Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Nov. 17, 2021, 7:12 a.m. Humanist 35.359 - robotics and neuroculturalism

				                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 359.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2021-11-17 06:58:13+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: contributions from robotics & from alerts to neuroculturalism

I've just finished reading How Human is Human? The View from Robotics
Research by Hiroshi Ishiguro -- or, as he writes his name, Ishiguro
Hiroshi -- a highly respected and well known Japanese roboticist. I
recommend the book highly for his subtle, probing reflections on how the
human-robot relation is affected by all that we take in through our
senses, principally sight and sound, as one would expect, but also touch
and smell. He has tirelessly experimented with his generations of robots, 
first to make them as much like us in appearance as possible, then 
radically to simplify them to minimalist but affective human form. Their 
speech and behaviour are controlled remotely by human operators, and 
there -- I was surprised -- the brilliance of his experiments lies. His 
informal, relaxed, self-reflective style makes reading the book a pleasure, 
but it also has, I think, quite a bit to do with the subtlety of his argument.

His technical papers on 'android science' I find much less interesting, but 
your mileage may differ. Anyhow, searching for that term will bring you 
to these papers.

We are combarded by various expressions of the abstracted criteria of AI
research. These have, I suspect, played no small role in desentising us
to the profound effects of sensory input on our relation and conception
of 'intelligent' machinery. The senses open the door to the emotional
dimensions of this relation. Two further books thus come to mind. The
first is Rosalind Picard's Affective Computing (1997), which I think
I've already mentioned. The second is actually a pair of books, more
recent discoveries: Francisco Ortega and Fernando Vidal, eds.,
Neurocultures: Glimpses into an Expanding Universe (2011), and Vidal and
Ortega, Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (2017). These help to
understand how it is that we come to ignore that which Ishiguro is
paying such delightful and informing attention to. Reduction of being to
the brain, and so the runaway success of e.g. neuroimaging, obscures so
much else!

But enough for this morning. Much to read.


Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

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