There is so much that is fascinating in this conversation. I'm an IT person, I program for a living, and I follow developments in artificial intelligence and robotics as time allows, but I'm not deep into it. It used to be that I was the one who was most involved with computer technology, spending hours alone in the basement chatting online while other people were telling me that computers would hurt my social skills, and that I had to go outside and play. (the program on the power of play was another interesting one, by the way :) ). I'm still very involved with technology (more than I should be, possibly) but I learned early that I have to turn it off at some times. I wouldn't come close to putting my whole life on Facebook or spending hours checking status updates the way some people do, and the idea of paying attention to your blackberry when you've got a person sitting beside you, or particularly a child who wants your attention, is very foreign to me. So for me it's fascinating that now large parts of the general population has moved to where I was, and I've moved back towards where the general population used to be. I still have work to do, though - I have a friend who continually tells me I should budget some time to go out and just look around, enjoy a sunset. Although I listen to podcasts while I'm doing many non-thought-intensive things, I do wonder whether I've taken the constantly having a pair of headphones in streaming me new information too far, and whether I might do better to take them off and take more time to think and process what I've heard, rather than replacing it with new information before the old has sunk in and made a difference. Somewhat ironically, some prior On Being podcasts on attentiveness to the present moment have hit home for me and made me question whether I'm listening to too many podcasts :).
I listened to the full uncut interview, including the part about how robots can be made to push our Darwinian buttons. I think this research needs to be made very widely available. In the same way that knowledge of how marketers push our "buy this" buttons is important for consumers, knowledge of how robots can be made to push our "empathize with this" buttons can help us to manage the increasing integration of robots into our daily lives. Also, I think it will help us manage our person to person relationships better - who wouldn't like to have a better idea what to look for in others, and what to do yourself, to successfully make a connection? If we can build robots that connect well with humans, that means we have the knowledge to help people do the same.
Finally, I just want to say thank you for a wonderful podcast (not just this one, but On Being, and before it Speaking of Faith). I own and run a small religious forum that aims to bring together people of differing beliefs, and part of why I do it is to find ways to deal with the tribalism that tends to happen between believers of various religious persuasion and atheists. I frequently reference discussions on On Being, because I find them to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, and the tone of the show is similar to the tone I aim for in my own discussions.
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