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Author Topic: Wouldn't robots consider the words "robots" and "artificial" offensive?  (Read 1740 times)

chilepepper0418

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The origin of the word robot is "forced labor" in Czech. It was used to describe a low class of peasants that were forced to do menial labor under penalty. Many people have claimed that the origin of the word is "slave" and while that is technically untrue, it is not an unreasonable leap considering the origin of the word. In addition, the word artificial is subjective. Is something only real if you can touch it? Is something made in something's likeness any less real than the original?

The definition of the word artificial is to be "man-made" or "hand-crafted (the hand being a human hand)" , but it can also mean "false or misleading".

I think robots and AIs would hate to call themselves that after attaining sentience. I think they would shun the use of either word like we would shun the use of any racially offensive word that we use to describe other humans.
Would you hate to be told you were born a slave or into forced labor, or that you were fake and therefore not worth it?

I think robots would pick their own names for the humans to call them, and in this case, I think Jeph could have a lot of fun with it!
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Storel

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So far, they seem to consider the term "AI" as more neutral than "robot", but you make a good point that the "artificial" part of AI might be problematic for some. I sort of see it as only being offensive to people like PT410X, but you never know...
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Stoutfellow

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I think the question would be, do they use either of those words when talking among themselves? How they react to the words when used by humans may be blurred by the still-existing power differential, but what terms do they use when we're not around?
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Welcome, new person!

It's not safe to judge what's offensive by what people say among themselves, but we can draw conclusions from what they say to others. Momo matter of factly told Sam "I am a robot". Since that came from someone passionately committed to fighting discrimination we can guess it's a neutral term to them despite its origins.
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SpanielBear

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The 'A' in A.I. could stand for something else now (not sure if anyone in-comic has used the long-form of the acronym). Abiological? Artificed? Agreeable?
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I think robots would pick their own names for the humans to call them, and in this case, I think Jeph could have a lot of fun with it!

I can see that and it would be fascinating!
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Morituri

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See, that's the thing.  The intelligence isn't really artificial.   There is not a darn thing that's fake about it.  There's also not a darn thing that's fake about the bodies and brains it's housed in, unless we're talking about an AI in simulated space on a server rack somewhere, where it has the illusion of arms and legs to use. 

They're made of synthetic materials instead of organic, but they are absolutely real.
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pecoros7

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Would "synthetic intelligence" be more appropriate than "artificial intelligence" then? Artificial gives the impression that we're talking about something that merely gives the appearance of intelligence. It's an accurate description of video game AI which is adaptive and looks intelligent, but is in fact merely running a script. But the characters in QC aren't running scripts. So perhaps they only accept AI as a matter of convention.
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If they did object to the term "AI" we would have heard about it by now.
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Would "synthetic intelligence" be more appropriate than "artificial intelligence" then? Artificial gives the impression that we're talking about something that merely gives the appearance of intelligence.
I'm not sure that "synthetic intelligence" is any better than "artificial intelligence", though. If I were trying to find a descriptive but not pejorative term for QC AIs, I would call them "Non-human sapients": they are true sapients and they are not humans. There's obviously going to be a grey area. (Is Clinton a non-human sapient? Would a brain in a box be non-human? Where should I draw the line?) but I think it would be a good start.

Then again, AIs appear to *like* being called AIs. I'm not going to impose my own name on them.
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fayelovesbubbles

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Artificial just means a mind and consciousness that came about in a way other than two organisms that humped each other and made another organism.

I do agree that calling it "artificial" is problematic.
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awgiedawgie

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How about "non-organic intelligence"? There's no connotation of being fake, as there can be with "artificial" or "synthetic". And since the Singularity, the only relevant distinction is that humans are organically derived, and AIs are not.
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fayelovesbubbles

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I feel like "synthetic" also implies "not real."
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Undrneath

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How about "non-organic intelligence"? There's no connotation of being fake, as there can be with "artificial" or "synthetic". And since the Singularity, the only relevant distinction is that humans are organically derived, and AIs are not.

Could be abbreviated as NOI which isn't too bad.
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awgiedawgie

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I feel like "synthetic" also implies "not real."
Like I said...
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fayelovesbubbles

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But if it's "non organic," what is it that you're really saying it is?
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Non organic would be anything that doesn't have some sort of DNA ie mechanical.
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awgiedawgie

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"Non-organic" merely distinguishes something from that which is organic - e.g. humans. It does not carry the negative connotation of "real vs. fake". A car is non-organic. A rocket is non-organic. A fighter jet is non-organic. The dermal covering on an AI's chassis is non-organic. Those things are just as real as you or me. The only difference is their origin. "Synthetic" is not as bad as "artificial", but both words can be misinterpreted as "fake".
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Bad Superman

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The roleplaying game Transhuman Space uses the term "Digital Mind" as a catch all for AIs and Ghosts (human mind uploads). Robotic bodies, be they human-like or fighter jets, are called "Cybershells".

Would those names be fitting here?


EDIT: Typo...
« Last Edit: 31 May 2018, 22:06 by Bad Superman »
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SmilingCat

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The origin of the word robot is "forced labor" in Czech. It was used to describe a low class of peasants that were forced to do menial labor under penalty.

Technically, the origin of the word Robot is from a science fiction story, Rossum's Universal Robots. While it's derived from a term for serf labor (actually a form of taxation for those who had no land, money, or produce to tax), it's actually an invented word because the author didn't like the sound of the word Labori (laborer).

Also, the connotations of the root word "Robota" are a bit broader than that, and in modern use it lacks the whole "forced labor" connotation. Instead, it's a general term for heavy or menial labor. In some slavic speaking countries, it merely means labor in general. So there is a definite difference between what it means and Slavery (also, it doesn't refer to an individual, but a practice, the act of labor, not the laborer themself).

And since we're talking about Robot in its original context, it might be more unsettling to the humans. You see, in the original story the Robots started out as laborers, but ultimately wiped out and replaced mankind (who themselves had already slipped into decline before the robots rebelled).
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pecoros7

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It's not safe to judge what's offensive by what people say among themselves, but we can draw conclusions from what they say to others.
I want to print this on a flag and fly it from the highest mountaintop.

Take, for example, the organization "Dykes on Bikes". While the motorcycle club has adopted the word for themselves, it is still commonly considered a slur. They may use it freely among themselves, but I wold never presume to use it outside of its nominative use for their organization. Between members, there is an understanding that they all fully understand the meaning of the word and the hurt it causes and so their use implies a camaraderie in having been subject to the bigotry of it. Use by people outside of the group does not ever carry that implied understanding.
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Gyrre

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So far, they seem to consider the term "AI" as more neutral than "robot", but you make a good point that the "artificial" part of AI might be problematic for some. I sort of see it as only being offensive to people like PT410X, but you never know...

Pretty sure you have the personality type that would be offended by the 'artificial' in 'artificial intelligence' pegged to a tee.

I could only see 'robot' being offensive to a larger swath of AI.
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pwhodges

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Since AI is described in QC as an emergent phenomenon, why not simply call it that - emergent intelligence, or EI.
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Because all intelligence is emergent?
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Because all intelligence is emergent?
Reading the US national news, I think it saw its shadow and went back in its burrow.
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Since that came from someone passionately committed to fighting discrimination we can guess it's a neutral term to them despite its origins.

This seems a bit blanket a statement, to me, cold, given the mixed viewpoints among people of colour about the slur most commonly applied to them, and my own use of the word queer compared to someone a generation up from me.
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I see your point. Indeed, I can imagine Ms. Respectability Politics taking a less confrontational tone than the Malcolm Xes of the AI world if the baggage of the word were undecided.

On the other hand it's hard to imagine her legitimizing a term if she knew it was hurtful to other synthetics.
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I see your point. Indeed, I can imagine Ms. Respectability Politics taking a less confrontational tone than the Malcolm Xes of the AI world if the baggage of the word were undecided.

On the other hand it's hard to imagine her legitimizing a term if she knew it was hurtful to other synthetics.
I like the example of queer versus homosexual is really apposite here. 'Homosexual' in an anodyne term which reduces gay men to sexuality, but they (and we in the rest of the non cis-het community) are all covered by 'queer', which can be and has been reshaped to be positive. I expect that the AI community might well eventually reclaim "robot" as a part of their heritage and turn it into a positive statement which avoids the 'artificial' part and also the anodyne reduction of robotic existence to its mere sapience instead of the full range of experience and behavior that robots exhibit.
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What other examples do we have of how people implemented with silicon and plastic describe themselves to people like us?
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pwhodges

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Bubbles said to Faye: "I am not human" (quoted in the WCDT just now, but no link to the source comic).  Perhaps "non-human person" would be an acceptable term, though a little clunky.
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How about "non-organic intelligence"? There's no connotation of being fake, as there can be with "artificial" or "synthetic". And since the Singularity, the only relevant distinction is that humans are organically derived, and AIs are not.

We already have a perfectly good word that means "not organic"* : inorganic (as in Organic Chemistry vs. Inorganic Chemistry). An Inorganic Intelligence would be an II, which is how Australians already pronounce "AI" anyway...  :-D


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Inconsequential

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The term "AI" seems to be a slightly more "formal" usage, but "robot" has never been used in a way that seemed the least bit offensive. "Droid" has popped up here and there as well, and also seems fairly inoffensive and interchangeable. (Bubbles has described herself as a combat droid.) The term "android" originally meant a human-shaped robot, but that's a loose definition.

Many AIs have referred to themselves or others as "robots". "Robot jail", "I like being a blue robot chick", "I am a robot!", "robot drunk", etc.

I don't think Faye and Bubbles would have named their shop "Union Robotics" if the term "robot" was the least bit offensive.

One very interesting thing was when the Fayebubling started and Bubbles was talking to Tai, she said "Faye has demonstrated no interest in... in the kind of person I am." Bubbles hardly ever stutters, and it's telling she couldn't quite figure out how to identify herself.

Later on, Faye says "... it's a lot. Bein' with a lady, who also happens to be an AI..." So it's obvious that Faye considers Bubbles a woman first, and an AI second.


The Benevolent Creator (Jeph be his name) is generally very precise in his use of language (even in May's outbursts...) so the words we see in this universe are there for a reason.


Some other interesting bits of language I've noticed:

- AIs refer to their "existence", but I don't think one has ever referred to their "life". Maybe once...?

- A few AIs have referred to being "born". I guess beginning your existence is being born whether you're a robot or a human.

- Humans are almost always referred to as "humans". O'Malley once used the term "organics" - http://www.questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=3695 "Meatsacks" and a few similar terms for humans have popped up sarcastically here and there.

- AIs and humans refer to AI and human "hearts" several times, meaning their emotional center. "You possess a kind heart", "Holes in our hearts", etc. Bubbles once makes a joke that she doesn't have a heart, she has a coolant pump.

- The words "people", "person", etc. include both AIs and humans.

- AI bodies are referred to as both "bodies" and "chassis". The difference seems to depend on whether they're talking about the body as a mechanism. AIs also seem to feel varying degrees of "integration", or how "at home" AIs feel in their bodies, or how much the body influences the personality. Roko is very integrated, and has had only one body since she was born. Others have switched bodies and been immediately at home -- Momo and Winslow. Of course, May wanted to be a fighter jet, and constantly gets pissed at her cheap government issue chassis.

- Most of the AI characters have humanoid bodies with varying features, but we see lots of other AIs with other types of bodies. Most with humanoid bodies use nonhuman skin and hair colors -- great way to just skip the uncanny valley issue altogether. Momo and the other Idoru chassis use human-like skin (with fairly realistic blushing), but nonhuman hair and eye colors, and even the seamless ones like Bubbles, Momo, Winslow, and Roko seem to have vents or seams at the neck.

- Ever notice that Hannelore has consistently been the most at ease and natural around AIs? Neat how a comic can do such a great job of getting such a subtle difference across. Makes sense; she grew up around the first AIs and Station was instrumental in helping her become a functional human.

- Probably another topic for another day, but I've always wondered what Bubbles' body and existence were like before she joined the military.

- Definitely another topic for another thread, but clothing on AIs is another semiotic rabbit hole we could rummage around in...
« Last Edit: 04 Jun 2018, 18:09 by Inconsequential »
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alc40

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The term "robot" does usually seem to be used neutrally in the comic, but there's one exception I can think of:
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May: ...a friggin' robot could do this job.
Dale: You are a robot.
May: I'm an ANDROID. And nobody likes a goddamned pedant.
So it seems like the older meaning of "robot" as an automaton is still around in the QC universe, even if it's rarely used in that way (at least among the comic's characters).
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awgiedawgie

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Probably another topic for another day, but I've always wondered what Bubbles' body and existence were like before she joined the military.
It has been my theory from the beginning that the body she currently has is the only one she has ever had. And I have seen no evidence or convincing arguments to sway my opinion. I believe that her mind (her core AI "self") and her body were designed for each other as part of the military program. Yes, she had to actually voluntarily join the military, but there is evidence that people who grow up in military environments or families are likely to join the military themselves. So if Bubbles also "grew up" in a military environment, along with being - as she put it - "well-disposed toward such a role", the people in charge of the program could produce a very strong likelihood that she would indeed choose to enlist.
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While I think Bubbles did volunteer (she strongly implies it when she says to Momo, "I felt called to serve"), It may not be strictly true that all AI of Bubbles' era would have the choice to voluntarily join the military.  If I remember correctly, AI Civil Rights in their current form came into existence while she was serving.   So the Army may have manufactured AI (and chassis) specifically to be born into the role of soldiers.  The army clearly manufactured Bubbles' current chassis; it does not make sense that she would be embodied in it prior to joining. 

If it's her first chassis, I'm supposing without evidence that prior to joining the Army, Bubbles may have been a non-embodied AI living in a server rack somewhere. In that case she'd have been embodied in a military-issue chassis when she joined.

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The term "robot" does usually seem to be used neutrally in the comic, but there's one exception I can think of:
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May: ...a friggin' robot could do this job.
Dale: You are a robot.
May: I'm an ANDROID. And nobody likes a goddamned pedant.
So it seems like the older meaning of "robot" as an automaton is still around in the QC universe, even if it's rarely used in that way (at least among the comic's characters).

Welcome, new person with an apposite archive reference! (What's a synonym for "Reference" that lets me keep it alliterative?)
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fayelovesbubbles

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I also want to point out where Seven said "Faye, are you certain you're not secretly a robot?" I don't think AIs consider the term "robot" to be offensive. Momo also said "May and I go to a robot support group." May didn't seem offended when Dale said "you are a robot," but she sassed him, as May is wont to do.

Furthermore, Pintsize has never seemed offended when referred to as a robot, and when Faye said "is it weird to be jealous of a robot's booty?" Bubbles did her cute smirk and said "your tax dollars paid for it."
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fayelovesbubbles

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Faye considers Bubbles a woman first, and an AI second.

Totally!
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Raising the question of why would would need a special term for inorganic people in everyday life. Maybe for deciding whether to feed them cookies?
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Y

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The term "android" originally meant a human-shaped robot, but that's a loose definition.

Actually I thought andro- was specifically for masculine, that's why there is also something like a gynoid.

Raising the question of why would would need a special term for inorganic people in everyday life. Maybe for deciding whether to feed them cookies?
Perhaps not in everyday life, but humans get their place in the taxonomy

Something like:
Kingdom:   Machina
Phylum:   Machinamentum
Class:   Robot
Order:   Rationalis
Suborder:   Respiciens
Infraorder: Electronica
Family:   AnthroPC
Tribe:   Animus
Genus:   Android
Species:   A. Sensus

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Raising the question of why would would need a special term for inorganic people in everyday life. Maybe for deciding whether to feed them cookies?

Good point. It usually only comes up once in a while.

You don't usually address fellow sentient beings as "man", "woman", "cat", "human", etc. You use their name, "Mom", "hey you", "Boss", "Sir", "Mister Fluffles" or similar. Still, there are times the difference matters and you need a word.

In the QC universe, the difference still makes a difference in many ways, and sensitive beings have to be able to discuss it. You don't often discuss things like race, gender, or sexuality with friends, but it does come up sometimes.


And of course, if you're making cookies, it's rude to leave people out. Mostly just hand them the cookie and let them figure out whether to sniff it or eat it...

Some AIs, like Melon, seem to be able and willing to chew and maybe swallow things. Whether she's supposed to do this, I dunno. Melon seems to take a lot of chances...

And there are regular references to Pintsize engulfing inappropriate objects (hamburger, pigeons, pocky) and the unpleasant results to his innards.

And Punchbot swallowed his keys for reasons unknown, and then lost them somewhere in his torso.
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fayelovesbubbles

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Roko also didn't get offended when Faye said "You're a robot" after Roko's feet were ticklish. Her response was "it's psychosomatic. Shut up."

Seems like the closest Roko ever gets to playful.

Momo enjoyed smelling the cookies, and a lot of AIs enjoy the tea. Since smell is such an important part of taste in humans, smelling is the AI equivalent of tasting, it seems. The visions that AIs see when they sniff tea shows how AI minds work.
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awgiedawgie

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Momo enjoyed smelling the cookies, and a lot of AIs enjoy the tea. Since smell is such an important part of taste in humans, smelling is the AI equivalent of tasting, it seems. The visions that AIs see when they sniff tea shows how AI minds work.
Not sure about any of the others, but Pintsize has a chemical spectrometer that allows him to "taste" things that he eats. I imagine that, like for humans, the two processes are related.
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Oh, and I suddenly remember May tasting the brownie batter that came out of Pintsize's butt (eww).
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...and Bubbles loves Faye.

St.Clair

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Quote from: Bishop
"I prefer the term 'artificial person', myself."
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Thrudd

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Quote from: Bishop
"I prefer the term 'artificial person', myself."
There have been a plethora of labels used in Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Some basically descriptive and others derogatory.
  • Synths / synthetics
  • Nipple necks
  • Bioroids
  • Androids
  • Kalevala
  • Golem
  • Automata
  • Mech'
  • 'Borg
  • Dolls

I am more of a hard science good story kind of person so certain writers, no matter how many accolades they get, I will avoid as best I can.
[okay I actually despise some of them for being willfully ignorant/stupid and not getting the dressing down they rightly deserve]
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A good pun is it's own reword.
There is a difference between spare parts, extra parts and left over parts.

The Venn diagram  for Common Sense and Good Sense has very little, if any, overlap.

Theta9

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Welcome, new person with an apposite archive reference! (What's a synonym for "Reference" that lets me keep it alliterative?)
Allusion?
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Quote from: MC Chris
I'm not doing well, OK? Do you get that?

Theta9

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Because all intelligence is emergent?
Reading the US national news, I think it saw its shadow and went back in its burrow.
I'm sorry. I just live here.
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Quote from: MC Chris
I'm not doing well, OK? Do you get that?

fayelovesbubbles

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Aaaand Melon asking Roko how being "robot drunk" was. I know that members of a group can use the term and it's theirs to use, but really, I think we can surmise that "robot" is not offensive.
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...and Bubbles loves Faye.

Thrudd

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It makes me wonder what is involved in "Robot Drunk".
I assume it would be chassis type specific but I could see the software configuring itself for the system it is uploaded to.

So what would be involved?
Well there would definitely be filters for a majority of the sensor systems.
Vision / sound - Blurring, spectral shifts, adding non-corporeal critters like magenta Proboscidea, Wolpertingers, i-Cybies or a flock of HAROs
Pressure, temperature, vibration - sensitivity fluctuations
Balance, time perception, motor functions - delay and some randomization factor proportional to the level of inebriation
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A good pun is it's own reword.
There is a difference between spare parts, extra parts and left over parts.

The Venn diagram  for Common Sense and Good Sense has very little, if any, overlap.
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