People are looking more and more to robotic toys and tools for companionship, and less to other people, said Sherry Turkle, a professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT. …

“The idea of some kind of artificial companionship has already become the new normal,” Turkle said. “Kids play with robotic pets, become allies with computer game agents. But I think that this new normal comes with a price. …

Many experts say in the future, robots could be better caretakers for the elderly, because they could be programmed with endless patience, and would never be abusive, inept or dishonest. …

“Its not just that older people are supposed to be talking. Younger people are supposed to be listening,” she said. “We are showing very little interest in what our elders have to say. We are building the machines that will literally let their stories fall on deaf ears.” …

Children, in turn, play with more and more robotic and electronic toys. …

“People used to buy pets to teach their children about life and death and loss,” Turkle said. We are now teaching kids that real living creatures are risky, while robots are safe.