Thursday, February 21, 2008

Formal Blog 6

What is representation? How is it created? Is it possible to shift
representation over time? To answer these questions the first necessary
component would be a defintion. Representation is defined as a creation
that is a visible or tangible rendering of something. Essentially
representation is a depiction of an object or an idea such as a robot or a
person. Having this definition in hand it becomes clear that to represent
something it is necessary to understand it and be able to assess
distinguishing characteristics. For examples a robot would almost always
be represented by a metal machine, typically posessing red eyes, who is
incapable of thought or emotion, and relies on humans to survive. A
person, in our conventional view, would be represented by a two legged
creature that walks upright, is capable of complex mental processes, and
is self-sufficient. While these representations hold true in our world
they do not in the world of Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep. The
representation of humans and robots must be completely redefined.
In Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep the line between human and andriod is
extremely thin. The andriods are organic, able to feel emotion and pain, and
capable of thought on par or above that of humans. They can eat like, think
like, and go about their everyday life indistinguishable from their human
counterparts. This presents a complex dillema, how do we represents humans when
andriods are practically identical. In the book this question is answered by
one of two methods: an empathy test or a bone marrow scan. Even these
representative differences are questionable. People who have been exposed to
dust for prolonged periods of time become special, lacking mental capacities
deemed "human". These specials when put through the empathy tests register as
andriods although they are chemical idnetical to humans. To rectify this
problem one of three things must occur. Either the representation of humans
must be conformed as to include specials as human, specials must be reclassified
as andriod, or the line between humans and andriods must be erased and the two
reclassified under the same representation. If either of the first two are done
we are still left with serious problems. In the first scenario changing the
human representation makes it dangerously close to that of andriods and leaves
only chemical composition as a difference. In the second scenario humans are
able to become andriods and would have the same chemical composition as humans.
Either scenario brings the two representation dangerously close to one another.
Leaving only one possible outcome, humans and andriods are essentially the same.

The real world implications of technology upon representation are not nearly as
grave. Current technology is unable to replicate the features or range of
abilities that even the earliest humans possess. We cannot create animals
capable of deceiving others into believing they are real or build machines
capable of thought. While technology may someday advance to a point where this
could be a concern today it is but a mere flicker, a glimpse into what could

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

I'd argue that you start out by dealing with abstract ideas rather than concrete (i.e.) tangible representions. Strangely chosen ones, too. Babies don't do anything you list of in your definition/represention of "person," for instance; as far as robots, this covers neither robots in industrial use (which don't have eyes, as a starting point) or most fictional robots (which almost invariably think, although they may or may not feel).

Your shift to the word "representative" is actually helpful, although it's also, kind of, a topic shift.

You do a good job discussing the collapse of human and android into one another, although it's not clear what this has to do with technology (presumably you're treating the androids themselves as technology, but that could use a little explanation).

While it's true that we don't create anything like androids, we certainly create many technologies which influence representation, beginning with _how_ and _where_ we represent things (for instance, television, the internet, sound recording, etc. etc.).