Adventures in E-Learning and Digital Culture

Week 4 Video Reviews – Robbie the Manipulator et al… #edcmooc February 22, 2013

The videos this week were highlighted to evoke forms of transhumanism however in yesterday’s blog I outlined that I am not a convert of the movement.  My video reviews reflect that.

Robbie the Manipulator

Throughout the video I kept being reminded about how we attribute human emotions to our pets.  Design a robot, albeit a highly complex one, give it a kind, trembling, dying voice to manipulate the heartstrings and voila you have half the viewer’s raging about the injustice of what has happened to him.  Hey.. he’s not real!!  To be honest I felt the same yuck about  ET (he wasn’t a robot but creepily non-human).  Call me pragmatic but I cannot believe a robot will ever have the same attributes as a human.  We program, they respond.  When it changes they can come after me.

Gimme Gumdrops

I want one (as long as I can change her accent and mute her from time to time)… but I don’t believe in her as anything more than a complex, well designed robot with advanced levels of interaction. (I don’t believe in her at the moment because she doesn’t exist).


True Skin

Horrible, dystopic view of a life with the wrong body part, us and them, surveillance, grey and seedy city life and the Cyborg.  Realistically people do opt to enhance what they perceive as their quality of life.  We see that with choices eg, when they are sick or want to improve their appearance, or stay young – some choices are life-threatening, unsafe and unproven but they persevere because of their own personal drivers.

On the other hand hip replacements, heart pacemakers, and the like, wonderfully improve quality of life now.  My young friend, off to do Megatronics at University this year, tells me about exciting technology that replaces limbs, maybe bionic eyes.. all good and all useful human endeavour (let’s just hope everyone can afford it?)

I watched a Ted-X talk (a headset that reads your brainwaves) – a chap could think/control a simple computer task with brain responses and a fancy hair net.  Brilliant.  This is wonderful technology with potential BUT THE DEVICE OPERATES  ON HUMAN RESPONSES not on its own.



Truly sad to me who gets immense pleasure from the real world but for those who do not have choices about the colourless world’s they inhabit an Avatar could provide an escape .  Here, when the players are in character, they are unique, complex and important.   (And I learnt today if you are good at this particular game you get paid well).

One of the players on the video did sound like a joyful killer. From Gabe Zichermann’s Ted talk (reference in last blog below) research shows that people with violent personalities become more violent when gaming.  Other research talks about people with addictive personalities becoming game addicts.  (Interesting – current research says the problems start with the people not the technology –– not technology determining the bad behaviour.. just enhancing it).

Research shows some games do help us multi-task, problem solve quickly, drive better … but an excess is problematic.  Disruptions to circadian sleep rhythms are not uncommon and can present as psychoses to doctors.   I have seen teenagers (not mine) in this state due to heavy gaming and it is disturbing.

“Sleep researcher Yaron Dagan states that “[t]hese disorders can lead to harmful psychological and functional difficulties and are often misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated due to the fact that doctors are unaware of their existence.”[1]


I enjoyed the quality of the videos this week and appreciated the connection to the subject matter.  I am just not of the transhuman persuasion so they didn’t have huge resonance.




Transhumanism and its Unique Relationship with the Emperor #edcmooc February 21, 2013


I find the views of the Transhumanists in our readings a bit like the Emperor’s new clothes, all rhetoric but nothing new.  It might be I am too pragmatic (and tired) to understand the nuances?

“Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remould in desirable ways. Current humanity need not be the endpoint of evolution. Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have” N Bostrom

We have been “evolving” like this since our earliest times.  We had a wonderful BBC programme on Early Britain recently – which showed how we have evolved, physically, mentally and spiritually.  It is a remarkable story and a credit to the humans’ creativity – not just evolutionary but revolutionary.  Transhumanists’ aspirations will be fulfilled and that is because of human’s boundless creativity and seemingly infinite ability to adapt and improve.

I have been reflecting on Gabe Zichermann and his infectious passion for gamification and how this new technology is resulting in improved abilities to learn, multitask, come up with solutions faster and it’s wider application in various arenas.   But the technology is not the cause of the improvement – it is the human brains ability to adapt and maximise.

One random thought – we, in NZ,  had devastating earthquakes recently that have destroyed human landscapes and infrastructures – Nature does seem to have a its own indiscriminant, final word when it comes to any exalted state humans feel they have evolved to or created.  But what do we do in the face of disaster – regather, create, rebuild better.  Brilliant.

On the basis of my limited introduction Transhumanism falls deficit because it bases its idea of evolution on “rational means” which minimises the irrational, extraordinary or inexplicable human aspects which fascinate us. How do aboriginals teleport without machines, how do humans perform amazing feats under duress without bionic body parts, how do some people foretell the future without time machines?  What about intuition and faith – all valid expressions of being human in most cultures.  I am not widely read on transhumanism – they may have explanations?

“Transhumanism promotes the quest to develop further so that we can explore hither to inaccessible realms of value. “ N Bostrom.  Transhumanism is in luck because that is exactly what humans do.   History speaks for itself.  Technological enhancement may be a part of that but there is much, much more.