Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Mental Nervous System

A fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal today tells the story of a “hospital” in Bagram, Afghanistan, where combat robots are fixed. There is Medicare for robots, sure enough, and no entertaining controversy about co-pays or budget deficits in that connection. Soldiers in the theater become very attached to their robots. They name them, give them ranks and promotions, and when the bots are injured they want the same robot back again—not a replacement.

There is a lesson here. We animate extensions of our bodies by extending a mental nervous system to them; their ills and injuries cause us literal if only mild inner pain. How many people, hitting a really harsh pothole, haven’t cried “Ouch” at the bump. My computer has a seizure, a stroke? Flat-lines in a power outage? All else stops until it’s healed.

Having chuckled with Brigitte about this story, I went to tell Clare about it. Clare is our Honda CRV. I think she smiled at me. But she’s still just a baby delivered to us at Jeffrey Honda—or should I say our auto-clinic?

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