"[R]obots, unlike washing machines, will be smart enough to care, something that only humans used to be able to do. At least, robots will be able to simulate care. They will be able to perform care behaviour in attending to the needs of children, the sick, the disabled and the elderly without actually caring. They will be able to offer companionship to lonely people without being companions, to listen and smile along to senile people’s stories without understanding them, to help the hospitalised with their pain and distress without actually empathising with them. And so on.
Humans deserve better than the mere redistribution of the burdens of carework. If robots become sophisticated enough to perform such work then they offer us something tremendous: liberation from the burdens of care for both traditional givers (women) and receivers (especially adults reduced to dependency). We would be able to address the feminist critique technologically rather than politically or morally.
By freeing humans from many of the burdens of care, robots will allow us to reduce our mutual dependency, and particularly our use of love to establish the sense of solidarity and moral obligation that motivate us to meet those needs without counting the cost […] Love seems better - freer - when it isn’t contaminated by material self-interest, power asymmetries, and psychological manipulation.”
Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from the consequences of speech. Freedom of speech is not a protection against people telling you that your views are hateful. Freedom of speech doesn’t oblige other people or organizations to support you in your privileged position as a broadcaster, or journalist, or blogger. Freedom of speech isn’t a guarantee of permanent employment when the thing you are selling is your opinion, nor does freedom of speech compel the public to buy said opinion from you.
Freedom of speech is the right not to be persecuted for your beliefs: not to suffer state harassment or censorship, or be fired from a position with which your beliefs do not interfere.
I also think that men who rape women because their clothes were provocative are not completely evil. They truly do think that they are doing the woman a favor. Yes, these men are probably sick in the head, but if you think about it, it makes sense. It is situations like these that people need to start understanding because they hear the word “rape” and automatically assume the man is at fault and choose not to learn further of the situation.
If we take this seriously - a human future, that is, if we really care about whether there will be a human future - each one of us who claims to care has to be willing to be challenged, radically. How we think, feel, and act - it’s all open to critique, and no one gets off easy, because everyone has failed. Individually and collectively, we have failed to create just societies or a sustainable human presence on the planet.
If you think this is too extreme, alarmist, hysterical, then tell a different story of the future, one that doesn’t depend on magic…
[because] there is no way to magically solve the fundamental problems that result from too many people consuming too much and producing too much waste, under conditions of unconscionable inequality in wealth and power.
“Not long ago, I came across a project: “bluetooth shoes for the blind.” The designers put sensors in the soles of a pair of shoes; a blind person would then type in a destination into the smart phone’s GPS, and the shoes would vibrate to tell you when to make a turn. The inventors admitted that these shoes would not help with maneuvering through crowded city streets. Also, they don’t make a distinction between a curb and an open manhole. So I say—who are they kidding? It’s an example of a kind of technology that’s supposed to be attractive because it would replace the cane, making the blindness less visible, and allowing the blind person to “pass” more successfully as sighted.”—Georgina Kleege in conversation with Sara Hedren
“It’s a false divide to make a we/them: either able-minded, able-bodied, or disabled. After all, how cultures define, think about, and treat those who currently have marked disabilities is how all its future citizens may well be perceived if and when those who are able-bodied become less abled than they are now: by age, degeneration, or some sudden—or gradual—change in physical or mental capacities. All people, over the course of their lives, traffic between times of relative independence and dependence. So the questions cultures ask, the technologies they invent, and how those technologies broadcast a message about their users—weakness and strength, agency and passivity—are important ones.”—Sara Hedren - All Technology is Assistive Technology
Have you ever come across a description of someone and thought, "If I could do ANY thing, be ANY way, this is it"?
EB White, writer of what are almost certainly the best pig stories ever put to paper*, was once described as exemplifying “eloquence without affectation, profundity without pomposity, and wit without frivolity or hostility” - as well as “creative, humane and graceful.”
A legend states that Nüwa existed in the beginning of the world. She felt lonely as there were no animals, so she began to create animals and humans. On the first day she created chickens; on the second, dogs; on the third, sheep; on the fourth, pigs; on the fifth, cows; on the sixth, horses; and on the seventh, humanity. She began creating human beings from yellow clay, sculpting each one individually. After she had created hundreds of figures in this way, she still had more to make but had grown tired of the laborious process. So instead of handcrafting each figure, she dipped a rope in clay and flicked it so blobs of clay landed everywhere; each of these blobs became a common person. Nüwa still laboriously crafted some people out of clay; these people became nobles.
Leo: This week is going to be about warmth on cold days, it’s going to be about gentleness on rough days, it’s going to be about good food and good dreams on days that make you tired. This week is for loving other people the way you want to be loved, for loving people as openly and as much as you can, for loving other people as if that love has the power to heal every wound in the world. Even if it’s not enough, even if it’s not the only thing, this can make your days bearable, it can make your house warm, it can make your eyes bright.
“I think you should notice when you’re sad, and dive in and wallow and examine it and pick it apart with forceps and calipers. That way the sadness will lose its vitality, and harden over time into something benign and foreign, like an emotional fossil.”—Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
“It is the vice of a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square mile … That is not imagination. No, it kills it… . Your universities? Oh, yes, you have learned men who collect … facts, and facts, and empires of facts. But which of them will rekindle the light within?”—EM Forster, Howards End
The term “imagination” in what I take to be its truest sense refers to a mental faculty that some people have used and thought about with the utmost seriousness. The sense of the verb “to imagine” contains the full richness of the verb “to see.” To imagine is to see most clearly, familiarly, and understandingly with the eyes, but also to see inwardly, with “the mind’s eye.” It is to see, not passively, but with a force of vision and even with visionary force. To take it seriously we must give up at once any notion that imagination is disconnected from reality or truth or knowledge. It has nothing to do either with clever imitation of appearances or with “dreaming up.” It does not depend upon one’s attitude or point of view, but grasps securely the qualities of things seen or envisioned.
I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.
"We took a ram pelt, coated it in magic to keep it from burning, and dipped it in gold. The real trick was getting the proportion of gold and silver right. I wanted to keep the flexibility of gold, but it’s so heavy the individual hairs kept breaking, and too much silver made it stiff. In the end we went with a gold-copper alloy."
"Why go through all this trouble?"
"Because kingdoms are built on legends," Hugh said. "When the hunters are old and gray, they will still talk about how they went to Colchis and hunted for the Golden Fleece."
I enjoy being retired. I had taught, I think, as long as anyone should. The high schools are evidently teaching nothing. I was getting students who had read nothing, knew nothing, and thought the university existed for the sake of the Kentucky Wildcats. It’s shortsighted of Disney not to have built an amusement park: College World, with fraternities, sororities, sports, endless partying, but no classes or library or labs. It would not be appreciably different.
The French adore ideas. They’ve been playing with them since Thomas Aquinas. They sit in their cafés, and the more outrageous, the more clever you can be (like Derrida or whoever else at the moment), the more you are loved. But they don’t really take these things seriously. The young French student at the Sorbonne, excited by Lacan and Bakhtin and whatnot, his whole idea is to outdo these people, you know, in two or three years to publish his own book, explaining that everything we think is rightside up is actually upside down. Americans don’t possess this sense of play.
The days of aftermarket accessories and tinkering ended with the rise of professionals in the 1920s. In order to redesign a product, one has to understand the universal principles of good design.
For example, good automobile design constitutes a principle of fitness that expresses the perfect adaptation of means to an end. The laws of fitness are unchangeable and invariable—principles that can be studied and learned. Understanding these principles distinguishes professionals from amateurs.
Any organism must be conceived as a unity, one theme, one purpose, must dominate it; all its elements must be integrated as closely as possible so that it looks as if it had been poured in a single mold.
Tinkering destroys unity.
This 1934 manifesto by industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague is one of the best inadvertent defenses of tinkering that I’ve ever read. (I wonder if he also supported eugenics?)
Source: Kathleen Franz, 2005, Tinkering: Consumers Reinvent the Early Automobile, Penn University Press, p 137.
“Poetry is medical school. All that specialized, ornate, mysterious language that is the bringing back to life of the dead, Greek and Latin, a Lazarus of reproduction, capital intertwined with compassion, death as the enemy, an impartial falling at line’s end, the illusory eternity of “I,” a democracy of privilege, a basic human right for all.”—Fady Joudah
“Unlike the novelist, according to Augé, the writer of ethnofiction “does not want the reader to identify with or ‘believe in’ his ‘protagonist’ but, rather, to discover in him something of their times and in that sense — and that sense alone — to recognize themselves or see something of themselves in him. The character round which an ethnofiction is built is, in any event, a witness to his or her times and, in the best of cases, a symbol.”—Taking Writing Seriously: Marc Augé’s “No Fixed Abode”
Dear sweet merciful lord, deliver me from these deliriously happy parents, frolicking in paradise, publishing books, competing in triathlons, crafting jewellery, speaking to at-risk youth, painting bird houses, and raving about the new cardio ballet place that gives you an ass like a basketball. Keep me safe from these serene, positive-thinking hipster moms, with their fucking handmade recycled crafts and their mid-century modern furniture and their glowing skin and their optimism and their happy-go-lucky posts about their family’s next trip to a delightful boutique hotel in Bali.
I am not physically capable of being that effective or that effusive.
“To write is to carve a new path through the terrain of the imagination, or to point out new features on a familiar route. To read is to travel through that terrain with the author as a guide— a guide one might not always agree with or trust, but who can at least be counted on to take one somewhere.”—Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust