Sunday, November 27, 2011

Robots to guard prisoners

This cute little fellow here is, believe it or not, the start of prisons being run by robots. It is going to be tested in an actual prison in South Korea, where it will assist in keeping an eye on the inmates through various intelligent systems. Especially at nighttime, this may relieve the human guards of their duties, leaving them more room to do things like reading psychology books, doing some prison yoga, or painting pictures of inmates.

It may seem counterintuitive to have such a jolly looking 5-feet tall character guard the scum of our society. But I would like to think of it as the start of a whole new paradigm of treating people who have committed acts that we classify as 'criminal'. Now they are often treated like they have done something 'wrong', according to a system of punishment and reward, not unlike parents treat little children. But this does not work very well for the criminals, because they often have already stepped out of this paradigm of human interaction in the first place. In Jungian terms, they have stopped living as only their persona, and started facing the shadow side of the personality. This confrontation can be very challenging, and when repressions are loosened it is easier to tip over into criminal acts. Seen from this perspective, we can come to understand that many criminals have psychologically taken a step further than people who keep trying to conform to 'normality'.

And that is exactly why people often feel uncomfortable around those who do not repress themselves anymore according to the laws of the world. They are not normal, they are not to be trusted, they are to be feared and avoided. They must be locked away. Not to say that they should not be put in prison -although in a more open and connected society they could probably be monitored without a centralized facility-, but maybe we can start thinking of prison in a positive rather than a negative way. Maybe we can start to think of it as a place to come at rest with yourself, to think things over, to stimulate further growth of the individual. This will also remove that quality of coolness of everything that is against the law, which is almost programmed into us from childhood. The prison of the modern society could become like a retreat in the mountains for those who need it. A place to be cut off from worldly pleasures, a place to find peace, to discover the higher enjoyments of existence, and to meet friendly little robots. These robots can in the end become like Zen teachers; quiet, wise, friendly, simply doing what they do, and knowing their Kung Fu when they need it.

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