Androids Discussion

Humanity and empathy

I do not believe that a single factor can confirm that someone is a human. Instead, we are an amalgamation of human characteristics and emotions. We cannot base humanity on a single element.-Jade

I am not yet sure what is, but I feel that this book may help us understand that humanity is a multifaceted and intrinsically complex identity. What is it about us that even the most advanced computers and technology couldn’t capture?-Katherine

Maybe being human doesn’t have to do as much with your ability to empathize, or your emotional intelligence, as it does with making an effort to empathize and understand those around you.-Lauren

I want to pose the question that Katherine asks herself to all of you. If empathy is not the core component of humanity what is it? Is it impossible to define any singular trait?

Rick wants not only to love but to feel that love in return, to feel needed by somebody.-Spin

Few people recognize emotional awareness as a form of intelligence. However, John Isidore provides a perfect example of when the Emotional Quotient can be just as important as the Intelligence Quotient.-Helen

Let’s face it: society does not encourage strong, uncontrolled emotions like the unhappiness that was emanating from me this morning-Lauren.

How does a majority of society view empathy? E.Q. vs I.Q.

The Rights of Androids
The government’s reasoning for this may be that the androids would behave as human sociopaths do, who are “incapable of empathy.” (Anthology, 275E) While this may have some reasonable backing, my empathetic mind kicked in—I still felt that it would be wrong for any androids to be killed, regardless of their emotional intelligence.-Katherine

They are hunted simply because they supposedly lack emotional intelligence. However, the test that determines this has been proved ineffective. Androids, to me, seem like children uneducated in feelings and empathy.-Emily

Is it wrong to hunt the malfunctioned androids that killed their owners? Is it wrong to kill any androids period? How does the death of a human compare to the death of an android or an animal?

In a sense, psychopaths are real world androids.-Maysie

Androids’ lack of empathy parallels that of “criminal psychopaths, rapists, and child molesters,” (Anthology, 275C) and on Earth, they are treated as such.-Molly

How do we deal with those who cannot empathize?

Without the ability to empathize, people would be prone to violence and psychological disturbances where their “inability to feel their victims’ pain…encourages their crime.” (Anthology, 275E) This void would surely be a threat to a civilization since every person would potentially be a “sociopath” with the intention of harming others for his/her personal pleasure or benefit.-Thuyen

Human Discrimination:

I noticed a slight discrimination against women. For example, when Rick is setting his wife’s mood organ he puts sets her to “pleased acknowledgment of husband’s superior wisdom in all matters.”-Emily

However, the America of the future has a long way to go in being empathetic toward humans. Rather than holding them to breeding standards like dogs in a puppy mill, one would hope that future humans would reject classifications like “special” and “regular” and come to treat humans as 2021ers do animals: with love and respect.-Molly

Is human discrimination amongst other humans worse/similar/better than android discrimination?

The Significance of Animals

Birds hardly exist in the year 2021, and the animals that remain are extremely valuable for both their rarity and the status they imply.-Molly

Why are the animals so important? Empathetic reasons, social reasons, etc.

I would much rather have animals in my life than to live in the world of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, in which animals are regarded as creatures of extreme importance and are hard to obtain. We must regard animals now with love and compassion.-Emily

How do Pain, Hardship, and Death affect an Appreciation for Life

Only when nuclear fallout pushes hundreds of species into extinction do humans truly come to value animals. –Molly

I don’t think that the director means to imply in his trailer or his film that if an apocalypse of such horrific proportions does actually occur, people will be emotionless about it. But the fact that he includes none of the natural emotions people would feel – such as fear, anger, desperation – in his film doesn’t make for a good film for the sole reason that it hardens the viewer to the circumstances and leaves us watching this “destructo-porn” (Harris, 1) without accessing our most important emotion – empathy.-Spin

Conclusion

What is the role of empathy in the interactions between all living creatures?

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Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 6:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Defining Mankind Through Empathy

On a basic level, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” is a science fiction novel, but Philip K Dick’s ability to explore the core components of life, especially human life, brings the novel beyond the boundaries of a foreboding sci-fi. The readers follow the work of a bounty hunter in a post-apocalyptic world, working to distinguish human from android by analyzing their personal qualities. After blurring the differences between man and machine, only one of these qualities-solely possessed by humans- distinguishes itself like a bright star in a dark sky: empathy. This ability to “attune to a wide range of emotional signals…” (Anthology p.336) remains unique to mankind. I recognized three major events in the first couple of chapters where the author’s perspective on empathy is stressed: the theologic practice of mercerism, the test of Androids using the Voigt Scale, and the importance of animals on Earth after World War Terminus.

Hill

Mercer must walk up a hill to return to Earth while enduring pain from others.

Who is Wilbur Mercer? Primarily, he is a man who can invigorate dead creatures with life. Personally, I see Mercer as a symbol of man’s lack of appreciation, perhaps even disdain, for the quality of empathy. The story of Wilbur Mercer is explained as John Isidore finds comfort in the fusion of his life to that of Mercer through what is known as a black empathy box. As Isidore experiences the life of Mercer, his brain is “attacked with radioactive cobolt”, he is struck “down into the tomb world”, and bombarded with stones by what followers of mercerism consider pure evil. (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? p. 23)  Followers of mercerism are noted for their ability to connect to other living creatures, from spiders to lobsters to humans themselves. The violence towards Mercer is paralleled by the assault on empathy in our society today. Mercerism is a way of pointing out an inability of many in our modern society to empathize in everything we do.

Voigt

The Voigt-Kampff Test detects empathy. In the novel, E.Q. is stressed more than I.Q.

Similar to the invisible stone throwers in John Isidore’s experience with the empathy box, the androids of the story do not have the ability to empathize. The Voigt Empathy Test detects physical reaction that cannot be voluntarily controlled by the brain. This suggests that empathy is an innate feeling that can only be generated by humans. While emotion, reactions, and expressions can be programmed by an android’s artificial intelligence, the instant ability to understand the pain of another creature, like the death of babies in the making of  “one hundred percent genuine babyhide,” cannot be reproduced.  (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep p. 57)

While the mention of babyhide fails to spark true empathy in young android Rachael Rosen, the simple presence of an owl brings our protagonist to disbelief. As a follower of Mercerism, Rick has what is called “the empathic gift” which “blurs the boundaries between hunter and victim.” (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep p.29) In the novel, caring for animals is not only a sign of empathy, but a requirement. The world that Philip Dick creates comes to appreciate life, especially the life of animals, only after most of them are lost to extinction. I believe Dick’s warning involves more than man’s ability to empathize with other humans. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” serves to bring about empathy for all life, including the lives of owls, raccoons, ostriches, and any other animal before things get even more out-of-hand than they already are.

So Philip Dick makes sure to establish the significance of empathy. Is that it ? No.  Simon and Garfunkel and Pink Floyd cleverly point out danger in silencing emotion and empathy. “Hiding in [our] rooms, safe within [our] wombs” like rocks who “feels no pain” and “never cry” is understandably easy. We have “become comfortably numb.” However, we can still embrace the empathetic child that remains a genuine part of our being and is perhaps a pathway to embracing the empathy in our soul. Empathy is only the foundation and catalyst to bring about change. Change that can reach all understanding.

Pink Floyd’s smooth yet sad melody pertains to how the suppressing of emotion makes one “comfortably numb.”

 

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Published in: on October 28, 2009 at 11:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

An Act of Intention

In a world where creatures share some of the traits of thoughtful emotional humans, the question of animal cruelty is shoved right in the face of an innocent young child. She must deal with the ethics of eating animals on a multitude of situations. Her conversations with the door mouse, pigeon, the mutton, tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, and a few others bring about events that bring rise to ethical questions in the reader. Animal rights activists often see the common view of man’s superiority over other beings as a “guidance of an inexorable logic.”(Anthology 325) This inexorable logic is completely trumped in Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland where one can hardly distinguish the differences between human and animal in his imaginative world.

The background in which this ethical issue springs forth from finds its origins in the characterizations of the Wonderland creatures. The moral consequences of eating an egg become more apparent when its mother can argue and attack you. Eating oysters turns into an issue when you lure them to their deaths with your own words. Hunting a rabbit becomes quite different when it can tell time and advise royalty. The list goes on and on. While animals in our world don’t behave so oddly-at least I have not witnessed them doing so-Carroll humanizes the creatures to debunk some common fallacies of those who devalue animal

The Walrus and Carpenter happily lead the Oysters to their death

The Walrus and Carpenter happily lead the Oysters to their death

rights. Our author brings into question an animal’s ability to communicate, feel, love, and reason. So, is there a distinction between the actions of humans amongst animals, versus animals amongst themselves? Is the Pigeon reasonable in her question , “what does it matter to me whether you’re a little girl or a serpent? What is it that makes humans different in their hunt?

Intention.

Lewis Carroll addresses a major issue concerning animal rights when he writes the morally packed story of “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” In the prose, Lewis Carroll presents to main characters, the Walrus and the Carpenter. Both of them feast on oysters that have been lured to them by the Walrus, despite the fact that it was such “a dismal thing to do”(Through the Looking Glass 186) The Walrus tricks the oysters and eats more than the Carpenter, but feels some remorse after he finishes. The Carpenter eats less oysters but tries to eat the most he can. While Alice cannot decide who is the worst of the two characters, I find that the Carpenter is morally less respectable. There are obvious parallels this stories draws between the killing of animals for sustenance. The carpenter intends to eat as much as he can get and does so. After the ordeal is over the Carpenter feels no remorse. Like most in our society, the Carpenter has become desensitized to the killing of other creatures. We can see this quality in Alice when she fails to recognize the fear that birds and mice have for cats and dogs.

While Carroll warns us not to find too much symbolism in his poems and stories (Through the Looking Glass 183) he does explicitly argue against the proponents of academic vivisections.In a day where vivisections of creatures often came hand-in-hand with torture and unnecessary death, Carroll argues against a variety of arguments used to dismiss animal rights. works to devalue pain comparisons, value animal life, establish justice,and protect character. Like hunting, Carroll argues that “any branch of science, when taken up by one who has a natural turn for it, will soon become as fascinating as sport to the most ardent sportsman, or as any form of pleasure to the most refined sensualist.” This slippery slope has too often led to the deterioration of morals, especially when it comes to animal rights. Whether it be vivisections, hunting, herding, slaughtering, etc. , our tendencies towards greed and amusement take control of our conscience and lead to animal cruelty on a large scale.

Vivisections, as Carroll predicted, were only the beginning of animal testing:

While Lewis Carroll’s characters and story seem a little absurd, the message is not. Mankind is not as distinguished from the rest of creation as we like to believe. Life is a spectrum not a hierarchy. We have no right to control the fate of others out of immoral intentions. Without a direct and desperate need for life, our will to kill animals is hard to justify and ultimately selfish (Course Anthology 329) Even a little girl named Alice knows that cruelty to animals is just, well, an act of “very unpleasant characters” (Through the Looking Glass 188)

Published in: on October 22, 2009 at 1:57 am  Leave a Comment  

This Wonderland will Make you a Leader

Most leaders are not seven year old British girls with imaginative dreams. Alice is the exception. While Carroll’s fictional stories, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” present Alice as a source curiosity, reason, and even leadership. In a world that in nonsensical and void of just leadership, Alice holds the “golden key” to an unopened door of logic and reason that is close to nonexistent in Alice’s make-believe wonderland. The book is not so much a troubled world saved by Alice the grand leader, but a chaotic world that acts as the setting in which Alice grows as a young leader.

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Alice and the Mouse in the Pool of Tears

The growth she experiences arises out of dilemmas and conflicts that face Alice throughout her journey. One of the earliest problems she has is her inability to sympathize with the mouse’s disdain for both cats and dogs. On three occasions, she begins to talk about her pets before she realizes that it is a sensitive subject amongst not only the mouse but the birds that she later meets in the caucus race. As she becomes more sensitive, she learns how to deal with the varied personalities of the different creatures she encounters. Like leaders in our society, Alice has to gain an ability to comprehend and resolve the needs of others. This is evident as she defends herself against the accusing attacks of the Pigeon (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 56).  However, even being able to understand the perspectives of others does not solve all her problems. Many characters in the novels

As Alice travels throughout the wonderland in the first novel she feels like she has ” never been so much contradicted in all her life before.”(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 52) She is faced with a series of insults and criticisms that call for quick witty responses. In the first book, Alice usually takes the negative remarks of others with silence or tears, but as the book progresses-especially in Through the Looking Glass- her responses change. The most assertive response is when she throws the white queen’s question back at her as she exclaims, “Can you do sums?” (Through the Looking Glass 254) Even Alice wakes up, her assertiveness remains. She goes so far as to tell the red queen not to purr so loudly while addressing the black kitten. (Through the Looking Glass 269) Attaining an ability to empathize and now an ability to assert her own perspective, Alice slowly grew into a progressive leader.

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The Red Queen and the baby turned pig.

We can also observe the world she imagines and the leadership that they lack. The Queen of Hearts is representative of the cruel leadership in the first novel. She rules absolutely and without reason, sentencing all her followers to death at the slightest of problems. Instead of addressing the source of the problem like a successful leader, she produces fear through execution. In reality,”she never executes nobody.” (Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland 95) In “Through the Looking Glass” the red queen is seen as the “cause of all the mischief.” (Through the Looking Glass 266) While this queen is calmer, she is still dictated by power and arrogance. Like the game of chess, becoming a queen is a matter of promotion. The odd problems faced by the even odder creatures are not addressed or even recognized by the Red Queen. In the chapter, “Queen Alice,” Alice can no longer handle the chaos and the lack of leadership abilities that the queens possess. She finally checkmates” the vindictive temperaments of the red pieces (266) and thereby, eliminates the problems in her chaotic world.

Notice the speech of the Red Queen:

Through the chaos, dilemmas, and variety of odd characters Alice encounters, she grows as a leader and person. While her emotional responses and temperament are not perfect, she is but a young girl. The chaotic world she imagines is inevitably parallel to the bustling lives we all live. We must similarly learn to handle ourselves in new and intriguing situations. So yes, essentially we are all seven year old British girls constantly changing and growing up to become queens ourselves. The question is, what kind of queen will we become?

Published in: on October 20, 2009 at 2:10 am  Leave a Comment  

My Passion and Contribution to Society

Dominic at School

Dominic at School

I find it interesting to note how the etymology of the word “passion” has changed over the years. For centuries, the word passion was associated with “senses relating to physical suffering or pain.”[1] Passion was a willingness to endure affliction, a willingness that stemmed from love. Today, passion can mean anything from a love of one’s wife, to a passion for coin collecting. While the intensity of the word has been somewhat diluted over time, I still recognize my true passions, as those select subjects which garner such willingness towards suffering or pain. Though I enjoy trivial pursuits like games, sports, and music, I understand that my passion-in a deeper sense- is something that transcends transitory boundaries. My passions are something that can change the lives of the individuals I touch. My passions run so deep through my core that I would be willing to experience sacrifice as I pursue them. My passions remain mostly undiscovered, but I know that one of my true passions is an earnest desire to care for disabled children; it is a desire that stems from my experiences with my beloved younger brother Dominic.

Such experiences started a decade ago when Dominic was born on an otherwise quaint March day. I was only eight years old wheDominic at Homen he was born; when I was informed that he had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy; when I noticed my mother was crying on what should have been a completely joyous day. Later that day my father explained to me the implications of this term I had never heard before, “cerebral palsy.” He did so in terms that I as an eight-year old could understand. Slowly, I began to understand the severity of the condition and the limitations that my newly born brother would be faced with. Dominic would not be able to walk, eat, or even communicate without aid. At first, I was slightly bitter and largely self-centered. Not only would I never get to fully connect with my new brother but he would also require more care than would an average infant. I vividly remember about two weeks after Dominic came home from the hospital, I insisted my mother watch the Disney movie Mulan with me. When she persisted that she was busy putting Dominic to bed I gave her a pouting lip and an angry glare. I continued to express my anger that I indirectly felt towards my new brother. My mother was not very sympathetic in response to my little tantrum. Looking back on the incident, a long timeout and a week without television was a deserving punishment for my rage that ultimately stemmed from selfishness. The next couple of years my brother grew in size but failed to grow mentally.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy

As the doctors predicted, he would not be able to control many of his muscles beyond blinking and the occasional swallow.[2] His arm and leg movements were completely involuntary and his attempts to communicate were little more than groans and cries. Due to his cerebral palsy, there were only two things I understood about my brother.  Barney the Dinosaur and Whose Line is it Anyways were the only shows that stopped him from moaning in complaint. Second, he would laugh at ridiculous facial expressions and hand gestures. It wasn’t until later that I came to understand him on a deeper level, but it completely transformed how I felt towards him and towards myself.

I quickly understand that I had to carry the weight of parental responsibility on my adolescent shoulders. My attained sense of responsibility forced me to leave behind feelings of jealousy, laziness, and selfishness. This driving force of necessity would act like a quick jolt of electrical impulse whenever shocking me out of my own marginal desires and helping me to focus on Dominic’s needs. Quite simply, this rare experience forced my young self to mature faster. After a mere year or two, taking care of Dominic had become second nature to me. I knew exactly what medicines to insert into his gastric tube, what barney episode would calm him down, and what time he needed to eat. At my young age, taking care of my brother had become a chore and sadly impersonal; It wouldn’t become a loving, passionate experience until several years later.

The transition in which caring for Dominic became a passion was not defined by any specific moment. Instead, I slowly began to realize how much he meant to me. Aid led to thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness led to love. Love led to passion.  Caring for my brother was no longer a sense of duty; it was a powerful inert desire. I finally realized how much I had to be grateful for. Because of Dominic, I finally understood my own failure to put things into perspective.

An Inner Flame of Passion

An Inner Flame of Passion

Any adversity I face no longer brings me anxiety. In light of my brother’s condition, I have no reason to be anything but an optimist. “I am an optimist because it doesn’t seem much use to be anything else” as Winston Churchill once stated.[3] In the grand scheme of things I realized that I live the life of the king. Dominic became an everyday reminder not to take things for granted. My positive outlook on life was not based on bliss but on humility. Through selflessness I had found ultimate joy and anxiety. After that point, I continually strove to return the favor my brother unknowingly taught me.

New feelings of protectiveness, selflessness, and humility began to arise as my passion started to evolve. The change was evident even outside of the house. The tactlessness of people towards the mentally disabled, especially children, became a sensitive subject, like salt to a wound. I felt driven to protect them from both verbal and physical abuse. Who is to protect the mentally disabled when they cannot protect themselves? Indeed these children deserved nothing but help. “Being blessed enough to be in good health, the least anyone can do,” I thought to myself “is use their abilities to make the lives of those less fortunate just a little better.” At least, I began to practice this philosophy as often as I could. When necessary, I would sacrifice sleep and time with my friends to take care of my brother. For over five years my passion towards helping my younger brother was well recognized between my parents, my close friends and me, but as I began to become more immersed in life outside of home, my passion began to take on new forms.

In the middle of my high school career I began an internship at the Clear Lake Children’s Center shadowing under a kindhearted pediatrician. I loved it. It was as simple as that. Every time she diagnosed problems in uncommunicative disabled children, calmed them down, or brought relief to such children and their parents, I was struck with awe. As I watched my mentor care for the autistic, epileptics, and occasional children with cerebral palsy, I immersed myself in the lives of both the doctor and her patients. I had amazingly stumbled upon a path that could lend my passion to ultimately benefitting society. Presently, I hope to pursue a similar field. Although it will be a long and difficult journey, I am willing to sacrifice my time and effort to bring forth this greater good.  The medical field would allow me to help handicapped children in a variety of ways.  I could do research and search for a cure, create new methods to relieve symptoms, or work with children personally in a direct setting. By understanding the science behind the origins and effects of cerebral palsy and other detrimental conditions like it.

Even if the medical field was not right for me, I discovered my passion for helping disabled children. After unearthing this passion, I considered many ways to fulfill it. Whether I become a lawyer who protects the rights of the mentally disabled, a teacher who helps young handicapped children grow, or a doctor who provides physical care for them, I know that my passion lies in helping handicapped children in some form or fashion. Until then I do what I can. Volunteering at fundraisers, the Special Olympics, and other events are but little ways I have tried to contribute to the fight against cerebral palsy and other pediatric disabilities. More importantly, I keep my passion burning by reconnecting with its source as often as I can. Although I cannot see Dominic on a daily basis like I use to, I am always here to support him.

Keeping my brother in mind, I let my passion guide me in my actions and always will.  With a sincere willingness to sacrifice my own needs for the sake of mentally disabled children, I continue to learn. Through learning, I hope to gain more means by which I can reach out and touch the lives of this select group of children. My dreams are big and the road to reach them is long, but my passion is immensely stronger than anything that may get in my way. As the famous German philosopher Hegel once stated, “Nothing great in this world has been accomplished without passion.”[4] While I may not accomplish everything I hope to in my life, I will be content knowing that I attempted to reach my goals with a burning desire of an unquenchable flame.

Word Counts:

1568 with quotes

1531 without quotes.


[1] Dictionaries, Oxford. Concise Oxford English Dictionary: 11th Edition Revised 2008 (Dictionary). New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2008.

[2] “Cerebral palsy: Symptoms – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cerebral-palsy/DS00302/DSECTION=symptoms (accessed October 12, 2009).

[3] “Sir Winston Churchill Quotes – The Quotations Page.” The Quotations Page – Your Source for Famous Quotes. http://www.quotationspage.com/

[4] “Hegel – History of Philosophy.” Letters, Arts & Social Sciences. http://www.class.uidaho.edu/mickelsen/ToC/Hegel-Hist%20of%20Phil.htm (accessed October 12, 2009).

Published in: on October 10, 2009 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment