What it is to be human… Part 1 #edcmooc

Robbie – A Short Film By Neil Harvey

I was moved by this film and Robbie’s humanity touched me. In a world who’s history has been littered with episodes of extreme inhumanity his tenderness, pacificity and acceptance of his lot in life was strangely refreshing. I struggle for the right word – refreshing doesn’t really express what I mean. He is almost more human than real humans if we accept that humanity is having the ability to think, to empathise, to reflect and analyse and certainly more human than those who commit atrocities. However, if one of the keystones being human is the ability to make choices, to have the freedom to be autonomous, to forge our own paths and create our own destinies, sadly Robbie is far from human and simply a slave to the human who created him. Where do we stand ethically when we create a “being” with feelings but with no ability to choose?

In the forum discussions other people talked about the idea of friendship; did Robbie really have friends or was he merely projecting the pre-programmed concept of friendship that had been given him on the people around him? Was this another cruel illusion allowed him by his creator? Surely true friendship is a two way thing, communication, connectedness, reciprocal.

He says his memories are “real”memories of his experiences but that he can only visualise simulated environments; I wonder if the children in “A Day made of Glass” will also only be able to visualise the simulated environments of their online learning environments?

Which brings me to the question “What is real life?” The boundaries are becoming ever more blurred. For Robbie his life was real enough – it is interesting that he talked of himself as a “person”.  I also find it intriguing that he felt a need to adopt a religion; was this, like many “real people”, a need to have something higher to believe in, to depend on, to offer comfort, feel a sense of belonging. Maybe that was programmed into him as an act of kindness? After all, stranded in space for 4 thousand years all alone, the ability to imagine, to dream, to hope, to believe at least allowed him to exist in a fantasy utopian world.

Death is a stange thing and it is something that many of us fear but Robbie seems to have accepted that his life is coming to an end. He has decided to spend the last hours of his battery life looking down on his “home” – earth. It is strange that even though he hs not been on earth for four thousand years he still sees it as home. We have emotional attachments to the places we grew up in, the places we have been happy, the places where people we love are.  However, as an immigrant to New Zealand I am interested in the concept of what people call home.  I have observed that people who have had little choice about leaving their country of birth don’t really see their country of residence home. Others, who have made a conscious choice about emigrating, are possibly less nostalgiac and although they certainly miss aspects of their home country, and probably more specifically their family, they accept more whole-heartedly their adopted country as “home”.  Choice, freedom to choose, freedom to forge our own destiny, freedom to not be controlled by technology, is that what it is to be human?

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