I recently had the honor of being interviewed by Dr. Graham Taylor of the Taylor Study Method. The topic of our interview was brain fitness but our conversation ended being all over the map. We talked about educational reform, having focus amidst distractions, the importance of thinking outside the box, Common Core, emotional intelligence, ancient and modern memory techniques, the psychological insight of Homer, and much much more. Here are some observations I made during the interview.
In an article on the anatomy of Trumpism, my friend Brad Littlejohn makes some trenchant observations about the anti-intellectual and anti-establishment message embodied by the disgruntled radicalism behind Donald Trump’s political ascendancy.
The movement that has given Trump his momentum has invested the Common Man with a kind of salvific significance at a time when Americans are deeply distrustful of intellectual and institutional authorities, including the media, academic scholars, economists and scientists. “In place of these discredited authorities,” Littlejohn observes, “the Movement embraces the wisdom of the common man and the neophyte.” He continued:
“With the center clearly corrupted, one must look to the periphery for purity; experience is a liability, and inexperience an asset. The most trusted figures of all are those who, untainted by prior experience in government or credentialed expertise, can articulate in the most fearless and undiluted terms the common sense of the common man, heightening as much as possible its contrast with the voice of the Establishment. Around such trusted figures, promising to clean house and govern autocratically by their own individual vigor and insight, personality cults rapidly develop, fuelled by the invigorating language of liberty even while quietly evacuating it of much of its traditional meaning. The personal leadership of the demagogue, who speaks after all for the common man, is in many cases to replace the heavy-handed, inefficient, and compromise-ridden rule of law.”
In their book The Teaching Gap, James Stigler and James Hiebert discuss the differences between how math is taught in American classrooms vs. Japanese classrooms. Their observations were based on extensive video footage of eight-grade classrooms in both countries (plus Germany) in research aimed to identify general teaching patterns and differences. Was there a specifically American way of teaching that might help to explain why American is lagging behind other nations in math scores?
Since I stopped working for Christian Voice earlier this year I completely lost interest in politics. Politics is important, so maybe I should be more interested in it, but I’m just not (with the exception of what’s happening in the Middle East and with Russia). Because of this, I haven’t been keeping up with the election news, and that meant that I came in for a big shock a few weeks ago.
You see, at the beginning of the campaigning I heard that Donald Trump was running for President as a joke. I thought that was funny. The shock came when I recently found out that Trump is in the lead and actually has a good chance of winning the Republican nomination. The joke has turned serious.
I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend some good novels that have recently blessed me.
But first, a few words about my approach to reading in general.
As far as my reading habits are concerned, I’m a recovering pragmatist. That is, I used to choose which books to read based on a rational calculation of how they would benefit me, rather like someone whose eating habits are based entirely on calorie counting and health considerations. So instead of reading Paul Johnson’s enjoyable books in which history comes alive and almost feels a bit naughty (he makes history seem like gossip) I might read a boring monograph instead.
The technology of social robotics is advancing so fast that there could soon be robots that are virtually indistinguishable from human beings, both in how they look and also in how they act. In the picture on the right it is obvious that the object on the left is a robot, but with the pace of technology being what it is, we may soon have robots that look (and even act) like the human on the right. When this day arrives, inevitably people will want to know if they will be allowed to marry their robots. Believe it or not, lawyers and academics are already discussing the ethics and legality of human-robot marriages.
One final piece of the puzzle must be put in place to understand our imminent psychological readiness to begin marrying our machines. In this post I will suggest that our online interactions are already priming us for the type of disembodied and narcissistic relationships necessary for marriage to robots to seem normal. I will argue that as our digital networks continue to weaken our emotional intelligence, sociable robots may soon answer the need of our narcissistic moment.
Part 1 of this ongoing series on human-robot marriage explored how popular opinion is gradually shifting from considering anthropological robots to be potentially hazardous to considering them as help-meets towards greater human flourishing. Far from being a matter only of science fiction, many serious thinkers see human-robot relationships as the next stage in our evolutionary development.
Part 2 continued this discussion by looking at some of the legal issues that scholars around the world are exploring as they are seeking to discover whether the legal infrastructure is already in place to legitimize the principle of marriage to mechanical humanoids.
This post continues that discussion by showing that our society already entertains a number of assumptions about ourselves and our world that could enable machine-human marriages to achieve widespread acceptance in the near future.
Romancing Robots: Legal Ramifications
Three years ago when I first came across the idea of humans marrying robots, I thought it was little more than the latest gimmick of the sex industry. But I knew I had to take the issue seriously when I began to see law publications discussing the legal ramifications of machine-people marriages.
My Lawfully Wedded Robot
In the 20th century there was a great deal of angst about computers becoming our enemies and taking over the world. This was reflected in movies like Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 A Space Odyssey. Kubrick’s film tells the story of a space mission that goes terribly wrong after Hal, the computer controlling U.S. spacecraft Discovery One, turns sinister and kills Dr. Frank Poole. Some of these themes were echoed in the 1999 hit The Matrix, set in a future age after computerized machines have subdued most of the human race through a simulated reality. In 2004, Will Smith stared in the movie I, Robot about a time in the future when robots, designed to be human helpers, turn on their masters and try to take over the earth.
Apprehension about machines becoming our enemies is still a very potent feature of our society. But gradually another theme is beginning to emerge in the public discourse. Instead of a dystopian future where our machines are our enemies, many people are starting to experiment with the possibility that we may be heading towards a utopian future where machines are our lovers.
The intriguing possibility of having a love relationship with a robot was explored last year by Spike Jonze’s movie Her. Though the movie deals with the tension and ultimate incompatibility between physical reality and virtual reality, the film raises intriguing questions about whether it might be possible, and desirable, to overcome this tension.