Posted by: CJ | January 19, 2011

Doctors, Dresden Codak, Transhumanism…

In which a long discussion with a friend leads me to something…optimistic…after a fashion.

This past weekend I got into a long discussion with a friend about cynicism and Kimiko Ross. I mentioned that I thought robots and algorithms would ultimately be cheaper and more effective than training doctors and nurses, and this could, would, and should lead to much cheaper healthcare. Hopefully in the next 20 years, but I’d settle for by the time I’m 60.

My friend accused me of rank cynicism, for thinking the system would be better with no humans in it.

My views are actually more complicated than that, aware as I am of Vonnegut’s Player Piano and the way that mechanization can ultimately lead to a 2-tiered society. Those in control of the machines and the people who aren’t. The “aren’t”‘s lead lives simultaneously more leisurely but less relevant than the lives of their parents and grandparents. But I also think our current state of affairs in medicine is unsustainable, and think robot doctors would be a suitable way of punishing all involved for their intransigence in finding a better system.

But, lacking completely knowledge of my views, my friend accused me of being like Kimiko Ross. I didn’t catch the reference, so I went to read Dresden Codak. It’s a webcomic that takes less than an hour to read. The basic gist of it is a roboticist girl helps create a world where robots cater to humans’ desires. Ultimately the humans being to die out, because they like their virtual worlds better than the real world and stop breeding. Some of the humans resist this, claiming they the robots are giving them everything, everything save relevance. At the same time, the robot overmind is evolving, becoming something more. Kimiko is the mediator between the humans and the robot overmind. She tells the humans dying out so the overmind can evolve, can become something new, is a feature rather than a bug. The humans try to rebel but ultimately fail, more or less.

The story strikes a chord with me, but I can’t quite put my finger on why or how. Probably because it expresses several of my more idealistic desires, for the appropriate definition of idealism. End suffering, inequality, and environmental overconsumption by humanely getting humanity to sterilize itself via individual choice. And make them as happy as ever in the process…as long as they can accept the virtual as the real.

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Responses

  1. I’m going to check if the dresden thing is school appropriate. I see this being used in my class…..hmmmmm….


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