ll take 2.4 of them please.”
Don’t say: “Any more of your cheek and you’re deleted!”
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