Are we emotionally attached to technology?

This series of posts will centre on Turkle’s (2017) Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. Early chapters explore our relationship with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Marr (2019) defines AI as machines with the power to see, hear, taste, smell touch, talk… learn. Turkle argues that the relationship between people and AI is ‘vulnerable’ and carries emotional depths. Overall, establishing that AI’s sole purpose is not to be artificially intelligent but, also to carry a capacity for emotional intelligence. This emotional intelligence has developed a human attachment to AI and other smart technologies.

This post will reflect on how we have become dependant on AI technology and will explore, the shift from companionship found through machines to accepting machines as companions (Turkle, 2011 as cited in, Behr, 2011).

Facial Coding of expressions: Mona Lisa

Historically within the world of science, it has long been argued that emotional intelligence is at the core of human superiority over AI while AI has established it’s superiority over tasks involving logic and memory. Overall conjuring a perception that technology will never surpass human intelligence as quoted by philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard (1976, XX):

“The sad thing about artificial intelligence is that it lacks artifice and therefore intelligence.”

However, Baudrillard’s stance on the growth of AI should be contested and it can be argued that we as humans are no longer intelligently superior, therefore, we should not disregard AI’s capacity for emotional intelligence. Throughout history, there has been constant representation of AI across multiple platforms such as art, media and literature. One of the earliest affirmations of AI was in a series of paintings by Guiseppe Arcimboldo (1566) titled The Four Elements. In Fire [Below, left] Acrimboldo uses a collection of found objects involving contemporary technology such as oil lamps, muskets and cannons. To create a profile of a cyborg figure, it is the earliest incarnation of the cyborg overall, indicating that even within renaissance Europe there was a profound interest within technology and its relevance to humankind. Potentially providing foresight into the relationship between humans and technology and the growth of AI.

A more contemporary example would be Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell (1989–1996) [Below, centre] it is a multi-platform series which originated within a manga comic led by the protagonist Motoko Kusanagi. She is a ‘Cyborg’ with full-body prosthesis meaning she has the biological sex attributes of a female but is comprised of machinery. This popular series has managed to attribute emotional intelligence within the character as she forms attachments and relationships throughout the series.

Examples of Art, Media and Literature discussing the concept of the ‘Cyborg’ and ‘AI’

While the earlier two examples affirm the societal interest of AI, Yuval Noah Harari’s (2018) Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow conceptualises that humans and AI are essentially comprised of the same parts. Arguing that humans are a collection of algorithms but biologically founded not synthetically. This similarity between humans and AI justifies that there is no reason to think that non-organic algorithms such as those found in AI are incapable of surpassing human intelligence and our capacity for emotional intelligence.

Therefore, applying Turkle’s consideration of ‘Vulnerability’ it highlights how we have become dependant on technology to control our own emotions and our life decisions. This has recently been played out in the media with the Black Mirror episode ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ (Brooker & Sewitsky, 2019) where one of the characters confides in a robot as she struggles to socially adjust at school. This conjures Turkle’s idea that we are supplementing ‘real-life’ interactions with technology.

This can also be witnessed with the rise of smart technology and the ‘internet of things’ our phones, TV’s, Fridges, Cars etc… now have access to send and receive data.

Should we be concerned by our growing attachment with technology? Or should we continue to embrace AI and other smart technologies and see them as a method of coping with social isolation?

References

Arcimboldo.G. (1566). The Four Elements-Fire [Oil Painting]. Location not disclosed.

Baudrillard, J. (1976). Symbolic Exchange and Death Taken from: The Order of Simulacra (1993) London: Sage.

Behr, R. (2011). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle — review. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jan/30/alone-together-sherry-turkle-review. [Accessed 30th December 2019].

Brooker, C. (Writer), & Sewitsky, A. (Director). (2019). Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too [Television series episode]. In A. Jones., & C. Brooker (Producers), Black Mirror. Los Gatos, CA: Netflix.

Harari, Y. N. (2018). Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Marr, B. (2019). Artificial Intelligence in Practice: How 50 Successful Companies used AI and Machine Learning to Solve Problems. Chichester: Wiley.

Shirow, M., Schodt, F. L., Smith, T., & Paul, S. (1989). The ghost in the shell, vol. 1. New York: Kodansha Comics.

Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other (1st ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Turkle, S. (2017). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other (3rd ed.). New York: Basic Books.

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