Raised by robots

‘The Anthropocene is the epoch of the anthropogenic fire.’*
(Stephen Pyne)

‘What we was of our robots shows us what we need.’**
(Sherry Turkle)

One of the most sophisticated products of the anthropogenic epoch, the concept and pursuit of robots as carers leaves Sherry Turkle with plenty of concerns.  Reaching the end of her book, she returns to the matter of robots:

‘When we consider the robots in our future, we think through our responsibilities to each other.’**

We wonder how robots may be able to take on some of the messier and more intensive caring but, Turkle points out, human touch has been critical throughout our lives.  On the matter of nanny bots she ponders how:

‘We know that the time we spend caring for our children, doing the most basic of things for them, lays down a crucial substrate.  On this ground, children become confident that they are loved no matter what.’**

At the other end of our lives this remains critical:

‘The old and the elderly also desire to be consumed in this same sense of basic trust.  As we provide it we become more fully human. […]

It is from people that we learn how to listen and bend to each other in conversation. […] Humans need to be surrounded by human touch, faces and voices.  Humans need to be brought up by humans.’**

Something I often see whilst travelling on buses is a child being handed their parent’s phone to keep quiet – that’s if the parent isn’t on their phone ignoring their child.  My aim is not to judge but to point out that we are raising different kinds of human – to notice this is important. I don’t think the solution is to ditch technology but to become more savvy in how we use it.  Part of this will be the care we not only see as being irreplaceable but also increase.

Richard Sennett seems to suggest when it comes to our work and art we need the mess:

‘Indeed, in technology as well as art, the probing craftsman does more than encounter mess, he or she creates it as a means of understanding working procedures.’^

We don’t have to change too many of the words in this for the sentiment to work for human relationships too.

(*From Stephen Pyne’s Fire.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)


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