Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Good Robot

The good robot will have three functionalities. One is a sensory system that conveys what is happening outside it fully and accurately. The second is a logical structure within able to “understand” outer events correctly. The third is a motor system, moved by the logical structure, which will enable it to act correctly, thus avoiding “dangers” and realizing “values.”

Are we good robots? It seems that we are. Our sensory systems bring us the outside world without distortion, more or less “straight.” To be sure, we have some problems at dawn or dusk or in the night—and fire hydrants may look like dogs if, say, some discarded cardboard box is leaning up against it. We are fast. And because we are, it is very difficult to draw sharp lines between our perceptions and our reactions. But at least at the level of ordinary experience what comes in is neutral. What we perceive may be interpreted as threatening or attractive, but those qualities arise from within. They follow the perception at a tiny lag in time. In turn our actions or inactions to this stimulus are sequentially last.

Imagine next what would happen if the input were distorted. This can happen if the sensory apparatus is defective or comes to be modified by drugs. Suppose that our senses were managed by another person—and that that person had something to gain or lose by how we interpreted the incoming signal. The reason why our inputs are always just “the facts, Mam, nothing but the facts” is because we are—a good robot. The design is optimal. It mutes the same old and draws attention, always, to change, the unusual—the moving, the too hot, too cold, too sharp, too dim, too bright. Otherwise it is neutral.

Now our modern Media are our only organ for sensing the Great Collective. Alas, they’re managed by other people. And these people have incentives to distort the signal in ways that will benefit them. Minimally they have to earn income to support the services they provide, and they are in competition—whereas, in us, different senses, like touch, sight, smell, hearing, taste are flawlessly organized so that only the intensity of a sensation will cause us to prefer one over another sense. “What is that evil smell. Where does it come from?!” And we’re on our feet—even if we’re watching a very tense mystery.

To be a great collective robot’s sensory system, the Media must deliver news, if nothing else, as objectively as possible. But that’s only possible if there is a unity of vision out there too. Reforming the Media, so that they deliver only the facts, Mam, without slant, clever choice, and interpretation appears, ultimately, an impossibility. We’re individuals, not cells in a Great Collective. Therefore, in the case of watching or reading the Media, what comes in is a distortion—and yet another functionality must be cultivated before we can permit ourselves to react. We must develop and apply a truth filter. No robot has that, alas, be it good or bad. But we do.

1 comment:

  1. What a good post this is.
    You make your point very creatively, like no robot I can imagine.

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