Saturday, March 26, 2011

Of Machines and Men

Between all the talk of IBM's Jeopardy-winning supercomputer Watson and my speed viewing of the current run of Doctor Who, I've had robots on the brain.  The sudden prevalence of robotics, or just the awareness of them, prompted the obvious thought: what if I could have a robot do that instead?

Think about it, as a communications person, I'm sure you've day dreamt about never having to build another contact database or pleasantly smile through a series of media brush offs. It would be nice if for all the times we're expected to be inhuman machines, there could simply be a machine to take on that task.

And what of the demands of modern communication? Scheduled deliverables like blog posts, newsletters, event reminders? Surely a machine would be better at that too, right? They are remarkably punctual.

Machines do remember perfectly.  So let's just let them do that for us too.  In case we forget how to tell, the computers can remind us when to plant and harvest food.  They can tell us when to sleep and wake up, procreate and eat.  Why bother committing any sort of trivia to memory? Just Google it. The computer has the answer.

Robots don't get hurt feelings. Robots don't forget. Robots are the future!

Trouble is linear thought and very large databases can only carry you so far. Creation, innovation, inspiration: these are humanity's real gifts.  Sure, life is fragile, but so is a commercial power supply. You know what I'm saying?

Part of why the Cybermen are so amusing and frightening as an ongoing Doctor Who enemy is that viewers are forced to review their (our) relationship to the machines we rely on for daily life now. Another reason this consistent foe always gets me is the way they view emotions as a weakness, a human flaw.

Human Flaws
We humans are imperfectly outstanding.  Loving and compassionate. Brilliant in our flaws.  Sinister and clever.  And increasingly, we are reliant on technology.  In time, it could be a curse; or it could be our salvation. For this exact moment in time, however, one of our greatest flaws is this notion that we ought to be more like machines.  Feel everything. That's our greatest distinction.

At least that's what I'd like to believe.  What's the alternative?

No comments: