Tag Archives: psychology

Won’t somebody think of the robots?

robot horse Jamais Cascio is a sensitive soul; he doesn’t like seeing beasts of burden being abused and pushed around. Even robotic ones:

“My reaction to seeing this robot kicked paralleled what I would have had if I’d seen a video of a pack mule or a real big dog being kicked like that, and (from anecdotal conversations) I know I’m not the only one with that kind of immediate response. True, it wasn’t nearly as strong a shocked feeling for me as it would have been with a real animal, but it was definitely of the same character. It simply felt wrong.”

This throws an interesting light on the “robot rights” debates that keep surfacing. While I think we can all agree that a non-sentient machine doesn’t require the vote or union-mandated coffee breaks, this sort of psychological reaction to machines with a visual semblance of life may cause problems in early-adopter workplaces. [image by TwoBlueDay]

After all, even battle-hardened US Army colonels have been known to balk at sending machines to their doom.

Why we shouldn’t be so hard on Spitzer

George Dvorsky has been thinking about the Elliot Spitzer scandal, and while he’s quite certain that Spitzer transgressed the law and deserves to be punished as such, he thinks we’re overstating the strangeness of the transgression itself:

“Why did Spitzer go to a prostitute in the first place? Well, it’s not because he’s corrupt or evil; those are labels applied to his actions after the fact. Rather, it stems from a deeply hardwired desire to get some action on the side, for sexual fulfillment outside of marriage.

Simply put, he was being a typical guy.”

Just to reiterate, Dvorsky isn’t trying to let Spitzer off the hook here, but he is trying to point out that Spitzer is a flawed human being, just like the rest of us. If democracy has a future, I think it depends on us waking up to the idea that people in positions of power are just ordinary people – which, at the same that it removes them from their pedestals, should also remind us that we’re more than capable of falling from grace ourselves.

Cables, cuts and conspiracies

Illuminati-jacket Coincidences happen. Synchronicity is a function of the inherent human propensity for seeing patterns in an essentially random world.

Seriously, I got over the whole conspiracy theory thing years ago (and, funnily enough, it was reading The Illuminatus! Trilogy that inoculated me against it), but I’m still kind of fascinated by the process of conspiracy theories – the inevitability of how they appear wherever there is a chain of events and a vacuum of facts surrounding them. Where we can’t see causality, we create it – from whole cloth if necessary. [Image by Ford – or should that be Fnord?]

Point in case – undersea optical fibre internet cables being severed or malfunctioning in the Asia and Middle East regions. Four have gone down in a very compressed time-frame; the entirety of Iran has been without internet connectivity for a couple of days (and you can check the internet traffic report for the Asia region to see of that’s still the case).

So, what’s going on? Official story – shipping anchors and power failures. Obvious conspiracist conclusion – ZOMFG clandestine operations!!1! I think we can all agree that the latter is unlikely (though sadly all too easy to believe), and that the former seems too simple to be true – even if it actually is*.

Now, leaving aside the question of what’s actually happening (which no amount of internet debate is going to determine), let’s try to answer another question – are conspiracy theories an inevitability in complex societies where it’s impossible for everyone to know everything? Or will the increasingly connected nature of the world slowly shine a light into all the dark corners where these ambiguities hide?

[* So don’t call Occam’s Razor on me, I’m not claiming anything either way; just highlighting ambiguity for the sake of debate. Play nice.]

Looking at you looking at me – attraction and narcissism

Love statue, New York City Cynicism and romance aren’t the best of bed-fellows … which may go some way to explaining why I’m still a bachelor. Still, gripes aside, the cynical part of my always gets a warm glow when science manages to debunk another myth about the mystical sanctity of love – like when I read that new research suggests "love at first sight" is actually a function of narcissism rather than a bolt from the blue:

"Social signals about how attracted someone else is to you actually seem to be quite important," [Jones] said. "You are attracted to people who are attracted to you, and that shows attractiveness is not just about physical beauty."

Lucky for me, eh? That knowledge should keep me warm through the long winter nights. Now, where’s my violin … [Image by Binkley27]

[tags]psychology, love, romance[/tags]

Psychology researchers inadvertently enable Second Life spam-bots?

giant laptop in Second Life A group of UK based psychology researchers were interested in seeing how Second Life users reacted to invasions of personal space within the virtual world. So, they developed a way around the built-in limitations that Linden Lab put in place to prevent software-controlled avatars being deployed, enabling them to send an avatar on autopilot to interact with other residents and record their reactions.

To which your response might be "so what?" – especially if you’re skeptical about Second Life to start with, which is not an uncommon stance. But as the heads-up on SlashDot points out, what can be done by psychology researchers in the name of science could just as easily be done by spammers seeking a automated method of advertising in the metaverse … which would seem to reinforce the adage that no platform will ever remain completely immune to spam techniques. Still, at least in SL you can always teleport away from an annoying avatar, which is more than you can do when confronted by a Scientologist or insurance hawker in the high street … [Image by PsychoAl]

[tags]metaverse, Second Life, spam, software, psychology[/tags]