Monday, November 2, 2009

you can be a robot, but you'll still be you

If you've seen the recent movie 'Surrogates', where Bruce Willis lives his life through an idealized version of his own body called a surrogate, and you think this to be purely speculative science fiction, maybe your view changes after viewing the latest prototype of Anybots. This company produces telepresence robots through which you can be present anywhere and "enjoy complete freedom to move fluidly and interact with others in a remote location from the ease of your home or office."

Omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, from the comfort of our lazy chair, is that really what we want? While such technology can help us reach temporarily more satisfactory states of being, I think it should be used with great care and awareness of what one is essentially doing: ignoring the own body, abstracting one's embodied existence and fragmenting one's consciousness. While we seem to need temporary comforts, I am convinced that we should remain aware that there is a happiness beyond comfort, and that life is a progressive learning to connect to this form of happiness. A happiness that you could call sublime or even divine.

In my experience, happiness can only be reached by transcending the boundaries of the self and its preferences, and constantly connecting to one's personal challenges, seeing how every moment connects to that project of the self, making it more and more in tune with the environment. Where comfort is one option, the other option is to immerse oneself in activities that make one grow as the craftsman of one's own perceptions. Whereas distractions like social interactions are easy to live by, there is always more to do: mastering the art of life. If we truly see ourselves as cosmic artists, already allknowing, allperceiving, allexperiencing and allbeing, we ultimately see that happiness lies in immersion in fully embodied action. I feel that only when we live as fully embodied beings, technology being an intrinsic part of us that we are always mastering in full connection, that we can truly calm down our consciousness and live a blissful life.

I see telepresence robots as a great development, especially when the focus will more and more be on a richer bodily connection, so the entire mind and body become involved. But more than that, people using another body should be kept aware of their own biologically given body and live in tune with that. Technology can play the role of an abstractor and enhancer, but it should also always have the larger role of a personal guide through life. Now is the time that we need to face away from capitalism, and start developing technology from a true shared vision of human happiness, so people will not get tricked into adopting technologies that they think will make them happy, while being blinded to what it actually does to their lives from a holistic point of view.

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