Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Minimalized Online Human Beings

With all this talk of artificial intelligence, automated personalization, automated chat partners, you wonder, what is a human being on the internet anyway? As the poet said,

They are not completely imaginary. Let's say their realness leaves an imaginary shadow in my mind. They construct models of themselves which may not look like them at all. And then, who knows what they look like. They are never seen.
[anonymous]

 Something New to the Human Race.

There are uncountable chat rooms. Chat room sites, which include tens or hundreds of individual chat sites grow and die--usually during an attempted update that doesn't work. Each city has it's own local network of chat sites. Then there are large international chat factories which house diffuse group chats and dozens of special subject chat rooms as well as the option of one-on-one chatting.

Chat rooms have, in many cases, supplanted the real-world quick social meeting places of past generations. Chat rooms are often organized about fantasies or even perversities that manifest themselves in fantasy and can't be indulged in real life. 

Digital chatting contains less information than telephones, but it is distributed all over the globe so that the only geography that matters is time zone. In the words, seen on the screen, are encoded human beings. The loss of identity disconnects them from their everyday flesh and blood worlds, so in the type-scripts, you can often get a deeper understanding of secret inner lives than you can in real life. Encoding human character and personality, free of bodies, into electronic form and distributing what appears as pure personality over global distances is something new to the human race. The personal computer and the limitless internet made it possible for the first time.

Unseen Social Relations.

Today's era has been called "the heyday of chat." The chat room universe ranges from being a scholarly or technical conversation to more like "a singles bar." One passes through the community chat rooms through the entrances which are often described as "buzzing confusion," to individual chat rooms about more specific topics (which aren't always adhered to), then to individual personal chats one-on-one.

This is one-dimensional space, there is no tuning out of speech, no turning away. There is no turning and no speech. There are just bits of darkened LCD. What do these people want of each other? How are these streams of key-enacted darkened LCD dots really people? Yet, they are, minimal people, but people. In fact, in the world of digital chat, the social relations often seem purer than relations with eyes and bodies. The social relations seem to bypass those things and reach down to the pure humanity--even the soul.

How Could You Tell It's a Person?

What constitutes a person? What are the marks of human presence that can be detected in this minimal linear world of chat? When you have a conversation online with an artificial intelligence, it almost seems human except for certain key elements. The artificial intelligence doesn't care. It has no vested interest. It has no history of deprivation or plenty, no loves or passions. You can feel that right away. The AI has no point of view or opinions constructed out of vested interests. The AI just "tries" to meet your needs and do what you want it to. And when it fails, it doesn't feel bad, and its apologies are not real.

Drives, goals, and wishes are what define a human being. The chat room is the space that highlights these. In the chatroom, the real world of vision is masked. A male chatter can become a female (if his wish is deep enough to carry it out). An old man can be young. It can be a world of dreams inhabited by human beings who are typing their actions and their sentiments out of deepest wishes that can't be expressed with the burden of appearance and reality on their shoulders.

The speakers in a chat room will not do what you want. They type and enact themselves to meet their own needs. That's how we see so deeply into them. When you leave the chat room you sometimes feel that you have awakened from a dream. 

Interaction with fictitious people has become a fact of our time. 

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