RE: of possible interest: interaction with autonomous agents

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sun Jun 26 2005 - 22:13:26 MDT

Damien points to

> reading list, circa 2000:

I was struck by the synopsis of Donald Norman's 1994 book:

    One of the first problems to face is that of the person's feeling of
    control. An important psychological aspect of people's comfort with
    their activities--all of their activities, from social relations, to
    jobs, to their interaction with technology--is the feeling of control
    they have over these activities and their personal lives.

This is very true and suggests springboards for discussion in a broader
context. There should not be in our culture any misgivings about wishing
for control, short of wishing for control over other people. Genesis
had it right, in my opinion, when it suggested that humankind has
dominion over the Earth.

The degree to which an entity is able to establish control over its
environment is a signal characteristic of its level of intelligence.
Indeed, humans are the most intelligent of Earth's present species
as is indicated by the control that groups of humans are able to
exert over their surroundings. On this measure, of course, people
fail to show really exalted intelligence: were a person suddenly
teleported to the bottom of the ocean or into deep space, he or she
wouldn't last long. Not even that, but even under ideal conditions
humans are done for in less than a century.

But we should expect that physical systems evolving in the 2000's or
2100's will be much more "intelligent" by the measure of ensuring
their own permanence and by their adaptability to new physical

    It's bad enough when people are intimidated by their home appliances:
    what will happen when automatic systems select the articles they should
    read, determine the importance and priority of their daily mail, and
    automatically answer mail, send messages, and schedule appointments?

The solution is obvious: my will-less and obedient servants will order
my email if I ask them to, and will act as did traditional secretaries
in times past. (It didn't used to occur to anyone that he might
experience angst by having a secretary and delegating certain tasks!)


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