For a very long time, I held nothing but contempt for robots. I hated the idea of robots "pretending" to be alive or have feelings or emotions of any of that. I didn't buy it. "They're programmed that way, that isn't how they actually feel." That was enough to end the argument for me. Robots didn't have my respect and never would. I looked forward to the day when I could push a robot down the stairs (and not have to pay for it).
And then, funnily enough, the movie I, Robot began to shake things up. In a rather comical way, I shared in the somewhat cathartic journey taken by Will Smith's character. At the beginning of the film he was just like the old me -- putting his hand in the face of the robot delivering his mail. At the story's end, though, he's undertaken a journey that made him see things a bit differently.
I, Robot merely loosened things up, somehow... it didn't do anything revolutionary for me. But the groundwork was laid, and that would be enough.
The next big part of this small story happened a few months ago. I was thinking about old people (as in, grandparent-old). Growing up, we have these old folks in our lives... and little by little we realize we're on our way to becoming old people. Slowly, we begin to realize that we too are subject to having the same prejudices and seemingly ingrained stereotypes that many old people seem rampantly infected with. I think it goes without saying that most all of us do not want to be the racist grandparent, to use a classic example.
In my ponderings of being old, I had a brief thought of the future. Perhaps robots will play an ever-increasing role in society's future, I pondered. Perhaps my grandchildren will look at robots like equals, in some way. Does this make sense to me? No, not in my wildlest nightmares. But in some way, I think it certainly could happen.
And then I realized it -- I had been on track to become a racist grandfather. Not racist against blacks or asians or immigrants, but instead against robots. I understand that "racist" isn't the best word, but the baggage it carries with it makes it the most appropriate. I thought of conversations my grandkids and I might have:
"But Grandpa, they have feelings too!
"Are you kidding me! No way! They don't have feelings, they're just programmed. That is the end of it!"
What frightens me about this imagined conversation is the "case-closed" attitude with which the Grandfather is speaking. Ultimately -- that is what I don't want -- to be an old person who has shut is door to new ideas and stopped thinking.
And that is what this is really about -- it seems that the older we get, the harder it is to "learn new tricks," take up new habits, get into new routines, and so forth. This may be inavoidable (to an extent), but I don't want to go quietly. I want to keep an open mind. I do not want to be the parent or grandparent who is afraid to try something new -- all the way from eating habits on up.
This "close-mindedness" is a very devious, insidious, and tricky little thing. We might be 100% against it and positive we'd never let is "get to us"... but then, one day, it sneaks up behind us and has veiled our vision without us even knowing. The archons are incredibly crafty; we most demonstrate constant vigilance!
And it isn't just constant vigilance against "robots" or anything that we can quantify -- for that is how the infection starts. It is a more "abstract" type of vigilance, which of course is more demanding of us but is ultimately necessary.
So it comes down to right now -- today, this week, this month, this year -- in a sense, this is the prescious time we have when we're younger than we'll ever be, ever again. The ground is only going to get harder to till. We must do what we can to build the foundation for the rest of our lives. It surely won't get any easier.
And that is what this page [not actually *this* blogger page, but a nother one I have in the works], to an extent, is going to help me with (and hopefully help others with the same thing). A repository of what I've learned, what ideas I've had, and what treasures I've brought back from my personal adventures.