Relating to yesterday’s post and an example of how my thoughts flow in strange directions, here’s some mind babble about information explosion, email addresses and human-robot relationships.
We are surrounded by information. Lots of information. Ever since I switched to google reader I’ve been spending a lot more time than before reading feeds. Comparatively I shouldn’t have enough feeds for rss fatigue to set in — around 60, of which some are to keep track of friends who hardly post. That’s pretty manageable, even though I dread to think what I’d have to go through if I went on vacation for 2 weeks.
It’s not just the sheer amount of information around us, it’s the speed at which it’s coming at us. We’re literally bombarded 24/7 by an unending stream of news, or stuff on digg, or pictures of the newest gadgets. We don’t have enough room in our brains and we’re remembering fewer and fewer basic facts these days:
This summer, neuroscientist Ian Robertson polled 3,000 people and found that the younger ones were less able than their elders to recall standard personal info. When Robertson asked his subjects to tell them a relative’s birth date, 87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite it, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so. And when he asked them their own phone number, fully one-third of the youngsters drew a blank. They had to whip out their handsets to look it up.
It’s true. When I left OldJob I printed a copy of my personal Outlook address book but I couldn’t take the entire company email database of course. Sending emails to ex-colleagues became less intuitive; I actually had to think about it. Fortunately, like most corporate emails the external emails were mainly email@example.com; but there were a few exceptions I had to specially remember.
It’s even worse for friends’ and family’s email addresses. I can remember the ones I email regularly, but the rest I rely on gmail’s autofill feature. I can’t remember anyone’s birthdays apart from the most important people; and forget about addresses — 90% of letters I send via snailmail are to pay bills at places I can’t pay online. Every memory seems to be archived, it’s now a matter of remember where the information is stored rather than the information itself. It’s like I have flashdrives hooked up to my brain that I need to download and upload memories to.
I feel like I’m developing hardware. The mbp is almost an extension of my body, it is more important than the tv, or any sentient or insentient entity in my existence.
AI researchers were talking about the possibility of sex between humans and robots in five years and marriage by 2050. With humans becoming more robot-like and robots becoming more lifelike, it’s a matter of time before the two species merge. There’s enough sci-fi stories and movies about this that it’s not as whacky of preposterous as it first may seem. Yes, it’s icky and the exact ethical implications haven’t been thought through, but pesonally I don’t want to rule it out. Some part deep down inside me can see how the idea may be attractive.
Robots can provide a tremendous amount of comfort. For example look at the Ri-Man that was developed at the Bio-Mimetic Control Research Center in Nagoya. It’s a robot that is intended to be a nurse’s aid, to help pick up patients at the hospital. But with artificial intelligence that allows the robots to learn emotions and even develop personalities, who’s to say that there is a limit to the degree and type of comfort / companionship that a robot can offer? Think real doll [nsfw].
At least, robots can be programmed not to a) engage in or b) feel hurt if they’re told that they are engaged in annoying behaviour. Which leads me back to email addresses, a reminder to think before forwarding those cute / “send to 10 other people or you’ll die” / “send to 10 other people and you will meet the love of your life” emails because:
- may be it was cute once, a very long time ago when people only read one newspaper; but not after you’ve seen it 457 times
- nah, a hippo with a baby chimpanzee on its back eating a banana ain’t cute
- by the time I get one, the fwd:fwd:re:re chain is so long, I wonder why it took me so long to get it … am I not popular enough? [/sarcasm]
- if I were a spam harvester I’d wet myself — all those hundreds of email addresses of real people
- baby elephants and polar bears cuddling with an Eskimo child ain’t cute … really
- most people are too embarrassed to tell their cute-email-sending friends to buzz off (um I don’t have this problem, I tell them to buzz off)
- they’re not just sending me an email, it’s a AYCE malware party — open an attachment, get viruses, trojan horses, spyware, worms compliments of your (shouldn’t it be ex- by now?) friend
Is it a stretch to see why a customised robot may be a viable alternative?