Being About To …

Kathleen Fitzpatrick has enlarged the circle of dialogue stemming from a session at the meeting of the Modern Language Association. She has opened up to comments her presentation on the “Being Human, Seeming Human” panel.

At the end she asks some questions about the direction of design and nature of humanity:

For what definitions of “human” are we building human-seeming agents, and why? If our models for the human mistakenly substitute intelligence for humanity, what becomes of emotion, of kindness, of generosity, of empathy? How do those absences in models for the human pave the way for similar absences in actual human interactions? And how does the consequence-free inhumane treatment of conversational agents encourage the continued disintegration of the possibilities for real sociality online?

I was reminded of Willard McCarty’s frequent invitations on Humanist to consider thinking about the relations to computing machines in terms other than that of servant and master.

Juxtaposing these strands in my mind, I was led to speculate:

But doesn’t our future humanness depend upon being about to “animate” the world of artefacts in a fashion similar to how we are learning to view natural habitats as offering ecological services? By “animate” I do not mean to ensoul. I mean to treat the object or subject before us as a carrier of history and worthy of some attention. Ironically to improve human-computer interaction, we on the human side may have to be kinder to things.
The machine is a playmate in this ongoing game of micro-theatre. How? By offering moments of serendipity enabling us to live our lives with sprezzatura — grace in all the details and kindness to all.

Words here launched into further chance encounters…

And so for day 2653

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