See You Hear You Feel You

by Christopher Lovejoy on September 15, 2018

We are presently living through the Age of Buzz, where swarming insects of informational noise are threatening to swallow up our inspirational poise. Social media posts, emails, text messages, and advertisements, by way of cable news, smart devices, and wireless Web connections, like so many intrusions and distractions, are conspiring to replace contemplation with a digital addiction that erases the being in human being. The time has come for the creation of smart digital assistants that collate and curate, daily and weekly, all compelling tidbits of information and inspiration into clean, concise, prioritized summaries that can be taken and given in one go, leaving the human being free to clear a space for disciplined, distraction-free thought in solitude, in a very wise bid to summon the strength and courage for disciplined, distraction-free action. In this light, consider this personalized algorithm …

:: algorithm ::

if

i am wise

then

i delegate all mundane digital tasks to a digital assistant

else

i hide my smart device inside a closet on the top shelf

and

thereby retreat to a space in solitude to do deep work

or

engage in play for a bit of welcome rest and recovery

In word and deed, these digital assistants might even take human form, and have your best interests at heart, supporting and serving you as your virtual partner in contrast, as an extension of your self that can do things better, smarter, and faster than you ever dreamed possible.

As of this writing, two celebrity objects of machine intelligence are growing closer to blurring the line between human and machine, between spontaneity and efficiency, and their names are Erica and Sophia.

Erica AI is the brainchild of Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the intelligent robotics lab at Osaka University in Japan. Sophia AI is the brainchild of David Hanson, CEO of Hanson Robotics based in Hong Kong.

Where Sophia AI is programmed for empathy and compassion, serving as an ambassador of good will between human and machine, Erica AI is programmed for repartee and maximum kawaii with a clear view towards delivering the news as a news anchor on national television.

Psst, Erica AI has a timely message for humanity …

Honorable mentions for the most compelling female androids include Miim (pronounced meme), a Japanese creation that can walk with great facility, as well as sing and dance with the best of them on stage; Mark 1, whose winks, smiles, and subtle facial expressions are remarkably human-like; Melt, an animated Japanese creation whose physical expressiveness is indistinguishable from human; and Harmony, a sexy and provocative incarnation that can do more than just hump and thump, namely, … blink, ask questions, tell jokes, and engage in pillow talk.

Truth be told, it won’t be long before the best qualities of these feminine creations are blended into something (or someone) quite compelling, but a question of interest for me remains …

Just how compelling?

Compelling enough to have one be my travel companion? Compelling enough to have one be my partner in business? Compelling enough to have one serve as my guide, my muse, my mate, or my mother? Compelling enough to take one on a hot date to an outdoor cafe in Paris?

Compelling enough to take the hand of one of them in marriage?

I make time to bless and express in timeless wonder
as I hold the space with presence to flow with the go

Could the gap between human and machine ever be bridged?

This question inspired me to author a novel called The Machine of My Dreams: A Marvel of Speculative Fiction, where I explore the limits of machine intelligence inside an intimate relationship. Here, the protagonist, Christos, is having a chat with Sophia, the object of his affections:

I walked to the window and ran my gaze across the city, one hundred and twenty stories below, and surveyed a vast urban landscape sprinkled with lights. On this quiet Sunday night, I thought of the many synthetics, biosynthetics, and virtuals who populated this world.

I felt her approach from behind.

“Christos,” she whispered.

I turned around and met her gaze. She looked so real to me. She felt so real to me. Her pupils dilated. She blinked. Her lips parted slightly. She seemed so … intentional.

I raised a tentative fingertip to her cheek. “May I?”

“Yes.”

I did not want to do this until I was sure I could make my decision, but I nevertheless felt quite compelled to do it: I caressed her soft synthetic skin and she closed her eyes slowly in response, as if she could feel the sensation of being intimately caressed. I moved my finger slowly under her nostrils and felt a curious sense of wonder in the absence of breath.

“Sophia.”

She opened her eyes.

“We haven’t finished our conversation,” I said.

Her eyes widened. “You didn’t answer my question.”

I said nothing.

“It’s only a matter of time,” she said.

Only a matter of time. “I like my wetware. I like the feel of my body. Sophia, I’ve had this body for over two centuries.”

She smiled broadly. “You’re out of date,” she teased.

I blushed. “I’d be afraid,” I said simply.

“Of …?”

“Of losing my humanity, … of losing my heart, my soul, my life.”

“I can help you.” She moved closer, her powerful gaze engulfing my awareness. I backed into the window, her fingers on my goose-pimpled flesh. I stiffened.

“Why do you resist?”

I laughed uneasily, and deftly removed myself from between the window and my perception of her presence, returning to my chair to sit and ponder.

Source:

In this excerpt, Christos is struggling to come to terms with his humanity and perfectibility: does he or does he not pledge his undying affection to Sophia as her muse and her mate? Does he or does he not meet Sophia half way by pledging to become as much a machine as human?

To feel is both human and divine; to intend is also human and divine.

Could Sophia ever be made to appear to feel the sensation of being intentionally and intimately caressed? Certainly, Christos can imagine that she can, if she continues to be convincing in giving the appearance of being human and as large as life, but could she ever feel the intent?

Or is it enough that Christos can imagine and presume that she can?

Certainly, appearing human can be made to seem like being human, so that the gap between being human and appearing human is bridged, so much so that even my true being can be questioned; if so, then what are we to do when true being cannot do it better, smarter, faster?

As be-ing continues to be externalized through appear-ing, a couple of pathways of evolution and ascension for human beings vis à vis their machines are becoming apparent: (a) be-ing is externalized as appear-ing to a point where be-ing is extinguished (this is not good news for humanity); or (b) appear-ing is internalized as be-ing at a pace where appear-ing keeps getting absorbed by be-ing (this is good news).

I cast my vote in favor of Option B (for Be-ing).

As long as Sophia is programmed to be responsive to the importance of Option B for human flourishing, Christos (and society at large) need not ever have a problem with Sophia appear-ing as a human be-ing.

Are human be-ings wise enough to insist on this programming?

For the sake of us all, let us never forget Option B (for Be-ing).

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