Blog Post #6 The Sense of Self in Smart things

Humans often feel empathy towards inanimate objects—I used to pity a lonely couch when people would come to the house and people sat on other furniture and I used to feel sorry for the forgotten stuffed animal in the corner of my room. So, that sense of duty or responsibility I had towards comforting that left out stuffed animal and that isolated couch were not dependent upon my perception of those things as being “smart”. There was no technology involved in those objects, yet as an emotional human being, I felt the need to take care of these things and include them to make them feel of use. However, I don’t feel that same sense of empathy towards my cell phone or my laptop; maybe I grew out of placing empathy on things which do not in turn have empathy when I turned twelve. But it’s different to think that if my phone were in the shape of a puppy, or if I still had my iDog, I would feel compassion towards these objects.



They are in fact, “objects” which have been anthropomorphized and given the shape of something which represents life. In Carla Diana’s article, “The Dream of Intelligent Robot Friends”, she states that “we indulge the illusion that an interactive product is a living character, such as a pet or friend, silly as we know it is”. If our technological things could interact with us and converse with us, it might be entirely strange and abominable, or it may be useful and intriguing. The concept of objects being ascribed humanlike reaction, voices, and thoughts reminds me of spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her, in which a man falls in love with a smart device—his highly advanced computer operating system. Here is a Clip From “Her” where the Computer expresses her “feelings” .This film explores the complex dependencies and human relationships we contrive with our devices. However, the film implies that technology is so enticing and advanced that it is easy to become captivated, carried away, obsessed and infatuated with these sophisticated devices. Even so, these things may appear human and may be able to help us, but they can never BE us. They are missing that essential thing which comes only from nature—the soul.

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3 thoughts on “Blog Post #6 The Sense of Self in Smart things”

  1. When you say that you feel compelled to take care of such things as stuffed animals and lonely couches, but you don’t feel the same way towards your laptop or cellphone, I completely agree. If I happen to drop my phone, I feel bad only because I think that I might have cracked the screen, or because I might have broken an expensive phone that I need to replace with another expensive phone. On the contrary, when I drop a stuffed animal, I feel bad like I dropped something with feelings and hurt it. I also believe that we have nurturing feelings towards dolls and stuffed animals like mothers with their babies. Thus, maybe when we’re younger we’re just practicing the art to be parents with those toys, and when we actually become adults we don’t need them anymore and we feel a certain emotional detachment because they served their purpose. It is interesting to think that things with unintelligent features like stuffed animals can become “smart things” when technology is involved: from a rational point of view, there should be no difference between a stuffed dog and an iDog, but the way in which we interact with these two things is incredibly different, and the reason is that the iDog is humanized in a way in which the stuffed animal will never be. Great post!

  2. In expressing your personal feelings toward an inanimate object, I felt connected to your emotional state because I, too, have felt sorry for things I had forgotten…I believe we all have. Additionally, this example made me think about Disney Pixar’s Toy Story. This movie portrays that our toys (objects) have a personality and character…and come to life when we are not around, same as for the new cartoon on Disney, Doc McStuffins. I ponder, though, do these shows/movies subliminally foster the idea that objects have a mind and soul?
    I am glad you referenced the movie, “Her,” because that is the most current media portrayal, targeting adult audiences, that bring Artificial Intelligence in to light and quite possibly the way media tycoons are softening up the public for what is to come…

  3. Its interesting to see how people are attached to objects like stuff animals. For myself, its always been difficult to feel emotions for things that are not human like. Or, maybe thing that can’t reciprocate the feeling. It might sound strange, but Oppose to the way other feel. I have more of an attachment to my cell phone, and it might be because I can communicate and build a relationship with object that assist in feed back. Hence, I can understand the attachment, because I see my daughter sleep with one particular stuff animal, but it funny that after the night is over, she do not think about that stuff animal until the night returns. Thus, I see it as item of comfort more then a personal connection to the object. Although, I have that nurturing instance still can find myself feeling compelled to take care of a stuff animal or even feel remorse or sadden . Which, brings me to the conclusion , that the attachment to objects are developed from the needed perspective or personality.

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