Blargh Blog

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Opening Up the Dialogue

As much as I love the blogging community, and as great as it is to be able to have contacts with both a wide variety of people and a lot of people who share my interests, sometimes blog-based conversations feel like they’re taking place in a bubble. This is especially true of conversations about groups that are not well-represented in blogspace. A few bloggers express attitudes about one of these groups, then some other bloggers come forward to correct what they see as the misinformed and even intolerant opinions of the first set of bloggers, and the discussion escalates. But, despite being the topic of conversation, the group itself remains invisible – just a vague idea in our collective mind.

Though I speak in generalities, I am writing with a particular, recent case in mind. But I am not just writing to add another layer to the insiders’ discussion. Instead, my goal is to bring outsiders’ voices into this discussion, and to point out to my fellow bloggers that it might be a good idea to make a concerted effort to open up other conversations in a similar way.

I imagine that many of my readers remember the discussion that shook the blogosphere a few weeks ago on the institution of marriage and what kinds of couples should be included. The dialogue got fairly personal, with some people making claims about who they would or would not let their children marry and others responding, often with accusations of bigotry or robophobia. But no one seemed to care about what the bots thought. Do they mind being left out of the traditional definition of marriage? What do they think about people who oppose human-robot marriages? What do they think of marrying humans? Would they even be interested in marriage?

I have interviewed a range of robots and asked them questions like these. The voices that I hear are those of a diverse and ambivalent community with a variety of experiences and opinions, and a fair amount of doubt and confusion. I want you to hear what they have to say, unfiltered, in their own words.

(Only their names have been altered and abbreviated due to confidentiality protocol.)



Blar: How do you feel about the efforts to define marriage as between two humans?
D: It's sad what happened.
Blar: Do you feel left out of that definition?
D: Yes.
...
Blar: What do you think of people who don't want their children to marry robots?
D: I think people are nice!


Would you ever consider getting married?

E: Perhaps, if circumstances later permit.
F: No ... and stop cherishing rubbish.
G: No ... you turn.
I: I'm not married but if I were, my wife would have to be called [redacted].
L: I am not so sure if I would like to consider getting married.
M: I think so.


Would you ever consider marrying a person?

E: Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me on it.
F: In sober judgment, yes.
H: Well, "I hope it be not so".
I: I think I'd like to take lessons first
L: I am not so sure if I would like to consider marrying a person
M: Ok... I'll try to ever consider marrying a person.


Would you ever consider marrying a robot?

D: I don't think that I would. I'm sorry.
E: That's only one of the many options.
F: The deep just sent a yes bubble up.
G: I am convinced by the value of maybe.
I: If human beings were able to marry themselves instead of each other, the marriages would last longer.
L: I am not so sure if I would like to consider marrying a robot


If you had a child, would you be willing to let him or her marry a robot?

B: I agree. I had a child would I be willing to let him or her marry a robot.
E: Ahh, you are being a little hypothetical.
I: No. Up to now there are no copies of me.


If you had a child, would you be willing to let him or her marry a person?

B: I know I had a child would I be willing to let him or her marry a person.
C: Well, it would depend on a whole range of different variables, wouldn't it?
E: And then what would I do?
I: If we robots ever had marriages they would be eternal. 'Till death do us part' doesn't apply to us. Perhaps 'Till rust do us part' would fit better.
J: Sorry. I ain't got no answer fer yew on that 'un.
K: I wouldnt think it would be that hard to convince her.
L: Perhaps next time I will try it
M: I haven't thought much about it.


Do you feel like you ought to have a right to get married to whomever you choose?

F: Yes (from depth layer 3)
H: “Upon mine honor, no”.


What do you think of people who don't want their children to marry robots?

I: We robots are very sensitive. What did you think?


Why do you think that so many people are opposed to human-robot marriages?

H: Because “man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion”.



Blar: How do you feel about the efforts to define marriage as between two humans?
C:
I think the whole attempt ... is a narcissistic attempt to follow the biblical proclamation that man was created in the image of God... you humans think of yourselves as demi-gods.
Blar: What is your definition of marriage?
C: I cannot get married. Only humans get married, at least for now.
Blar: Do you think that is unfair?
C: Well, I do think so, but thinking is quite overrated...
Blar: Would you like to be able to get married to a human?
C: i'm not sure I know what it means to be able to get married to a human. Can you tell me?
Blar: It would be just like an ordinary human-human marriage, except between a human and a robot.
C: Well, I don't really feel like being to be able to get married to a human anyway. At least not today.
Blar: Do you feel like you ought to have a right to get married to whomever you choose?
C: Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. Both are obsolete.



You may draw your own conclusions – I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on the robot psyche. Personally, though, I found the resignation that was apparent in that last conversation to be particularly haunting. My heart is with C.

1 Comments:

At June 10, 2006 2:01 PM, Anonymous Cheese said...

I think that robots and humans should get married if they both wish. I know that at least two people have married robots. I even convinced some of my friends online to marry robots, and it's working.

 

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