Posts tagged ‘technology’
Would You Want Your Sister to Marry a Cylon?
Joseph Ugoretz | April 17, 2010 | 4:50 pm | Who Are We? What is Human? | No comments

In considering what we are as humans, what makes us humans, it’s also important to consider how we treat the beings among us who are different kinds of humans (or not human at all). As humans, we have a very negative history of dealing with other beings–particularly when we judge them as not being human, as being less than human. Genocide, slavery, factory farming, vivisection, destruction of habitat, imprisonment, exhibition as curiosities or captives, the list of ways that we humans abuse non-humans or less-than-humans is not a list that makes us look very good at all.

There are non-human partners in your life, in your planet, every day. Some of them you may eat (I enjoy a good hamburger, a chicken pot pie, or a bite of yellowtail sashimi myself). Others may provide your clothing, belts, shoes, the tests which ensure that your medicines or other products are safe, or the down that fills your fluffy pillow.

photo by ckroberts61 @flickrWe are moving to a world with more recognition of the non-human beings around us. And we are creating more beings and intelligences (how big a step is it from an iPad or a Roomba to a Cylon? Maybe a long step…but maybe not all that long!) to help and serve us. And (maybe–someday) we might be meeting intelligences from other worlds than ours. We’ve been listening for a long time. It’s possible that soon we’ll hear something. Or have “someone” come to visit us. How will we react to these beings? Will we accept them as partners and comrades? Even as friends? When they look at us, and see how we have treated our neighbors in this world, how will they judge us? How much integration, how much assimilation will we want? Would you want your sister to marry a Cylon?

Education, in the past (and maybe the present?) has often played a role in determining how our fellow beings are treated. In this country, not all that long ago, Native American children were removed from their homes and families and placed in schools where the motto was “kill the Indian and save the man.” It seems that we’ve made progress since those days–we no longer have schools which are segregated by race…at least not explicitly, not by law. But the struggle to end segregation in schooling was a long and hard one, and may still not be ended.

Think about where your education has taken you–has it been a force for tolerance and diversity? Should it have been? When colleges (including this one) recruit students, what should we be looking for? What kinds of diversity are important in a college? And how can we make sure that we get that–how will we proceed when Cylons or Bulburs or genetically-enhanced animals want to join us fully, in education and in the world?

The Machines in Our Lives
Joseph Ugoretz | March 27, 2010 | 1:16 pm | Technology Changes Us | No comments

The robot has become a commonplace not just of SF, but of general technological culture. From little toy dogs children play with, to the small pieces of software that help you search the web, to the machine that vacuums your floor while you are out running errands, to the highly synchronized, untiring extensible claw-arms of automobile factories, robots, both as real machines, and as characters and ideas, are everywhere.

The first use of the word, “robot,” was in the Czech play, R.U.R.robot from r.u.r.. The word “robot” in the play is derived from a Czech word meaning “servitude,” or “drudgery.” In the play, the robots end up rebelling against their masters. Once again, the role of these non-humans makes us think about how we treat, and how we see, the real humans around us–whether they serve, protect, think, feel, or rebel.

In the best SF stories, rebellion is always a possibility. In good SF, the robot is a fully self-aware and active subject. Although created by humans, these robots are true characters, with intelligence and emotions. They consider their own nature, and their own roles.

Isaac Asimov may be said to be the father of the modern robot in SF. His “Three Laws of Robotics:”

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being
    to come to harm, unless this would violate a higher order law.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders
    would confict with a higher order law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict
    with a higher order law.

neatly illustrate the human anxieties about the dangers of technology, along with its benefits, which are inherent in all the robot stories.

So we love these machines, we hate them, we’re scared of them, we appreciate them.

But what about the machines in your life? Have you ever named a car? Or a computer?  Are there machines that are like servants to you? Even friends?