Jun 06, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Scientist Predicts Couples Will Soon Have Digital Babies in the Metaverse

A leading authority on artificial intelligence is predicting that humans will be having and raising virtual children within 50 years – an evolution and a revolution that will be an environmentally friendly and less expensive answer to overpopulation and scarce resources. If this sounds appealing to you, you either already have children or you’re too young to remember Tamagotchis. What are digital children, what are Tamagotchis and is this AI guru right?

“Based on studies into why couples choose to remain childless, I think it would be reasonable to expect as many as 20% of people choosing to have an AR [augmented reality] baby over a real one.”

Catriona Campbell is a behavioral psychologist, a leader in human-computer interaction (HCI), a former technology adviser for the British government and the author of the new book, “AI by Design: A Plan for Living with Artificial Intelligence.” She knows that the reasons couples choose to have no children include poverty, diseases, climate change, overcrowding, food shortages, health care shortages and financial problems. She also knows that many of those couples would choose parenthood if all of those problems were resolved. According to Analytics Insight, that’s why Campell believes humans will soon have children in a place where all of those limitations are gone – the metaverse.

“As the metaverse evolves, I can see virtual children becoming an accepted and fully embraced part of society in much of the developed world.”

Within 50 years, Campell sees technology providing humans with better virtual reality headsets and glasses, advanced computer-generated imagery, high-quality touch-sensitive gloves and other tools that will enable them to create a world of digital children which can provide all of the emotional benefits of real baby humans with little of the cost, stress and other problems. The only thing missing is real grandchildren – but anyone who already accepts digital kids as real should have no trouble with digital grandkids, right?

“As the metaverse evolves, I can see virtual children becoming an accepted and fully embraced part of society in much of the developed world.”

Campbell sees virtual children living in real time with their ‘parents’ – going from diapers, midnight crying and feedings to learning to talk and walk to playing with other digital kids to school to … well, everything a real child can do in the same timeframe as real children grow in. Of course, she envisions that anxious parents may want to speed up the digital growth, while others might want their kids to stay kids longer – both impossible dreams of real parents. In fact, Campbell sees digital children becoming a test run for some who want to become real parents eventually. That’s when she introduces the Tamagotchi Generation.

“We’re already well on our way to creating the Tamagotchi Generation which, for all intents and purposes, will be ‘real’ to their parents. On the basis that consumer demand is there, which I think it will be, AI children will become widely available for a relatively small monthly fee.”

In 1996, the Tamagotchi ("Egg Watch") was sold as a handheld digital pet by Bandai and went on to become one of the biggest toy fads of the late 1990s and the early 2000s. A Tamagotchi had a small video screen and three buttons. Upon activation, a ‘pet’ was born with a Hunger meter, Happy meter, Training meter and Discipline meter to determine how healthy and well-behaved the pet is as the owner performs life tasks via the buttons – a timer forced the owner to respond quickly or suffer the consequences. The pet went to the bathroom, got sick, and went through distinct stages of development and growth until it died – a new pet could be obtained and the whole process began again. To attest to Campbells statement about demand for digital children, sales of Tamagotchis reached 83 million in 2021. Yes, there is a demand for cheap pet-raising thrills without the expense. But, will this translate to adults caring for Tamagotchi children?

“This will lead to the first, fully digital demographic which, although somewhat strange on first appearance, in fact represents what could be one of mankind’s most important technological breakthroughs since the advent of the Bronze Age given its potential impact on global populations and societal change.”

A digital Bronze Age based on raising virtual offspring? That seems to be a stretch. Perhaps Campbell needs to talk to more former Tamagotchi owners who remember how stressful it was when their pet beeped while they were in class and the teacher was a tyrant who refused to allow Tamagotchi day care in school – resulting in a dead pet. For most of them, the thrill wore off after incidents like that.

Tamagotchi

If there is any selling point – and after all, what we’re talking about here is a product, not a person – is that a metaverse Mikey or Maria will cost about $25 per month or about $5,100 for an digital lifetime … that’s far cheaper than a real child, therapy or the collection of streaming services you subscribe to monthly to satisfy your emotional needs.

If you want to get a head start on your digital family, buy a Tamagotchi.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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