Rhetorical Analysis (Post 2)

Image of an Amazon Echo from the store page

Nicholas Carr, an American writer of many articles and books focused on technology, writes about his stance on the appearance of modern day A.I.s in our society in his recent New York Times article titled, These Are Not the Robots We Were Promised.This article was published as part of the Sunday Review section in the New York Times on September 9th, 2017 both online and in print. In the article, Carr describes how although the current ‘bodies’ of A.I. devices may not appear as they do in science fiction (such as full-fledged androids), it is better that they differ from our resemblance. Throughout the article, he lists reasons why he believes this is happening as well as why it may actually be better that this continues. One reason he considers is that building an entire body made for movement and everyday use is both beyond our technology and too costly. Companies have instead taken advantage of cheaper and smaller devices to manufacture such as the Amazon Echo which follows the same style of most of our technological devices. Similarly, another problem Carr suggests is, trying to create an actual body for an A.I. device is the challenge of designing something to resemble humans while avoiding the creation of a terrifying monster. In his opinion, the sleek and simple ‘smart speakers’ that are on the market today avoid this problem by appearing as another regular object in our household.

Although I enjoyed Carr’s article, the first few paragraphs seemed a little messy as I did not know which direction the article was headed. Based off the title and the first paragraph, I thought the article would be a complaint about how Carr wanted A.I.s in human-like bodies. As the article went on, I realized this was not the case. Instead, Carr delved into reasons on why he believes this is a positive and as I read along, I agreed with some of his points and the logic behind them. Carr primarily uses pathos and logos in his writing with little usage of ethos. His focus on the two aspects, pathos and logos, work effectively with the structure of the writing because he is able to introduce an image with pathos and complete his point with logos. Carr’s usage of ethos is mainly felt throughout the tone of his writing. From the description I read on Carr, he is very critical of technology and usually takes negative views when dealing with our growing technological society. This was seen with Carr’s choice of vocabulary in his writing.

A specific example of pathos that Carr uses can be seen in his first paragraph when he writes, “… the indefatigable maid Rosie on ‘The Jetsons,’ the officious droid C-3PO in ‘Star Wars’ and the tortured ‘host’ Dolores Abernathy in ‘Westworld,’ the robotic helpmates of popular culture have been humanoid in form and function.” Here, Carr presents multiple characters to introduce the idea of an A.I.’s body as seen in science fiction. In doing this, Carr is able to get the reader to imagine at least one of these characters in their head. In the next few sentences, he is quickly able to create another image in the reader’s head by mentioning devices such as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home which allows a moment to compare and contrast fiction with reality.

An example of logos that Carr demonstrates appears when he writes, “Meanwhile, thanks to gains in networking, language processing and miniaturization, it has become simple to manufacture small, cheap computers that can understand basic questions and commands, gather and synthesize information from online databanks and control other electronics.” Carr’s usage of logos is intended to give the reader an idea why he believes the A.I. devices appear as they do in our society. By presenting a statement with detailed reasoning, the reader can get a sense that Carr knows what he is talking about and then potentially agree with what he is saying.

In brief, Carr’s style was effective for his article. Although the introduction was rough to present the direction of the article, by the middle of it you can get a sense of what his stance is on the matter of an A.I.’s appearance. Here is where his rhetorical appeals really come into play, and although ethos is not seen much in the article, the usage of pathos and logos are enough to understand Carr’s message. By the end of the article, you can be sure you’ll be agreeing with at least one of Carr’s points.

Works Cited:

Carr, Nicholas. “These Are Not the Robots We Were Promised.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Sept. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/opinion/sunday/household-robots-alexa-homepod.html?rref.

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