Falling in Love with Money-Driven Cyborgs

 A Little Bit of Money

Thought Experiments on Cross-Border Payments - Of Couriers, Bankers, and Bitcoiners

Series 17: Falling in Love with Money-Driven Cyborgs

Wearing digital armor

Looking at the planet today, it’s a sad truth that some authorities care less about the needs of people than about the demands of corporations. It’s likely an android programmed for empathy would behave better than most government agencies. Yet, our society is far from a world governed by good guys in digital armor.

Watching on the dark side

In contrast, the American entertainment industry has glutted global markets with robot-actors that are nothing less than cruel. Every time I encounter mass media I’m taken aback by the programming. It seems as though people are obsessed with violence. Thrillers, shootings, and catastrophes are highly popular. Somehow, viewers walk away from this kind of radical programming with almost no understanding of real world problems. Usually they are much less violent. Does this kind of culture move us forward?

Making friends in the world of shooter games

Dead or alive, unscrupulous or just questionably motivated, anything goes in virtual reality – just like it does in unleashed markets. Both, robotic structures and the man-made financial economy seem to be really good at being really bad. Ethics as a precedent for decision-making is not a given. Mediating the impact of possible fallout isn’t something that happens without deliberate human intent. In a sense, at least in my opinion, the digital transformation of money requires not only technology but also values with a human touch.It would be an exaggeration to say that the anti-authoritarian undercurrents of decentralized cryptocurrencies reflect the spirit of some online shooter games. And yet, some Bitcoiners see a real parallel.

The neighbor’s dog

In these types of games, you’re better off befriending synthetic organisms controlled by artificially intelligent cyborgs – humanized robots – than maintaining relationships with real people. The risk of an unwanted response from a real person seems too high. No wonder some Bitcoin savvy gamers prefer machines as friends, and some even say they love their Cyborg more than their neighbor`s dog. Apparently, feeling attached to apps and devices is a way to compensate for a lack of depth in human relations. Of course this is stereotyping, however, there are lots of gamers who are actually very social people.

The missing piece: artificial empathy

My personal view on this issue might be provocative. So I was pleased to hear the CEO of an Indian automotive producer asking this rhetorical question at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “Can we create artificial empathy?” What’s lacking in financial transactions becomes evident when you consider the future of cars. Self-driving vehicles, for example, must be programmed to make ethical trade-offs. Programming a car to stop automatically because a living creature is crossing the street goes beyond security awareness. It appeals to our compassion for others.

Empathy can hardly be programmed

Nonetheless, empathy is not a state that can be programmed into digital cash like an automotive safety feature, just as you can’t code a sense of trust into a human being. This state of mind cannot be automatically experienced by anyone, and it is in no way an inherent feature of artificial intelligence. But wait, this might not be entirely true. Filmmaker Chris Milk gave a TED talk demonstrating that 3D virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine. His mind-bending experiments using cutting-edge technology show that 3D VR can have a profound effect on human behavior. His movie takes viewers to a refugee camp allowing the audience to experience the world from the perspective of a young girl. The film was shown at the World Economic Forum in Davos to people whose decisions affect the lives of millions. And they were conspicuously affected by it.

To be continued. Further Reading/Viewing:

P. Güring and I. Grigg. “Bitcoin & Gresham's Law - the economic inevitability of Collapse.” http://iang.org/papers/BitcoinBreachesGreshamsLaw.pdf, 2011.

Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline. "Cyborgs and Space." Astronautics, September 1960.

Chris Milk. “How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine.” April 22, 2015. https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_milk_how_virtual_reality_can_create_the_...

Jason Murdock. “Singapore set to harness potential of blockchain for inter-bank payments”, International Business Times, December 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/singapore-set-harness-potential-blockchain-inter-bank-payments-1591823

Video of WEF Panel Discussion, "The Fourth Industrial Revolution", Participants: President of Rwanda, CEO of Microsoft, CEO of Facebook, Facebook, Chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra, CEO of OpenGov; World Economic Forum Davos, January, 2016. http://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2016/s...