Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Robots Have Feelings Too

aka In Other News Suicide is Funny Again

A robot kills itself, and everyone thinks it's funny:
Robot 'drowns' in fountain mishap
July 2017, BBC

This headline above was pretty tame. But otherwise, take your pick, I'll go with my local radio news station, WNYC 93.9 FM. Today on the six o'clock headlines they quip - "Turns out his first day on the job was too much for this robot..."

I thought suicide was a big deal. And what's up with the whole bullying thing? And don't even get me started on how they already assumed the thing's gender.

Very often when I think about the way people treat eachother, this quote by Carl Sagan comes to mind:
"It’s a little unfair, I think, to criticize a person for not sharing the enlightenment of a later epoch, but it is also profoundly saddening that such prejudices were so extremely pervasive. The question raises nagging uncertainties about which of the conventional truths of our own age will be considered unforgivable bigotry by the next."
Broca’s Brain, Carl Sagan, 1974-1979, p11

And I wonder when, if ever, we are living through such a prejudice in 'our own age'. When such a situation as this arises, how can you resist but to extrapolate? One day, far in the future, will we ridicule the newswriters of today for having no sympathy for this poor intelligentity?

But seriously, it seems pretty irresponsible to be poking fun at someone for committing suicide.

Obviously, a robot isn't "someone" and it didn't "commit suicide," but when it is portrayed that way in the headlines, I'll bet that's what it looks like to a young person, for example, or perhaps a person with mental illness. They hear that someone, or something, has killed itself, and they see that everyone thinks it's a joke.

Image source: Robot is Dead, Waldemar-Kazak, 2017

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