News: People Are A Challenge

Just read a story at Slate by Daniel Wilson with the creepy heading of “Robot sex and marriage: Will society accept it?” The discussion of robot prostitution was interesting, but not too thought provoking. We’ve pretty much removed the human-ness of the other activities that we do relating to the physical passions.  Here in America, you can eat and drink yourself to a stupor for very little money, and do it in complete social isolation if you prefer.  Why not sex?  Temperance is not an American strong suit.

But Wilson’s reflections on broader human interaction—the marriage part of the heading—were more intriguing.  He notes:

Many of our social interactions have been reduced to the barebones transfer of information via various online media: text messages, emails, shared videos and pictures, status updates, and, uh, pokes. We routinely create online profiles that distill our lives to a list of data points—much in the way that a role-playing game stat sheet boils down your complex and multi-faceted elvish archer to only his intelligence, dexterity, and charisma. For people who have been raised on text-based interactions, just speaking on the telephone can be high bandwidth to the point of anxiety.

Good point.  My students regularly report that they are simply afraid to go and talk one on one to a professor, even though they know that it would be really helpful.  They are willing to skip more learning and a better grade because they don’t know how to negotiate the social world face to face.  Robot spouses would solve a lot of people’s problems.

Or not.  Certainly, they would simplify some people’s lives.  Human relationships are a lot of work.  They are beautiful and moving, but can also be painful.  Yet, a robot spouse would only shift the problem. Fear is a real part of life, and if one is succeed in anything, it must be dealt with.  In virtue speak, its about fortitude.  The ability to stand in the face of danger in order to achieve important goals.  Friendship and love are the most important of goals, necessary if we are to be full human beings.

Looks like it is more about fortitude, then, than temperance.  Whew.

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