21.387 machines don't care

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2007 06:28:08 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 387.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2007 20:36:52 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: machines don't care

Recently, in my role as lexicographical scout and collector for the
Dictionary of Words in the Wild (http://dictionary.mcmaster.ca/), I
spotted a new advert from a telephone-only banking service in the UK,
First Direct. The slogan on this advert is, "machines don't care".
Until I figured out the job that this slogan was supposed to be
doing, I thought it a negative statement, and so began musing about
getting one's fingers caught in meshing gears, being suddenly trapped
in some bureaucratic process and so forth. Then I realised that the
intent was quite the opposite -- the appeal of an automated banking
service being, I assume, that the machine doesn't care whether you're
spending too much and so forth. That brought me to the moral claim
made first by Freud, I think, that the great scientific discoveries
(Copernicus', Darwin's, Freud's own etc) were all blows to human
vanity, with the clear implication that the strength of science lies
in its liberation of the human spirit from vanity, its striving toward an
incorruptible programme of research. If memory serves Galileo
himself made such a statement. He would have observed much
corruption up close.

All that brought me further to the realisation that "machines don't
care", like "merely engineering", is an epistemologically useful
statement about the difference between what we build and who we are.
And that in turn to wondering whether Mr Turing's test should not at
some point be revised to determine if the unknown operant is a
feeling human being or a machine simulating emotion. Or perhaps the
problem is the separation in that test and elsewhere of thinking and
feeling, as I think is in effect what Antonio Damasio argues?



Willard McCarty | Professor of Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
http://staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/. Et sic in infinitum (Fludd 1617, p. 26).
Received on Mon Dec 03 2007 - 01:52:45 EST

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