Brave New World

Regular readers of At Quaquanantuck might be gratified to learn that your faithful columnist appears to be out in front of the curve on contemporary philosophical quandaries related to how we, as humans, relate to artificial intelligence.

Leaping past the question posed here last week of whether or not good manners are in order when communicating with AI, the New York Times Sunday Style section just two days later twinned a pair of stories on the front page responding to the banner question above them: “Robots: Hot or Not?”

Freezing up, January 21. —A. Botsford Photo

On the lower left side of the page, a story headlined “Love, Android Style, Sexy and Confusing” opened with the formal marriage of a 35-year-old Japanese school administrator to a virtual reality recording artist whose physical form is expressed only as a hologram. No, I’m not making this up. Opposite that piece was a different take on human interaction with AI-driven robots: “Maybe We Are Wired To Beat Up Machines.”

The “Love, Android Style” article goes on to explore the concept of “digisexuality,” which has been broken down into a “first wave” and “second wave.” Beyond “first wave” digisexuality, in which the tech (online pornography, hookup apps, sexting and electronic sex toys) is simply a delivery system for sexual fulfillment, “second wave” digisexuals apparently “form deeper relationships through immersive technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and A.I.-equipped sex robots, sometimes obviating the need for a human partner altogether.”

Good manners, indeed. Courtship, even?

Contrast this phenomenology with the behaviors described in “Wired To Beat Up Machines,” which recounts incidents across the globe involving humans assaulting robots, often viciously, particularly those that are built to resemble humans. The first hypothesis about the possible rationale for this violence is tied to mankind’s deep-seated fear of a robot insurrection. Really.

Actually, that makes some sense to the ever-fearful-of-technology At Quaquanantuck, even if good manners necessarily prohibit my ever attacking a robot … unless provoked, of course.

Club Lane sunrise, January 23. —Lulie Morrisey Photo

More significantly, according to the Times article, the cognitive neuroscientist Agnieszka Wykowska makes the observation that “while human antagonism toward robots has different forms and motivations, it often resembles the ways that humans hurt each other. Robot abuse, she said, might stem from the tribal psychology of insiders and outsiders.”

So, what’s the takeaway? That human affection and aggression in the modern age, no matter how troglodytic its expression, is so variegated and complex that it is practically impossible to unravel, whether exhibited toward other humans or addressed to software driven surrogates?

For this columnist’s money, analyzing the sources of the bizarre extremes of behavior in human interaction with AI is nowhere near as helpful as the following assessment and prescription from an insightful reader I spoke with over the weekend. The gist of her argument was this: good manners and civility are an absolute necessity in human interaction, especially in these parlous times of divisiveness and intractability. Better we should talk to and treat technology the same way we aspire to treat people, politely, lest we be rude or dismissive to AI entities—because we can—and have that spill over into the way we treat each other.

In an increasingly tribalist world, where people everywhere are finding it almost impossible to hear, acknowledge, and respect what others with different opinions are saying, any diminishment of courtesy and good manners—in any kind of interaction—is a step down a dark path to even greater dysfunction.

Final Five Performances of “On Golden Pond” at Quogue Community Hall
The Hampton Theatre Company’s production of “On Golden Pond” by Ernest Thompson begins its final weekend of performances tonight, Thursday, January 24, at 7 p.m.

Audience response has been uniformly positive to this heartwarming celebration of love in the face of the relentless march of time, with many audience members voicing some surprise at how much humor they found in the story of Norman and Ethel Thayer spending their 48th summer at their cabin on a lake in Maine.

dm pb gl 1
Diana Marbury, Paul Bolger and George Loizides in “On Golden Pond,” at the Quogue Community Hall through January 27. —Tom Kochie Photo

Shows this weekend are tonight, Thursday, and Friday at 7, Saturday at 2:30 and 8, and the final performance on Sunday at 2:30.

To reserve tickets, visit, or call OvationTix at 1-866-811-4111.

Quogue Library Gearing Up for Groundhog Day
The library’s second annual Groundhog Day celebration will be held on Saturday, February 2, at 9 a.m. at the front entrance to the Firehouse. The determination whether or not we will have an early spring will be made this year by the renowned Malverne Mel, courtesy of his handlers, the Save The Animals Rescue (STAR) foundation.

The much in demand Mal was tapped to travel out from Malverne to do the honors because, sadly, the grandmaster groundhog who presided over the Quogue event last year, Brian (dubbed Quentin of Quogue by At Quaquanantuck) has passed on.

Refreshments will be provided at the firehouse after the event, and all are welcome.

No matter the weather, construction continues apace at the Quogue Library. —A. Botsford Photo

Chair Yoga Classes Follow Standard Yoga Fridays at Firehouse
In other library news, all are reminded that chair yoga is now following standard yoga on Fridays at the Firehouse. The wondrous yoga instructor Amy Hess helps participants achieve a gentle yet effective workout by stretching from the chair and using the chair as a support. Standard yoga sessions are on Fridays at 9:30 a.m. and Chair Yoga follows at 10:45 a.m. The fee is $10 for each class.

Register for all library programs at the Firehouse or at 4 Midland by calling 631-653-4224, or stop by the 4 Midland Street Library location.

Joan Scanlon, Katrina Hering, Betsy Rowe and Joy Flynn were just a few of the film buffs who turned out in spite of the odd weather for the screening of “Foreign Correspondent” at the Quogue Library’s first Film Feast of 2019 at the Firehouse last Saturday. —Selina Pasca Photo

Library Slates Feature Film for Families on Saturday, January 26 at Firehouse
The Disney feature film “Brother Bear” will be shown at the Firehouse in a special Quogue Library screening for families on Saturday, January 26, at 1 p.m. Call the library at 631-653-4224 to register.

At Quaquanantuck encourages readers to send in news and notes and photos of interest to Quogue residents, even if the items are being sent from winter addresses or other parts of the country. Friends and family who enjoy all things Quogue are encouraged to email and ask to be put on the mailing list.

2 thoughts on “Brave New World

  1. A particularly good, well written, tongue in-cheek recitation on AI, et cetera in your column this week, Andrew. Also really appreciate the evocative fotos that embellish each of your installments. At Quaquanantuck is repeatedly a very good show!~Gratefully, Jim


  2. I would be interested to know if At Quaquanantuck viewed the film “Her” about a Siri like character and her influence over the device owner she inhabited? Unfortunately I only saw little bits on HBO post theater run. Happy New Year Jeff


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