Readers of this blog will know the high esteem that we hold Ridley Scotts “Blade Runner” and then will not be surprised that we stopped to read the article about dolls being given a formal funeral service at a funeral parlor in Japan. It seems that in Japan, many still hold to longstanding Shinto and Buddhist beliefs that all things have a soul, and so in “death” they are given the respect of a passed living being, with an acknowledged soul and spirit. While Blade Runner deals with the human looking robots possibility of having a soul, what about the items that we use every day? Many of us spend more time with our phone than we do with other people, either one person or many. My laptop has been with me for a number of years and is considered a trusted friend. When it is no longer usable, what obligation do I have to it? How often do we say, my phone or laptop died when the battery runs out? When will we learn that we have a responsibility to ourselves but also to what we create and what we create relationships with? If we didn’t, why would Britain be debating if kill switches were necessary or worth discussion? We seem to go to great pains to respect human birth (seemingly disregarding them afterward in many respects) and when and if other people do and deserve respect because of it, but what of the things we create that are not exactly like us yet. How will we react to the human robot that begs for a merciful death, will we toss it away or respect the role that it has had in our lives and inherent dignity. Perhaps we will finally be compassionate beings in the digital space when we treat a computers demise with the respect and awe that we treat the launch of the newest tablet or phone.
While reading “China’s plan to run the World ” I started thinking about electrical outlets. Specifically the difference in electrical plugs around the world. In the 1900’s when these technologies were being created, it seemed that each country had its own ideas about power and what would be standard. It seems that there are 12 different types of electrical plugs in use in the world today. In India, they use the plug that the British used when India was a colonial power. The Brits updated their plug in 1946 but it wasn’t adopted by India when they gained their independence in 1947. In this way, the number of “standard” plugs grew to what is now 12. It seems as China expands its influence, building it brings its idea of technology and progress to the world- it sets themselves as the standard of what is progress, what is good and worthwhile and what is not.
Some years ago I heard an interview with a man who walked the equator. When asked what was the most influential thing he saw in his travels, he recounted how in the smallest, most technologically challenged area, there was a generator, a VCR and a television and each night, people would sit around the television and watch whatever movie they had access to. The idea that what they were watching was some sort of standard idea, of what everyone should have, was the most powerful and influential thing he had see in his journey.
Technology not only brings change, it brings ideas and in this new global village, nothing moves faster. What will we do when everyone wants what we have or when everyone else wants something else?
It was with some surprise that I saw that the creator of the Silk Road website was so harshly sentenced to life imprisonment for what was described as a drug trafficking enterprise. As you may recall, Silk Road was the dark web commerce site where drugs and contraband were sold for Bitcoins. While there was a certain debate as to the harshness of the sentence, there seemed to be no surprise that the sentence was being handed down at all. In this age of internet impunity, it seems like someone being held responsible for their online actions are more the exception the rule. While I do feel sorry for Mr. Ulbrict, one can only applaud in the hope that this is the beginning of some internet accountability, that one’s avatar will be as accountable as their flesh and blood actions. While this may require some rethinking of our idea of a corporation as an avatar, remember, corporations do have many of the legal rights of people and receive few consequences from their illegal actions, maybe we are growing up in this new digital realm.