Are you familiar with the affliction? Anthropomorphobia is the fear of recognizing human characteristics in non-human objects. The term is a hybrid of two Greek-derived words: ‘anthropomorphic’ means ‘of human form’ and ‘phobia’ means ‘fear’. Although anthropomorphobia was originally rare, with complaints limiting themselves to fairs and amusement parks with moving dummies that laughed at visitors, the blurring boundary between people and products is leading to increased problems. Complaints can be accompanied by irrational panic attacks, disdain, revulsion, and confusion about what it means to be human. Will anthropomorphobia eventually become public disease number one? Or can anthropomorphobia serve as a guiding principle in the evolution of humanity? Herewith, an exploration.
By KOERT VAN MENSVOORT
Exploring the Twilight between Person and Product
Luxury cars with blinking headlight eyes. Perfume bottles shaped like beautiful ladies. Grandma’s face stretched smooth. Carefully selected designer babies. The Senseo coffeemaker shaped – subtly, but nonetheless – like a serving butler. And, of course, there are the robots, mowing grass, vacuuming living rooms, and even caring for elderly people with dementia. Today more and more products are designed to exhibit anthropomorphic – that is, human – behaviour. At the same time, as a consequence of increasing technological capabilities, people are being more and more radically cultivated and turned into products. This essay will investigate the blurring of the boundary between people and products. My ultimate argument will be that we can use our relationship to anthropomorphobia as a guiding principle in our future evolution.