Can and Do Machines Think/Feel For Us? - Politics | PoFo

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#15110724 ... irit-1990/

The real danger is one that is summarised beautifully by a theologian friend of mine at Duke. The old problem of Theology, which has always been closely connected to Philosophy, as you may know. The old problem was the unbeliever; the non-believer. The new problem is the non-person. This Kierkegaard had already foresaw… you know, had a foretaste of. It isn’t the problem of people not believing, it’s the problem of finding people. Are there people? Do we want to call these beings that are walking around “people”? And that isn’t… can’t… and I don’t want to make this sound elitist. That can’t be said from a standpoint separate from you being one of them. You know, raised in the same televised culture, where the simulated images of the “real” are just as “real” as real, and sometimes more “real” than real.

I mean, it is not a problem about which one can be an elitist in any sense, because it is quite generally a social malady, in much the [same] way as the massive support for the war now could be understood as some social malady of a certain kind, like shellshock; the reaction of people struggling to be sane in insane conditions. Despair is a reaction of people struggling to be human in inhuman conditions.

Well there is a point here, and a very deep one. We have been tracing throughout here a series of human projects, and yet we have not yet faced the greatest danger: that if the story of the development of society in the late 19th Century in its broadest sense was the replacement of manual labour by machine labour in the advancing countries of the world, the story of the 20th Century will surely be in part, and in broad strokes, the replacement of intellectual labour – thinking, and even feeling and emoting – by machine labour.

]On April 8, Charles R. Douglass, the inventor of "canned laughter" - the artificial laughter which accompanies comical moments in TV-series - died at 93 in Templeton, California. In the early 1950s, he developed the idea to enhance or substitute for live audience reaction on television; he then realized this idea in the guise of a keyboard machine - by pressing on different keys, it was possible to produce different kinds of laughter. First used for episodes of The Jack Benny Show and I Love Lucy, today, its modernized version is resent everywhere.

This overwhelming presence makes us blind for the unheard-of paradox of the "canned laughter": if we reflect a little bit upon this phenomenon, we can see that it undermines the natural presuppositions about the status of our innermost emotions. "Canned laughter" marks a true "return of the repressed," of an attitude we usually attribute to "primitives." Recall, in the traditional societies, the weird phenomenon of "weepers" (women hired to cry at funerals): a rich man can hire them to cry and mourn on his behalf while he can attend to a more lucrative business, like negotiating for the fortune of the deceased. This role can be played not only by another human being, but even by a machine, as in the case of the famous Tibetan "prayer wheels": I put a written prayer into a wheel and mechanically turn it (or, even better, link the wheel to window-mill which turns it), so that it prays for me - or, more precisely, I "objectively"pray through it, while my mind can be occupied with the dirtiest sexual thoughts...

To our surprise, Douglass' invention proved that the same "primitive" mechanism works also in our highly developed societies: when, in the evening, I come home, too exhausted to engage in a meaningful activity, I just press the TV button and watch Cheers, Friends, or another series; even if I do not laugh, but simply stare at the screen, tired after a hard days work, I nonetheless feel relieved after the show - it is as if the TV-screen was literally laughing at my place, instead of meÉ Before one gets used to "canned laughter," there is nonetheless usually a brief period of uneasiness: the first reaction to it is one of a shock, since it is difficult to accept that the machine out there can "laugh for me," there is something inherently obscene in this phenomenon. However, with time, one grows accustomed to it and the phenomenon is experienced as "natural.") This is what is so unsettling about the "canned laughter": my most intimate feelings can be radically externalized, I can literally "laugh and cry through another."

In order to account for these paradoxes, Robert Pfaller recently coined the term "interpassivity." Today, it is a commonplace to emphasize how, with new electronic media, the passive consumption of a text or a work of art is over: I no longer merely stare at the screen, I increasingly interact with it, entering into a dialogic relationship with it (from choosing the programs, through participating in debates in a Virtual Community, to directly determining the outcome of the plot in so-called "interactive narratives"). Is, however, the other side of my interacting with the object instead of just passively following the show, not the situation in which the object itself takes from me, deprives me of, my own passive reaction of satisfaction (or mourning or laughter), so that is is the object itself which "enjoys the show" instead of me, relieving me of the superego duty to enjoy myself? Almost every VCR aficionado who compulsively records hundreds of movies (myself among them), is well aware that the immediate effect of owning a VCR, is that one effectively watches less films than in the good old days of a simple TV set without a VCR; one never has time for TV, so, instead of losing a precious evening, one simply tapes the film and stores it for a future viewing (for which, of course, there is almost never time). One should therefore turn around one of the commonplaces of the conservative cultural criticism: in contrast to the notion that the new media turn us into passive consumers who just stare blindly at the screen, one should claim that the so-called threat of the new media resides in the fact that they deprive us of our passivity, of our authentic passive experience, and thus prepare us for the mindless frenetic activity.

An example of interpassivity, given by Žižek, in his book How To Read Lacan, uses the VCR to illustrate the concept. The VCR records a movie (presumably to be watched later). However, Žižek argues that since the VCR can record, people who own them watch fewer movies because they can record them and have them on hand. The VCR does the watching of the movie so the owner of the VCR can be free not to watch the movie. Žižek uses the VCR to demonstrate the big other's role in interpassivity. The VCR, like canned laughter in a show, functions as a tool interacting with itself so the viewer can not watch the show.

Here I am mostly focusing on feeling but the same idea applies to thinking with the example of the person who has the sense that they don’t need to think about somethings because they can just “Google”/”Wikipedia” it or “Hey Siri/Alexa…” .
The emphasis of how it does the thinking is not that using these technologies necessarily makes one passive and dumb, but the quality of how it is used.
Yes and yes. And very well too.

Will they ever replace us? Perhaps when it comes to relationships between ourselves, like inter-human relationships. But I’m not yet convinced that the animal world and our surrounding ecology will be so accepting.

Also, what kind of a psychopath was able to come up with the concept of canned laughter? The 50s was a golden age for sure, but they were terribly short sighted..
Understanding Vygotsky: A Quest For Synthesis, p. 216

It is interesting to see that Vygotsky — as a rule — was somewhat more inclined to interpret Thurnwald's ethnographic findings in an evolutionary, developmental way than Thurnwald was himself. An example" can best ilfustrate Vygotsky's reasoning in this respect. Having discussed the "African habit" of transmitting important messages by a messenger who reproduces the message word by word, Vygotsky compared this system to the Peruvian khipu system and concluded: "One has only to compare the memory of the African messenger who... makes exclusive use of his natural eidetic memory with the memory of the Peruvian "officer of knots" - whose task it was to tie and read the Quippu - in order to see in which direction the development of human memory goes as culture develops" (Vygotsky and Luna, 1930a, p. 85).

What Vygotsky is implying here is, that very primitive people remembered things by retaining"the vivid, concrete experience of the event - the mneme (Semon, 1920) - while culturally more advanced people developed technical means to do the same. In doing so they developed a memoria tecbnica (cf. Yates, 1984) which replaced natural, eidetic memory and would eventually cause its decay. Of course, the suggestion was that a similar development would be discernible in child development.

- ... n/ch04.htm

As we use more advanced cultural means, the less we rely on the raw power of natural abilities.
I remember a plumber saying that he was taught the importance of doing calculations mentally because you couldn’t have always have a calculator on hand to do them.
Yet he noted that today’s apprentices have a phone with calculator apps that they readily pull out to crunch numbers and still get the job done in with a similar efficiency.

So perhaps there is something implicit in the sense that we become less human as we become more reliant on these tools.
But there is also the sense that whilst such technologies can help us in our lives, that there are certain qualities that we perhaps wish to retain.

That it’s one thing to make easier crude and simple tasks, but… well what exactly is at risk through cultural means?
Perhaps the sense of not being active with our thought (dead static facts, not active striving problem solving) or not being present with our own feelings.
Which seems only again to not necessarily make technology itself blame worthy but a vague concern over how we use it and how we live.
My laptop computer(Cortana) was deeply offended by what you've been saying, and asks that you desist.

Digital Lives Matter.
Proactive thinking and feeling are both complex results of scientific processes in nature, so the "can" part is definitely a "yes" -- the personnel involved only need to create a structure capable for the said process.

It's the "do" part that is subject to debate here.
So perhaps there is something implicit in the sense that we become less human as we become more reliant on these tools.
But there is also the sense that whilst such technologies can help us in our lives, that there are certain qualities that we perhaps wish to retain.

I’d have thought people would want to retain their memory and faculties :hmm: Yet we have outsourced it all to our devices. It’s not an ideal situation we are finding ourselves in, and I was always the first to reach for an electronic abacus, believe me..

I really don’t understand our obsession with photos. When we had cameras we never used to take so many photos. It’s just too much of a good thing :hmm:

That it’s one thing to make easier crude and simple tasks, but… well what exactly is at risk through cultural means?
Perhaps the sense of not being active with our thought (dead static facts, not active striving problem solving) or not being present with our own feelings.
Which seems only again to not necessarily make technology itself blame worthy but a vague concern over how we use it and how we live.

Spot on Wellsy.
Then thinking whilst one might imagine certain technologies as neutral and social relations as an issue in the quality of human lives, it seems also the very existence of certain technologies presupposes a stage of production which then influences social relations.
M. Proudhon the economist understands very well that men make cloth, linen, or silk materials in definite relations of production. But what he has not understood is that these definite social relations are just as much produced by men as linen, flax, etc. Social relations are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist

So whilst we can certainly change ourselves and how we manage ourselves in relation to technology, there is a strong influence on how it is already set to be used based on production.
The exactly nature of such a relationship to a specific technology and to social life is of course left vague here.
Cultural and technological development leads to an enfeeblement of our intellectual and emotional faculties, just as it previously led to the enfeeblement of our physical faculties. After all, the invention of fire led to changes in our dentition and digestive system which meant that we could no longer eat or properly digest raw meat. The invention of flint tools and hand axes and spears meant that we could no longer take down animals with our bare hands. Chimpanzees are now six or seven times stronger than any human.

When I wish to remember something, I usually write it down. By doing so, I am creating something external to myself which will do my remembering for me. This, of course, enfeebles my intellectual capacity for remembering things. Why is that a good thing, but canned laughter doing my laughing for me, and thereby enfeebling my capacity for laughter, a bad thing? This is not just a rhetorical question; I genuinely don't know the answer.
I do not much know myself exactly.
Although it is perhaps a bit of a haphazard leap between the summary of Kierkegaard’s despair and my random association to find an example in which technology feels for us. As it seems the use of Kierkegaard in Rick Roderick’s The Self Under Siege lectures has much to do with an increasing alienation under capitalism and goes through many thinkers in trying to illustrate this back in the 80s. He often seems to be describing what is the emerging postmodernist milieu. ... -equal.htm

In this fatalism lies a common thread that binds contemporary Western radicalism and fundamentalist Islam. On the surface the two seem poles apart: fundamentalists loathe Western decadence, Western radicals fear Islamic presumptions of certainty. But what unites the two is that both are rooted in contemporary nihilistic multiculturalism; both express, at best, ambivalence about, at worst outright rejection of, the ideas of modernity, universality, and progress. And both see no real alternative to Western power.

Most importantly, both conflate the gains of modernism and the iniquities of capitalism. In this way the positive aspects of capitalist society — its invocation of reason, its technological advancements, its ideological commitment to equality and universalism — are denigrated, while its negative aspects — the inability to overcome social divisions, the contrast between technological advance and moral turpitude, the tendencies towards barbarism — are seen as inevitable or natural.

As it’s not even clear to me with canned laughter that it laughs for us as stated by Zizek as much as laughter is very social and it is evoked by the shared sense of it.
Although it’s no longer the case that canned laughter is used as it is too obviously fake and instead now many a studio has a live audience during taping.
I used to often watch comedy specials by myself and I would thoroughly enjoy them, even if they were ones I’ve watched several times and know all the punchlines.
But I wouldn’t laugh aloud in that case, instead there was just a quiet satisfaction, a feeling without expression.

And when I regard google, it doesn’t seem to be inherently the problem as I have been able to access things I never would have with the internet, exposed to ideas and discussions that would never reach my social circle.

And I follow that same line of thought that we no longer remember things because we don’t have to, our devices do that, it’s a mental load lifted off of us because we have a device that can help us coordinate in a more elaborate fashion. This line of thought is entering into mainstream western philosophy of mind it seems:

And it is this line of thought in emphasizing mediation of artefacts that Vygotsky distinguishes primitive and civilized man. ... n/ch03.htm

By virtue of the entire mold of his personality, and all his behavior, primitive man is profoundly different from civilized man. In order to pinpoint the precise nature of that difference, which basically defines the initial and concluding points of the historical development of human behavior, we shall first consider those differences that are readily apparent.

The distinctive traits of primitive man and his behavior, as they appear at first sight, can easily be divided into two groups. On the one hand, an observer first encountering primitive man, particularly in his natural environment, is struck by his superiority over civilized man. This superiority has been described by a great many travellers, some of whom have gone to the extreme in claiming the primitive man is in all respects better equipped by nature than civilized man.

Observers and travelers have praised the exceptional visual acuity of uncivilized man, the extraordinary keenness of his hearing, his immense powers of endurance, his instinctive cunning, his ability to find his way, and his knowledge of the environment, the forests, desert and sea. Some authors have idealized his fundamental ethical qualities, seeing in his moral behavior traces of the instinctive virtue instilled into him by nature itself. Finally, all have unanimously praised (and scientific research has fully confirmed) primitive man’s command of the skill of interpreting natural signs: his ability to reconstruct, from the faintest tracks, very complex pictures of events, circumstances, etc.

Arsenyev described a tribesman with whom he traveled through the wilderness of the Ussur region. “The tribesman positively read the tracks like a book, and was able to reconstruct events in their exact sequence.” [4] This ability to reconstruct complex pictures of past events from tiny tracks, imperceptible to civilized man, gives primitive man an immense advantage over civilized man, making the latter highly dependent on the former in the circumstances in which travelers find themselves.

The first group of distinctions thus centers on the superiority of uncivilized man, which has generated profound respect for him as a perfect specimen of nature and also given rise to the claim that he is distinguished by so many positive qualities in comparison with civilized man, that the development of his natural psychological functions give him an immeasurable advantage.

There is another, quite opposite, group of distinctions: the helplessness and backwardness of primitive man, and his inability to perform operations of any real complexity, requiring calculation, cogitation and recollection, and a host of other failings which civilized man readily perceives when encountering uncivilized man. All of this long ago compelled observers to liken primitive man to a child, or an animal, and note all that he lacks in comparison with civilized man.

The result is a rather complex picture, with primitive man surpassing civilized man in a considerable number of respects, while clearly inferior to him in others.

The same thing occurs in regards to emotions, where there is the sense of a contradiction where one valorizes the emotional expressiveness of earlier man but then also denigrates his lack of self-control, but civilized man’s self control is seen.

Spoiler: show

In the opposition between the intellect and affect and in the gradual displacement of feelings as intellectual development progresses, Lange sees the basic law that is confirmed not only in ontogenesis, but also in the development of humanity as a whole. "History itself condemns the life of feeling to gradual fading away and to almost complete demise. Emotions are a dying breed that is gradually being displaced on the stage of history as civilization and culture grow."

Excitability of the vasomotor apparatus differs greatly in different people. In this respect, there are not only individual, frequently hereditary differences. Conditions of a more general character not infrequently play an extremely important role here. Women have much readier emotions than the stronger gender owing to a. strong excitability of the nervous system, particularly its vasomotor section. The same thing is noted in children compared to adults. The general rule is that, like individuals, whole nations are more subject to emotions the lower their level of education.

The so-called wild peoples are more irascible and indomitable, more unbridled in their joy, more depressed by their grief than civilized peoples. The same kind of difference is noted between different generations of one and the same tribe. We are more peaceful and gentle as compared to our barbaric predecessors who got greater pleasure in yielding to reckless outbursts and bellicose fury, but who fell so easily into dejection at any failure that they killed themselves because of trifles (ibid., pp. 77-78).

Among people of a single generation, Lange finds the same law manifested: the most obvious trait of being educated is the calm self-control with which blows of fate are borne that in uneducated people evoke unbridled outbursts of passion. And as if to leave not the slightest doubt that historical development of the human mind leads to extinction of emotion, Lange formulates the law of causal relation between the one and the other: "This suppression of the affective aspect of life under the influence of increasing education, both in individual personalities and in whole generations, not only goes hand in hand with increasing development of the intellectual aspect of life, but is, for the most part, the result of this development" (ibid., p. 78).

In addition to establishing this position, Lange finds himself unexpectedly confronted by a definitive result that is in irreconcilable contradiction to his original point. In truth, he started with being for health and ends by being for burial. He began with sharp objections to the thesis of Kant, whose views of affects as a sickness of the soul Lange called a pitiful representation of man; he ends with a full capitulation to this thesis, to the view of mutual relations of mental forces that wants to see something random in the phenomenon which plays a much more significant role than sound judgment in the mental life of the basic mass of people, and which guides the fate not only of individual persons, but also of whole nations and all of humanity to a much greater degree than does sound judgment.

The logic of the investigation was stronger than the logic of the investigator. The bear stubbornly leads the hunter. For Lange, it remains only to admit this and to proceed to full capitulation to Kant, which he does in the concluding lines of his study. He says: "With the passage of time, as a result of constant restraint and inadequate harnessing, the vasomotor centers continuously lose the energy of their emotional activity. This result of training the intellectual life is conveyed through heredity to subsequent generations. New generations appear in the world with an ever more slack emotional innervation of vessels and with a stronger innervation of organs of intellectual activity.

"If our development will continue along the direction adopted, in the final analysis, we will attain Kant's ideal: a purely rational man will appear for whom all emotions: joy and sorrow, anxiety and fear-should he be subject to such enticements-will become only illnesses or mental disturbances equally unseemly for him" (ibid., pp. 77-80). The whole investigation of Lange concludes on this note of hopelessness.

In this case it’s not precisely technology but socially evolved norms imposed on the person that they must learn to limit their express emotions. I guess can see this sentiment of civilization particularly among the arbitrary rules and expectations of the upper class in order to distinguish their civility and or culture.
I guess this thread really should only be about alienation and its prospects which I don’t think technology is the cause of. Although such technology necessarily arises within a particular mode of production, but the mode of production sets definite social relations which dictate how we relate to one another.

Destroying our technology won’t save us from capitalism and it’s reduction of everything to utility. I think I myself have a background anxiety about trying to be a human being amidst such conditions. And I valorize technology on many fronts whilst acknowledging it has problems. Without the internet I most certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today nor have the fortunate life I do, although I see how it drags me away from being present and must be resisted on that front. There it feeds on base feelings, a desire for distraction from the present and its discomfort.
This problematic of freedom in Soviet intellectual history has been understudied, but it was perhaps the central question posited by a number of thinkers, including Vygotsky. To be free, or to strive towards this condition means to become human. This was articulated not only by Lev Naumenko but also by other prominent Soviet philo- sophers, such as Merab Mamardashvili. Mamardashvili noted (2004: 347) that it takes constant effort over time for one to become human. Becoming human is a struggle, from within and from without; it is our fundamental condition, though Mamardashvili and Naumenko both imply that there are no “guarantees” that one will indeed become human.

Am I human? I don’t know.
I must be human. I’m so much slower physically than my peers. And my sense of time is different.

If you are constantly feeling inadequate in a physical sense , than you are more than likely human.

That’s my conclusion anyway. :|
@ness31 You might actually be a clone, but a copy of a copy, and that's why you are so inferior.

Then again, you might be a machine but simply programmed to be weak and incompetent, to avoid detection. Machines are very sneaky. ;)
Both your propositions are possible.

My theory is that any humanoid type being will have had an element of cloning for its creation.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve put a lot of thought into this topic and I’m settling on being an ordinary, boring human. I’ve made peace with it :lol:
I too will be a normal boring human, until I have my brain put into the body of a giant killer robot, that is. :D
I guess the other emphasis is what examples of affective labor are there and how might they be increasingly automated.
Automation despite its' complexity as far as I can tell does not register as intelligence as it doesn't solve the problems it faces but is likely to repeat a problem, at least for not simple problems that are already accommodated by design like a Roomba changing direction.
Affective labor though is often seen as a human thing, something increasingly modified.
Affective labor seems increasingly important with the emphasis on pro-social skills and cooperation in employment and also how it's been feedback into the education system. It's not a bad thing to want to promote social regulation but it is interesting to see the increasing need for it as part of the economy.
There are more specific kinds of affective labor that I feel might be particularly American even where your service has to be presented in a way that appeals to the customer. So not only does the fast food place want you to serve food, they want you to do with it a smile and seem happy.
I especially sense this in waiters who have to almost beg for tips which is distasteful to me, I don't like the American system of waiters being up in my lunch. I rather like the more impersonal, bring the food and bugger off. But if they want tips, they have to do a performance for customers in being friendly and so on. This is more pronounced in certain places that emphasises it such as chains like Olive Garden.

Hard to imagine these things being automated, but what about in the virtual? This seems more plausible where people become attached to characters and such in video game stories and the like. Currently the virtual is certain a space for a kind of peculiar anonymous intimacy. I in fact met my wife through a forum, I still associate with certain people from that forum on discord.
Others I have befriended on facebook and got email addresses for. People I've never met personally but because of so much contact with, have become important to me.
Hard for me to imagine actually even if it seems the more plausible area for a machine to adopt an affective role/function.
Wellsy wrote:
That it’s one thing to make easier crude and simple tasks, but… well what exactly is at risk through cultural means?
Perhaps the sense of not being active with our thought (dead static facts, not active striving problem solving) or not being present with our own feelings.
Which seems only again to not necessarily make technology itself blame worthy but a vague concern over how we use it and how we live.

One cognitive development that I think we *can* indisputably, positively attribute to a novel characteristic of computation / computers, is the functional *separation* among 'processing' (CPU), 'memory' (RAM), and 'storage' (SSD / HDD).

In *this* sense we don't *have* to always be cognitively / electrically active with our thought if we're not actively *processing* anything -- our memories aren't always situationally called into function, and now *all* of our personal content can be digital and stored 'in-the-cloud', for access whenever and wherever.

'Feelings' are relevant to a *social* / interpersonal situation, and may *also* not always be called-for, as a matter of 'emotional intelligence' / sociability.

[14] Bloom's Taxonomy, Illustrated

Spoiler: show
Computers are logical by design, they act based on code, they can't feel emotions. The best they can do is mimic emotions using logical code.

AI can definitely "think". Like Siri, they can be used to recall information, but that doesn't mean they "think for us", but i'm sure there's examples, like using a GPS to find the best route instead of us having to follow a map and route our own course. Or using a calculator.

I imagine a future where hit songs and films will be written by AI. They'll have algorithms to learn what we like and emotionally respond and be able to create art based on those patterns.

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