This piece appears in today's Op-Ed section of the Boston Globe. The article discusses the growing phenomenon that views robots as beings worthy of our empathy. There are citizens waiting for the moment that robots are given artificial intelligence, in order to introduce legislation protecting them, as well as a thriving sexbot industry in some countries.
People aren't even waiting for robots to become sentient through AI, before forming bonds with them. The story mentions soldiers that served with IED-detecting robots in Afghanistan, that become attached to their mechanical comrades, and a study that shows how reticent people are to "harm" toy robots that they've been given. It's a really interesting article, you can read it here with a subscription.
Thank you to Corinne!
Also, I couldn't help thinking about a Simpsons episode when reading this story:
It's the one where Lisa finds an "angel" on her school archeological dig.