The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'anthropomorphism'
A funny thing happened during a recent test of a military mine-disposal robot:
This is not the only incident of a curious camaraderie developing between soldiers and robots; the article describes other stories of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq (where robots are being widely deployed) befriending their mechanical compatriots, ascribing quirks of individual robots to personalities, giving them names and (virtual) battlefield honours, and even going fishing with their robot buddies.
At the Yuma Test Grounds in Arizona, the autonomous robot, 5 feet long and modeled on a stick-insect, strutted out for a live-fire test and worked beautifully, he says. Every time it found a mine, blew it up and lost a limb, it picked itself up and readjusted to move forward on its remaining legs, continuing to clear a path through the minefield.
Finally it was down to one leg. Still, it pulled itself forward. Tilden was ecstatic. The machine was working splendidly.
The human in command of the exercise, however -- an Army colonel -- blew a fuse.
The colonel ordered the test stopped.
Why? asked Tilden. What's wrong?
The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.
This test, he charged, was inhumane.
Which could be more evidence that the human mind automatically perceives anything whose actions show signs of intention to have psychological states. An example (in the book Mind Hacks) describes children being shown a display with two shapes moving on a screen, one after the other, and when asked what was happening, describing one as chasing the other. Could it be that when a machine tries to defuse a bomb, its operators, even though they know it is a machine, can't help but mentally classify it as being "alive"?
Blog of the day: Suicide Food ("animals that want to be eaten") looks at the profusion of anthropomorphic animal mascots used to advertised food made from such animals, gleefully rejoicing in the eating of such food, and rating each one on how disturbing or perverse it is when you actually think about it:
It's not what it seems. The chicken, while being strangled harshly enough to pop out feathers, isn't pleading for help. That is not the international "I'm choking!" gesture. No. It's a wave. The chicken is waving to us. And with his left wing, he is welcoming us to the ranch. ("Ta-daaa!") Whether this is perverted or pathological, it's unwholesome. This playful pair, interrupted during a murder-suicide pact--or, is it merely prelude to the most revolting sex ever?--doesn't even have the decency to be embarrassed. The pig's ten gallon hat is pulled down tight enough to shut out the world, and the bug-eyed chicken just wants to get on with it and get it on.
The Wagon Wheel gives us a new twist on a standard theme. Pinky (as the website identifies him) is not simply preparing to dive onto the grill. No, he has contrived to be sent from present-day Stilwell, Kansas, back in time to the Papal Inquisition, there to subject himself to horrors unending and the torments of the soul. Thus, the act we see the pig performing in a state of near-ecstasy. "The Devil's Bicycle," as it is known in the alternate universe under discussion, involves the penitent pedaling a burning wagon wheel, all the while dodging the Holy Spit.Update: Just after I posted about it, Suicide Food outdid itself with this beauty:
One could write an essay on the cultural differences between France and America based on this entry and the others on this site.
(via Boing Boing)
LiveJournal of the day: HP LaserJet model 1150:
I have decided to take some "Postscript as a second language" courses at the local community college.
I think my inability to speak anything but PCL is hindering my career.
Putting paid to the clichés of alien god-emperors or insectile hive minds, a Professor of Psychology in California reckons that alien civilisations would have democracy. Prof. Albert Harrison of the University of California Davis claims that any civilisation having developed the technology to send signals into space is likely to have evolved to democracy, or something like it. Though I suspect that that involves too many assumptions of the aliens being humanlike, and not all that far from saying that they're likely to have reality TV, fast-food franchises and sports-utility vehicles, because we do.
I'd also doubt the assumption that democratic alien civilisations would be likely to be friendly and peaceful towards Earth if we ever make contact. Democracies aren't automatically peaceful; in fact, in the appropriate conditions, a democracy can become an irrational mob baying for the blood of real or imagined enemies. If enough of the alien populace was persuaded (by a pliant media or an influential orator, or some equivalents thereof) that Earth posed a threat, I suspect they'd be likely to vote to asteroid-bomb us out of existence before we do the same to them.
Of course, how alien psychology and decision-making (including perception of risks, aggression, altruism and such) would work would depend on the evolutionary conditions that shaped their neurology, much as human psychology depends on the hunter-gatherer condition.