Could there be machines among us that we don’t even notice, because they are so human? This is the premise behind Whitley’s new novel, titled "Hybrids." (To enter the contest to receive a FREE copy, click here!) How would humans feel if a robot touched them? (this could be important in the future, when robots perform some of the jobs, such as firefighting, that humans do now). NOTE: Subscribers can listen to all three of these Hybrids chapters, plus the "mind control" chapter of his new nonfiction book "What is to Come").

One thing robots are doing right now is cleaning up Japanese power plants. The Japanese have also used an unmanned fire engine, operated by the Tokyo Fire Department, to put out fires which are too large or hazardous for human fire-fighters to approach. Getting someone’s attention can be easy with a loud noise or a shout ("Fire!"), but what does a robot do if the situation calls for a little more tact? Computer scientist Lijun Yin wants to teach a robot to recognize a human’s emotional state, such as anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness or surprise, and since human firefighters may be working alongside robots soon, this could be a lifesaving study.

Can a robot’s computer brain be programmed to distinguish among human emotions to the extent that humans wouldn’t recognize they were interacting with a machine? Probably not soon: "Computers only understand zeroes and ones," Yin says. “Everything is about patterns."

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