Category: episode 1

Artificial intelligence is getting smarter by leaps and bounds — within this century, research suggests, a computer AI could be as “smart” as a human being. And then, says Nick Bostrom, it will overtake us: “Machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make.” A philosopher and technologist, Bostrom asks us to think hard about the world we’re building right now, driven by thinking machines. Will our smart machines help to preserve humanity and our values — or will they have values of their own?

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Whether You Fear or Embrace New Tech Depends on Where You’re From:

East Asian technological innovations have long outpaced those in the West. Products that sound like recent or even future innovations to most Westerners have been available for decades in Asia, particularly in Japan. These include:

· A handheld device that enables customers to order food and drinks from their karaoke room.

· A button attached to the table that customers push to alert a waitress.

· A slew of vending machines that sell everything you can imagine: alcohol, ramen, underwear, umbrellas, rice, newspapers, cell phones.

· Love hotels where guests can check in discreetly without interacting with other human beings.

Tourists visiting Japan for the first time often feel compelled to take a photo of the ubiquitous high-tech washlet toilets. These fixtures are hardly new; they have been on the market since 1980 and have more than 80 percent market penetration. Years before the Internet of Things became a phenomenon in the West, Japanese people were using their mobile phones to run their baths remotely while in a cab. They were also using a single card on their phones to buy groceries from a store, get green tea from a vending machine, and pay the fare for trains and buses.

Evidence from cross-national academic research suggests that the speed of innovation adoption has historically been significantly faster in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan than in the U.S. Aside from various market conditions and economic factors, why have Japanese people historically been more comfortable than Westerners with the new and the strange?

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Scared of superintelligent AI? You should be, says neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris – and not just in some theoretical way. We’re going to build superhuman machines, says Harris, but we haven’t yet grappled with the problems associated with creating something that may treat us the way we treat ants.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Americans Are More Afraid of Robots Than Death:

When the personal computer first became ubiquitous in the 1980s, as Adrienne LaFrance wrote in The Atlantic earlier this year, some people found it so terrifying that the term “computerphobia” was coined.

“In the early days of the telephone, people wondered if the machines might be used to communicate with the dead. Today, it is the smartphone that has people jittery,” she wrote. “Humans often converge around massive technological shifts—around any change, really—with a flurry of anxieties.”

To see those anxieties quantified, take a look at the top five scariest items in the Survey of American Fears, released earlier this week by researchers at Chapman University. Three of them—cyberterrorism, corporate tracking of personal information, and government tracking of personal information—were technology-related.

For the survey, a random sample of around 1,500 adults ranked their fears of 88 different items on a scale of one (not afraid) to four (very afraid). The fears were divided into 10 different categories: crime, personal anxieties (like clowns or public speaking), judgment of others, environment, daily life (like romantic rejection or talking to strangers), technology, natural disasters, personal future, man-made disasters, and government—and when the study authors averaged out the fear scores across all the different categories, technology came in second place, right behind natural disasters.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Anglo-Breton poet Claire Trévien on how lost islands and Wikipedia deletion threads feature in her new collection ASTÉRONYMES.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Between Living and Nonliving · Journal of Design and Science:

Ionat Zurr: I’d like to think about the differences in distinctions between life and nonlife from your Japanese perspective, and my own, the Judeo-Christian tradition, which is based on the Western dualistic idea of, “This is alive, this is not alive.’’ I would love to hear more from your view, because our tradition is very much about life being carbon-based. But what is life? It is a mystery. And I know that in Shinto it’s a bit different.

Maholo Uchida: The basic idea of Shinto is that we have something like eight million gods.

Ionat: Eight million?

Maholo: Eight million gods, which really means countless gods. In Christianity or other Western religions, you have one very important God, who creates a human. That’s the rule. I’ll focus on Shinto, because it has many similarities to other animisms, like the traditions found in Mexico or Iceland or Bali. In Japan, Shinto has been continued by the royal family and the shrine system. In Shinto, we say that we have eight million gods, and those gods each represent a certain nature element. So, we have a god of the wind, a god of the land, a god of the sun, etc.

Ionat: Okay. So eight million is not a specific number. It’s just to say there are many, many gods.

Maholo: Many gods everywhere. And in that sense, we think that the human is just a part of nature, a part of matter, a part of the universe. The human is not the center, whereas the Western idea is that the human is the center, and the world revolves around it. But in Shinto, the human is just a part of the world. It’s melting with everybody—but not just everybody, but everything. That’s the very basic idea. I think you know some of the Japanese robot animations? We have so many varieties of humanoid robots, and animal-like robots. And funny animations that have characters that are nonliving things. For example, the bread hero “Anpanman”. I understand this as part of our culture, which strongly relates to Shinto.

Ionat: So, robots—do they also have soul?

Maholo: Yes.

Ionat: Does that mean that each entity has its own soul, i.e. a robot has a soul, the wind has its own soul and so on?

Maholo: Actually, it doesn’t matter, because there is no definition. It’s not religious. It’s more like a philosophy, or a daily belief. And once you start to think about, “Well this thing has some soul,’’ then your morning café au lait cup has a soul. In the traditional Japanese family, we have the rice cup for me, and the rice cup for father, and it has a different color or whatever, and everybody takes care of their cup. It’s the same even for the chopsticks.

Ionat: So it’s more fluid or entangled? You look after them like they’re alive? You have to look after them.

Maholo: Yes. And it’s the same for a robot; they will take care of that robot as a living robot.

Ionat: In “Western” culture there is the fear of robots taking over humans. But I guess in Shinto there’s no fear like that since humans and robots are all part of an animated continuum.

Maholo: There’s no fear like that.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

What makes us human? Why do we fear artificial intelligence and robots? ‘AI: More than Human’ curators Suzanne Livingston and Maholo Uchida unpack the big questions explored in this interactive exhibition.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

A slashed tire, a pointed gun, bullies on the road: Why do Waymo self-driving vans get so much hate?:

A Waymo self-driving van cruised through a Chandler neighborhood Aug. 1 when test driver Michael Palos saw something startling as he sat behind the wheel — a bearded man in shorts aiming a handgun at him as he passed the man’s driveway.

The incident is one of at least 21 interactions documented by Chandler police during the past two years where people have harassed the autonomous vehicles and their human test drivers.

People have thrown rocks at Waymos. The tire on one was slashed while it was stopped in traffic. The vehicles have been yelled at, chased and one Jeep was responsible for forcing the vans off roads six times.

Many of the people harassing the van drivers appear to hold a grudge against the company, a division of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet Inc., which has tested self-driving technology in the Chandler area since 2016.


Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

Claire wrote this poem specifically for Digital Human, a human reaction to a future world that is built for the convenience of smart technology, rather than the people who use it.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism

A History of Animism and Its Contemporary Examples:

Animism (from the Latin: animus or anima, meaning mind or soul) refers to a belief in numerous personalized, supernatural beings endowed with reason, intelligence and/or volition, that inhabit both objects and living beings and govern their existences. More simply, it is the belief that “everything is conscious” or that “everything has a soul.” The term has been further extended to refer to a belief that the natural world is a community of living personas, only some of whom are human. As a term, “animism” has also been used in academic circles to refer to the types of cultures in which these animists live.

While the term “animism” refers to a broad range of spiritual beliefs (many of which are still extant within human cultures today), it does not denote any particular religious creed or doctrine. The most common feature of animist religions is their attention to particulars, as evidenced by the number and variety of spirits they recognize. This can be strongly contrasted with the all-inclusive universalism of monotheistic, pantheistic and panentheistic traditions. Furthermore, animist spirituality is more focused on addressing practical exigencies (such as health, nourishment and safety needs) than on solving abstract metaphysical quandaries. Animism recognizes that the universe is alive with spirits and that humans are interrelated with them.

Stream or download the podcast here Digital Human: Series 18, Ep 1 – Animism