Week 12: Machines Me

The two subjects for this week’s readings – ethics and privacy – are some of the most controversial issues that digitally literate people have to deal with. Both readings kind of gave me the creeps. I chose to focus on Katz & Rhodes.

I found this reading to be both interesting and frustrating. I disagree with many of their ideas about the ethical frames of technical relations.

I do not believe in the false frame. The Platonic belief that technology only an “imitation of Knowledge” (p. 233), is not entirely accurate. Technology is the result of knowledge. As such, I do believe that technology fits in the tool frame, “as mechanisms and systems to help their users meet their work goals” (p.234). I can even buy into the means-end frame because it makes sense that technology can be used for “production and profits” and “meeting technical requirements of the technology” (p. 234).

As for the autonomous frame: just no. Their questions, “Have you ever noticed how some systems…are more adapted to themselves, more focused on their own efficiency than on the human being who is the ostensible…user?” (p.234). That argument completely dismisses the role of agency and volition. It’s not the computers that are focused on their own efficiency: it is the people who programmed the computers. Taking agency out of the question renders the argument invalid.

Thought frame is less ridiculous. We do use machines as external extensions of our memories, like phones and PDAs. People, admittedly, even have machines within themselves (pacemakers, hearing aids). However, at my work at least, we do not “…refer to people, things, and actions with words like information, function, connection, transmission, input, output, processing, short-term and long-term memory, and noise in the system…” (p. 236). These terms aren’t exclusive to digital technology. Every one of them existed before the advent of computers. Applying them to a new paradigm is fine, but their logic doesn’t work.

The being frame is a result of the preceding frames. Since many of those are fallacious, the being frame doesn’t hold a lot of water for me. I do believe that people are depersonalized and are often treated as “standing reserve,” but that concept is not acknowledged, nor is it easily proven.

One of the parts that was most interesting to me, and not entirely preposterous, is their proposal that our relationships with machines may go from an “I-It” relationship to an “I-You” relationship, which means that at some point we may refer to machines as other sentient, self-aware beings. I can see that happening if machines become more autonomous and are programmed with beliefs. I do not see this happening in our lifetime. The technology might be there, but acceptance of it is doubtful.

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Now for the fun part.

Background information: In my study of memes, I came across a team of folks (Autotune the News) who take daily news, autotune the speakers in the news clips, and set the fabricated “singing” to music.

They might be best known for setting to music the rant of Antoine Dodson, a citizen of Huntsville, Alabama, who was interviewed for a news story about someone breaking into his family’s apartment and attempting to assault his sister.

Autotune the news “songified” the incident:

The folks at Autotune the News have an app that lets you “songify” yourself. This week’s readings talked about how “humans and technology (often merged)” would have relationships with one another.

I decided to preempt this merging and created a song from a paragraph in our text. I read it into an iPad and here is the result. Yes, this is me “singing.” Lyrics are included if you want to sing along. Machine Me

Posted on November 19, 2011, in Creative, Society, Trust, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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