Robot Diversions, Android Sheep

This is not much about privacy but one of the subtopics that led to Replika, one antithesis of privacy:  creating an AI that has your personality, your most private thoughts and desires.

As humans add more cyber power to their arsenal, and machines gain more awareness and ability to mimic or even think like humans with self-awareness, if we lost the distinction, we will find some very interesting dilemmas.    At of all times October this year, the Blade Runner sequel is coming out.   And Harrison Ford is back too !

The idea of automata and androids that look and behave like humans, goes way back.  There is a story of Descartes creating a doll that looked very much like his deceased daughter Francine, and looking for that story found another that goes back to Thomas Aquinas!

Storyline here: http://stephenfrug.blogspot.com/2011/02/descartess-robot-plus-thomas-aquinas-vs.html

The text of that post is partially quoted below:

====================from the article==============

The early prehistory of robots – From Stephen Graukroger, Descartes: an Intellectual Biography (Oxford, 1995), p. 1:

Since the eighteenth century, there has been in circulation a curious story about Descartes. It is said that in later life he was always accompanied in his travels by a mechanical life-sized female doll which, we are told by one source, he himself had constructed ‘to show that animals are only machines and have no souls’. He had named the doll after his illegitimate daughter, Francine, and some versions of events have it that she was so lifelike that the two were indistinguishable. Descartes and the doll were evidently inseparable, and he is said to have slept with her encased in a trunk at his side. Once, during a crossing over the Holland Sea some time in the early 1640s, while Descartes was sleeping, the captain of the ship, suspicious about the contents of the trunk, stole into the cabin and opened it. To his horror, he discovered the mechanical monstrosity, dragged her from the trunk and across the decks, and finally managed to throw her into the water. We are not told whether she put up a struggle.

Those who prefer that their great tales not be ruined by truth will want to stop there. Those who think that fiction survives a dusting of dull fact will want to read the next paragraph as well (pp. 1-2):

The story had a wide currency in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, at one stage being taken as a theme for a novel by Anatole France. It exists in a number of versions, some of them explicitly fictional, some purporting to be factual, and the detail varies quite considerably from version to version. So far as I can tell, the story originates no early than the eighteenth century, and it received most attention in an era preoccupied with the theories of La Mettrie, the French Enlightenment philosophe who, in his infamous L’Homme Machine (1747), had extended the idea of animals being automata — developed by Descartes in his L’Homme — to human beings, offering a materialist account of the mind, and suggesting that Descartes himself had held such a view, but that judicious self-censorship had prevented him making the theory public. There is, in fact, absolutely no evidence that any version of the story is true. Its origins are rather obscure, but by the second half of the eighteenth century it was a propaganda weapon in the fight against La Mettrie’s materialism, Descartes himself being seen as the ultimate instigator of this pernicious doctrine. Given this context, the story has all the elements of propaganda, including that favorite propaganda weapon, sexual innuendo, and I have little doubt that it originated as a tool of the eighteenth-century struggle against materialism.

And those with the spirit of a Sub-Sub Librarian, such as myself, will want to read the first footnote, so for your convenience I reproduce it here (from p. 418 of Graukroger):

I first came across this story in print in a recent book on the history of robotics, where it is presented as fact, although no references are given. Investigation showed the story to have had a wide currency between the late eighteenth century and the early decades of this century. For the different versions of the story and their sources see Leonora G. Rosenfield, From Beast-Machine to Man Machine, rev. edn. (New York, 1968), 202-3, and the accompanying notes on p. 236. Descartes is not the first philosopher reputed to have constructed a mechanical companion. Albertus Magnus was said to have had a robot that could move and greet visitors with the salutation Salve! (‘How are you!’). Thomas Aquinas, his pupil at the time, is reported to have attacked and broken the gregarious android when he came across it unexpectedly in the night. The story is reported, with references I have not followed up, in G. A. Lindeboom, Descartes and medicine (Amsterdam, 1979), 62.

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