Friday, March 30, 2007

The box.

I was just kind of contemplating what we were talking about in class today, particularly the comments on the Chinese box, where a person was shown a symbol and had to react in whatever manner was required for the symbol. We had said that even though the person was acting according to the rules set out by each symbol, there was no actual learning (at least of the language) occurring. I thought about that, and it could potentially be wrong. If, say, the symbol was 青 (ao - blue), and the action for that symbol was to push a blue button, then it would be indirectly teaching the person what a color is in the language, even if they did not know how to say the word, they could look at the symbol and say "ok, this is blue," even if they weren't in the box. Now, whether thats the case or not I don't exactly know, but I would say that either result is plausible.

This goes further with the concept of machines learning, or even being able to act in a human-like manner. The machine can not do anything which is not programmed to do, so, in theory, the machine can not lie, unless it is programmed to do so. Even then, the lies that it would tell would be limited to what it was told it could lie about. If it was programmed to only say "I'm female" or "I'm male" in response to the question "are you male or female?" then it couldn't say "I am a dog" (and if any programmer was dumb enough to put that option in there...). Basically, no matter how intelligent it may seem, it can do no more than it was programmed to. In a sense, the coding of the robot/machine/computer is what it has "learned" and only by adding more information can it learn more.

I might have mentioned this earlier, but even transferring a persons brain into code, and then implanting that code into a robot, would not really prove anything. If the code was a sort of backup to the person's brain, then if the shell and brain/central intelligence were destroyed, the only thing that could be recovered would be wherever it was last backed up. Anything after that would be lost, barring some other circumstance. Whether a 'being' like this would be capable of learning is questionable at best.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Robo One

This past weekend I attended the Association for Asian Studies Conference in Boston. One of the papers I heard was entitled "Robot Dreams: The Formation of Self and Masculine Identity in Japanese Techno-Culture" written by Hirofumi Katsuno of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. An anthropologist, Katsuno was interested in examining the cultural make-up of Japan's amateur robot-building community. One prominent topic of his paper was Robo One, an annual robot-building competition:

Katsuno had several interesting points to make, but three in particular were especially poignant given our discussions in class. First, Katsuno argued that many Japanese men were attracted to robot building because it offered some sense of control for people whose lives are often dominated by a very hierarchical corporate culture; although subject to strict relationships and requirements at work, robot builders find that they can control their own creations in their hobbies. Second, human-shaped robots were far more popular than any other kind of robot. Katsuno suggested that this was, in part, related point one above, that a human-shaped robot increased one's sense of dominance over an other. However, he also pointed out that robot-builders often commented that human-shaped robots were simply more interesting, often more challenging, but also much more relevant to theri own lives since the robot builders could relate their own bodily movements to their efforts to replicate these movements with their robots. (Katsuno provided an interesting example of one robot builder who was working to replicate the precise movements required in karate in his robot; his dream was to create the perfect martial arts master in robot form.) Third, however, Katsuno commented on the prevalence of parental language used within the community; robot builders, it turns out, do indeed view their creations as "children" and often refer to them as such.

I found these to be interesting examples from an actual techno-culture community. You might consider how these points related to certain aspects of the material we have been discussing, perhaps especially in regard to the relationship between Avram and Yod in He, She, and It.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kabbalah and He, She and IT

A few years ago I developed a bit of interest in Kabbalah, and no doubt, He, She and It holds some definite connections, so allow me to explain a bit about Kabbalah to the best of my ability. I must preface that I am by no means an expert on Kabbalah or even Judaism but I hope to shed a bit of light on the subject nonetheless.

In the Old Testament there exist two trees: the tree of life and the tree of wisdom. The tree of life grants immortality and a peaceful existence, which is what Adam and Eve originally held within the Garden of Eden. However, after “the fall” as it is often refered to, Adam and Eve took from the forbidden tree of wisdom which is what allows one to be conscious of their own self, stride forth in the pursuit of knowledge and basically makes us the rational beings we are. However, obviously by taking from the tree of wisdom we lost the tree of life in banishment from Eden. Along with it, humans gained “original sin”, sickness, strife, and all those other bad things we unleashed after opening Pandora’s Box.

In the tradition of Kabbalah, the sephirothic system (see link below) represents the tree of life, and thus a map between humanity and God, a means of returning to the creator or a “blueprint of creation” (Cooper 84). Therefore, by ascending the sephiroth completely, one basically becomes reunited or even obtains divinity. Logically it would seem that if one could understand the tree of life, humanity could return to its former state of bliss. Moreover, if one maintains the fruit of wisdom, they basically become equal to God.

As you can imagine, once you get into the system, things become rather complicated, but basically it is a set of virtues one must understand, one building on top of the other. The system consists of ten rings (sefirot) representing the main virtues, and 22 lines (one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet) connecting each sefirot together. This link is an image of the sephirothic tree:

From top down and right to left, the sefirot are as follows: keter (Crown_supreme/total consciousness), Chochma (wisdom_power of wisdom), Binah (understanding_power of vision), chesed (loving/kindness_power of love), Gevurah (strength_power of intention), Tiferet (beauty_creative power), Netzach (victory_power of the eternal), hod (empathy_intelectual/observation power), yesod (foundation_power of manifesting) and Malkhut (sovereignty/world) (Cooper 87).

So, the general populous of humanity starts at Malkut and the goal is to ascend each sefirot, eventually reaching Keter, basically equal to god. There are quite a few interesting little aspects to the Kabbalah and the sephirothic system such as the patterns which emerge, which is where numerical significance comes in. Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value, for instance: Gimel is the third letter and its numerical value is three, yod is the tenth letter and repsents ten. Yod holds special significance in that it is believed to be the number of creation, thus the ten sefirot, but there are supposedly patterns everywhere in the Torah, and by understanding them, one could understand the path of the sephiroth. One example of the patterns uses the words for: father, mother child: father is bet (2) aleph (1); mother is mem (40) aleph (1). The sum of these numbers equals 44. Now the word for child is dalet (4) lamed (30) yod (10), the sum of which is 44. This is a nice simple example from the film pi, but I hope it facilitates my point. Notice also, the appearance of yod in terms of creation.

A bit of a lengthy explanation but in reality nothing but the tip of what Kabbalah means and I feel as though I have not done the topic justice, but this is the basic idea. Now the point in how it relates to He, She, and IT is I believe basically the subjectivity of humanity. Humans may gain or loose their humanity up and down the sephiroth. We are born at Malchut but throughout life, most should ascend a few sefirot, perhaps not gain a perfect understanding of them, but at least a crude one. For instance, take Hod which represents empathy which we have discussed as a rather important facet of humanity. Within this subjectivity, highly advanced machines such as Yod can also ascend the sephiroth and gain humanity in the same way any human could. Yod of course begins his life at Malchut like any other, but also had incomplete knowledge of dictionary definitions without experiences to back them up. However, while spending time with shira, Yod slowly begins to understand and fill in the gaps of his existence. Here is where the significance of Yod’s name fits in as well. The novel is also about man’s first attempts at playing god, so Yod’s namesake fittingly pertains to his own unique creation.

Cooper, David A. God is a Verb. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1997.

Pi a film by Darren Aronofsky

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex

OK here are words I never thought I would be saying. I was watching the Ghost in the shell series last night and I noticed something; on more than on occasion the United States is refered to as the "United States Empire." Is this a dipection of how the US is viewed in Asia as the next Rome seeking world domination and using it's unmatched force to acheive it. It's just a thought. I am now officialy off of my soap box.

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex

OK here are words I never thought I would be saying. I was watching the Ghost in the shell series last night and I noticed something; on more than on occasion the United States is refered to as the "United States Empire." Is this a dipection of how the US is viewed in Asia as the next Rome seeking world domination and using it's unmatched force to acheive it. It's just a thought. I am now officialy off of my soap box.

Distopian Futures

After reading He She and It I 've noticed two patterns I find rather disturbing. I do not know if He She and It and the Neuromancer necessarily meant to portray a distopian future but the idea that the corridor from Boston to Atlanta becoming one large metro area really bothers me. To me this area possesses some of the greatest natural beauty in the US (along the Appalachian Trail) and viewing this area as a massive parking lot means that the environmental movement and much that I stand for has failed. For this metro area to happen also means that the zero population growth movement has failed and the Earth is more severely overpopulated than ever and most likely much of the "third world" is starving.
The other fact in He She and It that bothers me is the class separation that is portrayed around Y-S. Not only are the blue proletariat forced to live outside of the enclave and "tube in," but they are also given color coded jump suits to keep them from wandering outside of their assigned area. Even within the compound the bourgeoisie are separated with the techies living comfortably in small houses and the wealthy managers living the their own enclave within the enclave assuring separation from the lower classes.
OK sorry everyone I can now step down from my liberal soap box.

more human than human (good Daft Punk song btw)

I've been having some trouble posting and I know Anthony has too. Perhaps blogger doesn't like us.

I must say I lilked this book, yet it was kinda odd. It was hard for me to feel for Shira as we had very little in common, almost the kind of woman I dislike. But her Grandmother and rive we just made of win.
I felt that Nili and yod were so closely similiar (I could draw up all kinds of obvious paralles between Joseph and Yod and all that, but I don't feel like it). Though she was born as a human, isolated society of which she came from, made her seem primitive, curious, and ignorant about the outside life. Both of course, were made with considerable mechanical alterations and implants. Each had biological and gentically engineered conponents. Only Yod was just created as he was with no culture to call his own, more like a different kind of cyborg ( Since almost everyone had some sort of artificial somthing or unnatural alteration to make them so). Nili atleast had the advantage to be a child and go through normal human enculturation. How each are different and the percentage of artificial and biological create a grey area. When do you stop being human? Is it a matter of way of birth ( fetus onward) to be able to catch the spark of life? Even when Shira and the others met Nili, they weren't sure what she was at first, a machine, enhanced human, or somethign entirely different? So why did the house identify her as human and Yod as a machine if both are extremly made of artifiial parts?
I also find Shira interesting. I don't particularaly like the way she thinks (mahlka and Riva, again are awsome) She's so traditional and prudish, proper. To willingly go into a hughe faceless corporation, to let it suck out your soul and do as society tells you to? Just because your feelings were hurty, I find that incredible weak. especially comeing from somewhere as nice as Tikva. But she does transition in to somethign that must resemble her old self because she gets a little better. I think she's a really good contrast to Mahlka and Riva and most people in that era. She is more typical of women today and most could relate to her( I don't make friends with many girls easily, HA I just realived whyI didn't warm up to her as much). This is where the sex comes in.
Like many women today, sex is always desribed by psychologists as more an emotional thing for women and a bit more taboo in society's eyes. So wither her interactions with Yod, it not only compares with women of our time with the values of the slight future; but also a good look into human emotion and the formation of relationships and intimacy. Which is why sex is such a popular topic in these books we have been reading. Many poeple reguard being human with feeling emotion and empathy that sets them apart form machines. Sex is one of those basic human instincs that involves such complicated emotions.
I'm tired so this might sound too simple and really hard to read because my brain works wierd like this, so I hope you can get what I'm getting at despite the aukward typing..okay....Even though there is only one society that Yod can try to fit into, like Joseph, he is not human, but that's okay. I know that this class is about humanity and what it means to be human, but people get so stuck on catogorization and what fits in that definition. How about what makes you YOU, if you cannot be defined by human. Perhaps they can't feel emotions and things like we can, but somethgn comparable to it, like Yod mentions quite often. Doesn't mean he is anyless a person, just different. Perhaps he is more than human or just in it's own filum. Transending humans or being another category altogether doesn't mean they are lower then us as we liked to think. Things people cannot understand, they fear or act hostile towards (ask any hermaphidite, transgendered person, or others that do not a fit a category or label). Just like in the novel, humaniod cyborgs, androids, robots were feared, rioted over, much violence ensued, and then outlawed because of that fear of the unknown, that labeling that must occur and cmplete understanding.
I also noticed a unch of other stuff by looking at the kabbalah chart, but I think Anthony is going to explain more on that ^_^

and screw spell check, I'm tired blah.

A Dreary Trend {Now Featuring 4:30am Humor}

Got that post-armageddon feeling again?

There seems to be a trend in most of the novels we've read that take place in that drab future where almost everything that once was has been destroyed. The world is no longer a safe place for man or beast, and radiation is the norm. It all sounds rather dreary to me, but common ideas keep coming up in the novels we're reading and the films we've viewed. Let me shed some light on a few similarities that come to mind, delivered in a humorous fashion to keep you, the reader, entertained. (See end note).

Big Cities
Call it the Sprawl, Glop, or whatever you please, but it all refers to the same general idea. What's left of humanity has gathered into massive supercities, most of which are unsafe to traverse due to one reason or another.

Violence Abound!
Blood is shed openly in the streets of the supercities. Concealed weapons are normal occurrences. Seeing a body or two isn't a problem, and if you shoot a replicant or get stabbed by a local gang member, nobody is going to think very much of it.

Hooray for Drugs (?!)
It appears as though you can get pretty much anything you want at anytime on the streets of the supercities. Take your pick of a friendly painkiller or the equivalent of twenty acid trips, it's all available at the right price.

Wear Sunscreen
Radiation seems to be a problem. Don't forget to wear your protective bodysuit and/or stay out of direct contact with that UV-laden sunlight. You'll get a tan pretty quick, but you'll also pick up some skin cancer.

Screw Earth! Let's leave!
Manufactured platforms in space are pretty easy to come by. It's where all the intelligent and successful people are going, as well as those who can simply afford it. You might land a pretty good job up on those space colonies too if you've got the skills.

The similarities between He, She and It and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (and Blade Runner) are pretty easy to pick out, as well as similarities to a plethora of other science fiction novels. I just thought I'd bring it up in case anyone else was noticing it as well. The plots differ significantly between the two novels, but the scenery is all too familiar...

(End Note) Off Topic - I'm writing this at about 4:30am, so the humor just seemed right to me at the time. Enjoy.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Who We Pretend To Be

I will admit that I never bought into the idea of a robot becoming human, which was more than evident in my debate against any definition of humanity as it relates to the books we read in class. The main reason for this is that I refuse to believe that any human can build a system that features the complexities of the human brain, which I believe was created by a Being (God) with more power and knowledge than any of our scientists (how can man reproduce what he still does not fully understand?). Therefore, most of my disbelief has surrounded what I view has the implausibility of accomplishing such a complicated cyborg. How can a cyborg dream or imagine or even feel when it is merely a program that decides these emotions? Can a machine ever be programmed to think and create on its own without a programmer inserting these images and thoughts? I highly doubt it. So, while I believe that humans contain souls that could never be reproduced in mechanical form (and therefore would remove humanity from cyborgs), the main setback for me is that I doubt humans can play God and create a brain with the complexity of our own and, therefore, any central operating system would only be an imitation of daily habits, not an original, spontaneous set of choices and decisions (and not just random). Therefore, I found it intriguing what Marge Piercy had to say in an early dialogue from the chapter "Who Can We Tell The Dancer From The Dance?" (an interesting title)

This chapter finds Yod questioning whether he can be human is only pretending to be such (imitating human behaviors). He asks in a thought provoking statement: "Does it feel almost as if were human? Am I imitating behavior I can never match? . . . Am I pretending at something I will always fail?" (238) It is a question that has major implications to our course: can a robot be human when it only imitates and pretends to be something it is not (human)? Can behavior that seems human make the cyborg human when it is still a product of programming? This is the questions that would invoke the answer I mentioned previously, but Shira's response provoked my thought: "humans pretend at things all through childhood" (238) Now I realize that this statement was in the context of Yod's apprehensions of moving into a human society and home, and the next line concerns "playing house," but there is a deeper implication here that she may or may not have intended: humans pretend as well.

We all act a certain way that may seem just to follow the behaviors of society. We have routines and we pretend to be something different, since we were children and dressed to play different roles: doctor, fireman, police man, house wife. We all imitate humans in someway, so how does that make us different than the cyborg, if said cyborg could imitate human behavior?

But wait; this is not enough. Such an argument is only intriguing but would not change my mind for several important reasons. One of those reasons relates to intent and depth of thought. What does this mean? Well, a cyborg pretending to be human would be for the sake of imitating humanity. If imitation was a defining quality of humanity, then the pretending would be the human part of the cyborg, not the existence. For humans, pretending is mainly a tool to either obscure real desires or escape the current condition. The human thinks about imitating other humans and decides whether it wants to follow the crowd or be different. Humanity cannot be defined by behaviors and any effort a cyborg makes to imitate humans would only be superficial. A robot can act like the typical human, but not having the ability to chose to be different means there efforts can only be futile (I am having troubles describing my argument. If necessary, I can elaborate in class).

Another reason is that humanity cannot be defined by its tendency towards imitation. What a mundane and mechanical life does a man live if he bases his existence on the lives of others. There needs to be more meaning and depth to a man, a purpose, or he actually becomes more like a machine. In fact, I would argue that imitation is more of a mechanical feature that detracts from humanity. Without depth in thought, the ability to make right, and wrong decisions, even the free will to be different, we are merely machines (men have choices that robots don't; robots have to work within programmed parameters). Pretending and imitation seems more to define robots than humans, which means that humans act more robotic instead of robots acting more human. What Yod is doing only reinforces is programmed and limited (even inhuman) life.

Of course, the more obvious issue is the question of who is being imitated. The act of pretending does not define humanity. Therefore, robots cannot be human by pretending to be human. Consider this, who are humans imitating? There is no model to the habits we see in society. Such actions were learned by humans (learning and adapting, by the way, also separates humans from cyborgs, or at least, are things I doubt can actually be reproduced). Yod is talking about acting like humans (something else). Humans are humans. Simple as that.

Alright. So that was a long winded argument on a subject that was more derived from dialogue than actually a direct interpretation of the book. So, I guess this chapter never makes the statement that pretending is a part of humanity and, therefore, an argument for robots being human. In fact, most of this post was a rant that was provoked by the words in the book and may have nothing to do with the intention (sometimes I just see a word and it incites all of these other ideas that relates to that word). Hopefully I am not too far off the mark. Still, it seems pretty obvious that even the author doesn't consider him human. After all, Shira does not see him as a man when she lives with him (if anything, she sees him as better than most).

By the way, the idea of a robot being more gentle than most men in the story has more implications, especially since it reveals the flaws, and selfishness, of humans. Sadly, this is a characteristic of humanity, but that is another post . . . never mind.

I cried

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! the story sucked me in and yes it made me cry. The creation and destruction of Joseph and Yod, both characters were SO "humanly" written in the book. The purpose of both; weapon, protection, and then watching their transformation into something more; understanding, devotion, need for acceptance, love (?). I felt so much more emotion and attachment to all the characters in this book. The interwoven story of Joseph and the Maharal was just as fasinating to me as the primary story of Malkah, Shira and Yod. Perhaps as Malkah was telling the story, she knew what sort of fateful end would come to Yod.

The picture Piercy paints of the future seems to still include discrimination, racism and classism..the technology created does nothing to help those -isms. There are still "haves" and "have-nots", but the free towns seem to make up the middle class..still struggling to survive between "losing it all" and being incorporated and losing their own "identity".

The strong women in the book were fantastic! Each having to give up something to come into their own.

Monday, March 19, 2007

He, She, It and Us

This is hands down my favorite work that we have read in class this semester. Also, since I am done with the reading I should mention a *spoiler warning* as this article will contain plot and/or ending details.

Marge Piercy's work He, She and It does a marvelous job of putting us face to face with ourselves and our society/ies. Through the use of two non-humans, i.e. Joseph and Yod we are given a background, a template so to speak that we can look at an compare (perhaps learn) about what we think is alive. Joseph and Yod both "die" but for the former he did not do so willingly and the latter out of self sacrifice. I was moved by the deaths of both beings. To remember Joseph's last words, "I fought for you! I saved you! I am a man too, I have my life as you have yours. My life is sweet to me." My life is sweet to me to. I cannot imagine any being where their own life is not sweet to them. Who would not want to cling to and keep that existence, that life, their own life, to live? Yod's death too was very moving in his last message saying "Malkah and you have been my friends, my family, my joy. Live on, Shira, raise Ari and forget me. I was a mistake. Whatever may happen at Y-S, I have done one good thing with my death. I have made sure that there will be no others like me" (pg. 416).

Life and death, some thing we as well as all the characters in this novel face. This means then Joseph and Yod as well. What were they? Joseph, as such is a golem, but what is exactly is that? The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language online says that "In Jewish folklore, an artificially created human supernaturally endowed with life." In Piercy's work Joseph is created out of clay and given life, and it seems intelligence, the ability to learn, and some desires too. Not to different from how man was created in Genesis! "The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" Genesis 2:7. And further "by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return" Genesis 3:19. Not to turn this into a religious debate but it seems that what the Maharal did was not that far off from these Genesis descriptions, the main point being though that if both man and the golem were turned into living beings from, clay or dust (inanimate matter mind you) why would one beings life be worth more or less than anothers?

The same point goes towards Yod. If in creating a cyborg, as Avram says in the text: "Yod's a cyborg, not a robot - a mix of biological and machine components" (pg. 70). Yod, as with Joseph has and/or develops life, and intelligence, the ability to learn and desires too. Yet Avram sees Yod as a possession an object even though he always refers to Yod as "he" and not "it". And the irony is that the very rights of and to life that the Maharal and Avram would insist upon or take for granted is the very thing that they feel they are "entitled" to give and take away from their creations. Life however it has come about, is just that life. And if we allow and even mandate the objectification, the commodification of life, especially intelligent, sentient, life we can be headed for a (new?) type of slavery, of racism, or specie-ism, whereby the one race of beings is "allowed and vindicated" to the subjugation of the other, i.e. the inferior other. Whether that other be, female, black, Jew, Asian, martian, robot, android, or cyborg it is a mere detail, the main point is the "we" is allowed to do what we choose to "them." The problem the we and them distinction is that it generally makes up the entirety of us.

We are the story of He, She and It, Marge Piercy has given us a moral and ethical mirror by which we can, if we choose, to look at "we" and "them", she has shown us to ourselves, we will choose to recognize that which we our shown or will we go into denial and rationalize that, the image in the mirror must be one of "them" for me is part of the "we" and we are not like that. And for those who cannot stand to look in the mirror I say look! And for those that defend, rationalize or deny, I say really?

He, She, and It; Me, Us and Them, how easy it is to always find ourselves on the right side of the fence, one of the tragic ironies of life.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

He, She and IT

Note: Cannot find the book right now, so going by memory.
So far, I have read through chapter 13 and I find this quite interesting. At first, it was confusing due to the transition between the 22nd (21st?) century and the 16th century, although once I got use to it, I noticed similarities between the gholem (sp?) and the robot Alhem created. Both were trying to find their place in the world and both were created by man to protect a place which was in danger. The danger in both cases was to a place where the people were regarded as different or threats, so I am eager to find out what deeper connection the two events have in common.
I also find myself questioning even more about what is a cyborg and what is a human. In this book, the robot seems very much human, yet reminded me of an autistic person. I kept feeling as if I was reading about an autistic adult because like the robot, both have feelings, but realize and analyze those feelings in a very different way from NT's (neurotypicals or those who are normal, nonautistic). Such as, the robot would say I feel like this and it seems similar to how you humans describe this. It is the same way for many autistics; we have to compare our thoughts and interpretations, as well as what we think we feel to what others may experience to correctly define our feelings to an NT.
Also, the sensory overload that the robot was plagued by and how he in a sense shut down because of that is very much as autistic thing as well. It is very common for autistics to not be able to filter out things and experience something very similar to the overloaded robot felt. Eventually, autistics learn how to filter it somewhat, but it is a continual learning process that is very much confusing.
Thirdly, the robot is very unsure how to interact with society yet wishes to. Many autistics are exactly like this, we communicate and see things so differently,we are unsure of the unspoken rules that society has. Thus, we need to observe behaviors and be taught how to interact as well as communicate with society just as the robot needs to be taught.
Because of these similarities between the robot and typical aspies/auties, I must confess I am even more confused over what defines a human and what defines a robot. If I were to label the robot as nonhuman, I would have to label myself as a nonhuman because of the connection and similarities between me, an autistic individual, and the robot. That I define myself as human means I should define the robot as human. Yet, I find myself struggling to do so. The only reason I find to do so is because it was not create in the traditional sense, through birth of a mother. Yet, again, in this case, the robot was created by a man and a woman in a sense. Both a man and a woman inputed stuff into the robot to allow it to be as a typical human would and so it could learn how to be human. Again, this is very similar to how autistics are subjected to different programs and their brains are programmed. The only difference is that a robot seems to have a brain made of computer parts.
In the end, up until this point, I seem to feel as though the robot is actually human and is very similar to a human. I did not expect to ever feel that way, but after thoughts of this nature occurred to me, I cannot help but feel it is more human than machine. Perhaps, God even gave the robot a soul, despite the fact that he was not made in the traditional sense.
I am sorry if this seemed random, but it is hard to explain.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

"a Cyborg Manifesto"

Although I can relate to the idea of Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto," I find it difficult to imagine a truly classless/ genderless/ non-racist society. In order to achieve equality, I think that the society would have to be composed of only one kind of organism/being that are exactly identical. Otherwise, indifferences will create competition. The theory simply does not make sense to me, and what would essentially be the point? Who would like to have the same existence as the person next to them, and they would all have to "die" and be "born" simultaneously as to not be able to be unequal to the next. It seems ridiculous, or maybe I'm just not getting it.

I think it is irrelevant what the discrimination pertains to, because at some point any difference can become a discriminatory trait. Think about the Nazis' many ways to distinguish a person as being inferior to the "superior" Aryan race. Moreover, different levels of knowledge, position in society/career, and the way one walks can all make someone "inferior" to the next. Also, in order to eliminate racism, I think that identifying labels would have to be expelled. When we identify a person/people with their race, I think that it in itself is a form of racism. Do we identify everyone by their race? It simply categorizes people into different segments. So, back on the cyborg theory, won't there be newer/different/better cyborgs? Maybe they could be genderless (although we have seen the complete opposite of that), but they could fit into different classes/races. Also, I know we are discussing humanity, but what about everything else that is living-the entire ecosystem of the Earth? Are they not included? Do they not count?

On the issue of what defines a cyborg...I really have no idea. Today, we learned four different definitions. Personally, I have wires holding my breastbone together and some synthetic something that repaired my heart. Does that make me a cyborg? Maybe, I guess. Am I less human? Sure, I think so. I would not be here had I not had these manufactured parts put in me, and
whenever I have stitches (which is too frequently since I'm a "clutz"), I feel like Frankenstein or something. Because I have these inorganic parts, I think quantifies me as less human than to someone that came out "perfect" and is all "intact."

In considering the comment about having to take a drug or you will die, I would say that would make someone less human and a bit of a cyborg.
You are putting something "inorganic" (in a way) into your body, so you can exist and keep the organs functioning. However, taking a manufactured substance to prevent someone from being psychotic/depressed/schizophrenic is different to me. I think that it too makes you less human, but I do not think it is physically necessary for one to live.

Monday, March 5, 2007

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In”

We have discussed technology and becoming an entirely different person; however what made “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” truly striking was the fact that P. Burke never really disappeared, yet still became Delphi in a very real sense. Loose a sense here or there is apparently a small price to pay for becoming a “god” or so it would seem. It’s a video game, ultra virtual reality where you connect and live within manufactured bliss. Yet this bliss really does exist within the real world, rather than in the construct of manufactured space, which makes the possibilities even more interesting.

P. Burke becomes a part of her clam shell container to such an extent that she doesn’t exactly exist in the truest sense outside of Delphi’s own sensory perception. Sure she has to be pulled out from time to time to collapse into sleep or receive nourishment, but she really doesn’t see herself as P. Burke anymore, this girl is now Delphi in her own mind. “P. Burke doesn’t know she’s alive—it’s Delphi who lives, every warm inch of her” (Tiptree 51). The brain and the body simply aren’t connected by a hard line anymore, but rather with some highly advanced WiFi in a way. Yes it is basically wireless internet vs. a hard line if you consider it that way. “The fact is she’s just a girl, a real-live girl with her brain in an unusual place” (Tiptree 51).

Too bad P. Burke, but the body cannot live without the mind as they say. A doll cannot live without the remote operating it. Once she lives exclusively as Delphi, everything is bound to come crashing down. Then again, a god can do anything can’t they? Sorry again, but there is actually a remote control controlling the remote and a god controlled by something else isn’t really a god now is it?

Just like we have already seen, corporations dictate how things operate. How foolhardy, taking away advertising is futile in a world where corporations already control even those not plugged into clam shell’s like P. Burke’s. Anyone can live the life of a “god”, but of course at a price. Complete subservience should be a small price to pay for ignorant bliss right? Who cares what’s real if you have someone to do the thinking for you? The true god has forsaken the chaos of this mess and what’s left? “One great big vortex of lies and garbage pouring round and round, getting bigger and bigger, and nothing can ever change. If people don’t wake up soon we’re through” (Tiptree 69).

P. Burke dies, but Delphi (who in actuality is nothing but a shell) will live. Normal humans really are expendable aren’t they? Well at least in a world of false gods, escapism can be manufactured. Yet everything comes at a price and you will only experience the sensations and emotions you are allowed to. Taste and smell? You don’t need them, don’t be foolish. And love, well you can forget about that too.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Intelligence, Games and Rules

I was dog-sitting for my brother this weekend, taking care of his family's golden retriever, Dawson. Dawson is your typical golden, easy going, playful, energetic et cetera. I normally do not spend a lot of time with Dawson but see him enough so that he knows me and is comfortable with me. Well during one of Dawson's energetic bouts we start to play with a toy. What was interesting is that he (and I) seemed to be responding and learning(!) from our play. We seemed to be developing a game with unspoken rules that we were both figuring out and playing by. We weren't just play keep away, and we weren't just playing at tug-of-war. He and I were playing a game where once one of us got the toy away from the other the goal was to make it difficult but not impossible for the other to get the toy back so that we could begin our tugging again.

It was very peculiar but I strongly sensed that Dawson "got it" as he neither played to hard or simply ran away with the toy. He seemed to be modifying he actions in response to me adjusting to what we were both agreeing to as part of the game. As I said, I have not spent a lot of time with Dawson and he is still in his first year and this was our first substantial playing together. I would have to say that he was responding and reacting in a manner I would have to call "intelligent." Which lead me back to one of the questions of our class "what is intelligence?"

Are only certain animals intelligent? Maybe mammals in particular? Why do we consider some worthy of our respect and care and others only as our dinner or as simply a nuisance?

If and/or when we create create "artificial intelligence" how or why is it that it will be different from "natural intelligence?" If humanity is part of nature why do we feel that when we make something that it is somehow not natural? Especially if we are "only" animals. Other animals build structures, use tools, dig holes and tunnels have complex societies are those things "un-natural?" Why or why not?

Why (and how) is it that we separate ourselves somehow from the "natural world?"

If we create "artificial intelligence" if we create "artificial life" are we not actually really creating "intelligence" and/or "life"?

If a being or entity is alive, sentient and intelligent does it really matter how it got to be that way?

If we are just part of the evolutionary plan of this world and universe any thing we do is simply and evolutionary movement towards the improvement and survival of the species, perhaps this would even include evolving into a new species "Homo-Sapiens-Mechanicus."

Apparently there have been some 15 different Hominid species,
( )
and so we must simply be in the process of creating number/s 16 and 17.

The Universe seems to manifest intelligence. I feel that I witnessed it and was a part of it this afternoon. Maybe being homo-sapien is not more important than being a homo-erectus was to them or any other Hominid or other species. What can be more precious than ones own life and existence?

Perhaps the sun rises and sets on all life forms sentient or not, intelligent or not.

Perhaps we have only what we have and "things must be what they are" aside from what we may need or want them to be.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

How we view the future

After watching Ghost in the Shell last night, I can't help but notice that almost all of the films and books we are dealing with have a very similar apocalyptic view of the future for earth. There are virtually no examples of nature and biological life, tall skyscrapers and flying cars dominate the skys, and there is conflict everywhere. Not that conflict isn't already everywhere today, but people don't seem to have any optimistic views of the effects of technology. It all leaves me with a sense of impending doom...and no one is doing anything to really counteract it. There seems to be a concensus that humanity is drunk with technology and out of control and its all leading to this ultimately nasty situation. I guess we should all start learning how to guard our brains against hackers, distinguish bad androids from good androids, and keep ourselves out of the lower levels of the city lest we get sucked into the machinery. Crap...its depressing.

I still have an optimitstic view of the possibilities of technology if only we don't let the technology control us. The idea of cybernetic bodies is appealing when you consider the medical possibilities of being to help people. Being able to "jack in" through our own brains is just plain convenient. The ability to break down national barriers and have an actual global community and understanding would be fantastic. Why can't people take that type of spin on some of these things...even partially? I realize it all sounds naive and utopian, but it seems like a better goal to shoot for than some total anarchy with humans against androids with cyborgs stuck somewhere in the middle...