Generally speaking, most people do not know what another person’s needs are without dedicating extensive time and energy to figure them out.
Then, there are particular demographics of people such as the ageing population, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, victims of disasters or trauma, and so many others. These people are particularly vulnerable without a solid social network to fall back on when situations are too complex or intense for one person to handle by themselves.
What do you do when things are out of control?
You turn to someone for help. Typically a family member or a friend.
But unless the person you turn to is particularly intelligent or a trained professional, most likely the care they provide is lacking in some way. Perhaps this person is a worried parent, and even though they listen to you and try to give you warmth and comfort, you might feel some shame for having to rely on them. Quite simply, there is nowhere to go from this situation because it is the natural complexity of a blood bond.
Perhaps you turn to your friends instead, but then you feel guilt for taking up so much time from someone who does not need to give it to you since they are not your family. Is it inappropriate to bond too deeply and require so much emotional labor from a non-relative? Should we not be independently resilient to be a strong person? It’s really not clear.
So to avoid the social discomforts, you might pay a person who is actually qualified to do emotional labor. A therapist. You talk it out and you objectively receive feedback on your behaviors. You start to understand the underlying conditions that produce these behaviors and with your newfound awareness you can continue living your productive life with some semblance of propriety.
Although many people don’t like to think of or talk of feelings, we need emotional labor to maintain social order and to have things carry on as they are.
But what if there is a deficit of experts in your surroundings?
What if you simply do not have access to the resources you need because you are a child, and your parents are not medical professionals, so they do not understand how to help you?
What if the wait time for a professional is too long because your government simply does not value caring for the vulnerable enough to provide the necessary funding for social services?
What if you are a new migrant in a completely foreign country and you need to learn the language quickly to get a good job, provide for your family, and also fit into the society that you have embarked to surround yourself with?
What if you are unable to fit in because you’re the “weird kid” whose body and verbal communications never match the social norms and you find yourself to be a loner during one of the most important times for learning social bonding — youth — setting the stage for the rest of life as awkward and lonely?
What if the above experiences make you unsympathetic to people and even dangerous?
What if you just don’t want to fit in, but you are still a human being and need some form of intelligent communication in your daily life?
What do you do when your cognitive faculties are declining, your family has their family to care for, and you are loosing control over your decision-making capacity?
And what if the demographic you fit in is equally vulnerable and no one around you is more helpful than you are?
I am sure that at least one of the above scenarios triggers some memory of an experience in every person who takes a second to think about it. These are common daily mental health issues.
I guarantee you know of someone or have seen someone who was experiencing one of those scenarios and you either did not or could not do something to help.
Having made that accusatory statement, I also do NOT believe that it is the responsibility of each individual person to carry the burdens of society. Most people want to be comfortable, and reaching out to people who are uncomfortable also destroys our comfort simply because of the way human emotional circuitry is shaped. We are creatures with empathy and it sucks to feel another person’s pain. It’s not our fault we are selfish, it’s just our biology, and it is also okay because most of us are not qualified to help someone in distress. We turn to basic statements like, “I’m sorry for your loss”, and “my thoughts are with the family”, because most people are ill-equipped to fully express themselves in uncomfortable situations and provide the relief hurt people need.
So why not outsource the job to some[thing]one more qualified to handle the situation?
When we think of modernization, we often look to the future, anticipating advancements to come in (typically) communication and production technologies. Most people I talk to feel some level of discomfort over these ideas already, since there is something in the human psyche that makes us uneasy about nonhuman things doing human things.
However, people have already been expressing the most human of human traits through mechanical mediums, as exemplified by Maillardet’s automaton from the 1800’s.
I went to the AI exhibit at Tekniska Museet in Stockholm and it was a pretty fascinating experience.
The exhibit took me through the history of automation outside of the usual industrial realm in which it is discussed. The focus was on the way the mechanical can touch our humanity. There were all sorts of ornamental objects, toys, and displays from the previous centuries that mostly entertained people. This also induced a more creative outlook on the subject of how organic and mechanical beings interact. Generally, outside the industrial, it seems to me that robots dominate the entertainment industry. The space that makes us feel.
Moving past the automatons of previous centuries, I entered into more familiar territory of science fiction characters, which then got me thinking about the impact of the Maschinenmensch from Metropolis, T-800 (1991) from Terminator, and R2D2 & C3P0 from Star Wars. By being so active in media, these are the robotic characters that dominate our psyche and if you consider just these four, there is already such a diversity in personas and relationships with humans.
The key point being, they all have relationships with humans.
I was discussing this point with my friends and my mom and generally, people are worried about robots because ‘”they would take over our jobs”.
I really feel that most people with whom I have the conversation about AI ,and our relationships with mechanical peers, do not understand that automation in industry is a very different topic and situation.
My mom urged me to consider the responsibility the intellectual classes who are developing industrial automation have towards society. Her perspective was that governments, most likely, can not or will not provide subsidies to re-train or educate the masses to fill new roles as they loose their jobs to automation. So people making progress in this field need to take a moment to think about the ethical implications of their work.
But I wonder how many job roles would even have to be filled? Is one of the major predictions for the faith of humanity not a loss in able-bodied workers?
According to the UN, “in 2018, for the first time in history, persons aged 65 or above outnumbered children under five years of age globally. The number of persons aged 80 years or over is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050”.
Yes, automation and job loss are a serious problem and threat to the well being of millions of underprivileged people. But automation in industry maybe falls under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, but it is not the entire value of an intelligence.
Just like a person is not entirely valued by their ability to produce.