Artificial Intelligence: Not A Matter of “Can We” But A Matter Of “Should We”

While the title sounds like the one guy in a science fiction movie about the robot uprising that gets to say ‘I told you so!’ later, I don’t actually mean ‘they’ll rise up against their human overlords!’ in this case. Though I’m not entirely able to shake the mental image of the SciFi robo-uprising after all my years watching movies and TV shows on that topic, the more realistic issue I would like to pose to you guys today is the issue of the morality of AI Androids and why we should really question whether or not it’s right to pursue them as technology progresses.

I,Robot, 2004

While at first blush it seems like a dumb question to ask, because they’re just machines like any other AI programming, there is a lot of discussion in the tech industry over the actual issue of the ethics of AI. Most of the issues raised about the idea of AI comes from logistical issues such as replacing humans in areas that would take too many jobs, and in the instances where AI isn’t as reliable as a human would be.

The more SciFi issues revolve around things like the idea that Superintelligent AI Androids could outsmart humanity and take over, which is what I like to call the, “VIKI” scenario. In the film I, Robot the android VIKI utilizes the Asimov Three Laws of Robotics to the point that she realizes humans are a threat to each other, so the best way to prevent harm to humans is to ‘control’ them. There are some issues that are closer to my main point but are about the AI Androids becoming human-like and self-aware and understanding that they are not humans though they have human feelings. I call this one the “Roy Batty” scenario from the film Bladerunner, in which the replicants have gone rogue because they know they are going to be destroyed and they fear death. The Roy Batty is related to the ‘enslaved masses rise up against their masters’ concept.

Blade Runner (1982)

But the question I think is first what should be asked is in relation to the ‘enslaved masses’ but on the side of the humans: at what point does the creation of AI Androids become a replacement for slavery?

Now, before anybody goes, “Dear God, they’re robots, not people”, let’s take a look at the entire point of computers and machines. The first proposed mechanical computer was Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in 1837. The purpose of the Analytical Engine was to do math faster and more accurately than any human could. This continued to be the purpose of computers for a long time, as the name ‘computer’ suggests. Since the invention of computers, the entire concept of a computer is to do things at a faster and more accurate rate than humans can do. Though our modern computers are far more than just calculators on steroids, the concept of most technological advances is to make things easier on humans and allow us to do more with less effort.

While many would argue that this is exactly the point of an AI Android, to make life easier for humans, because it is just another machine, I want to raise a question about human psychology. Humans have a tendency for anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is defined as, “Giving human characteristics to animals, inanimate objects or natural phenomena.” Anthropomorphism is a phenomena that has also been studied in regards to robots and human-robot interaction regarding how people feel about the robot after viewing it through an anthropomorphic lens.

Humanoid Robot, ASIMO, 2000

As humans, we are more inclined to anthropomorphism with a figure that is human-like in shape and other characteristics. Rick Nauert, PhD describes the psychological and evolutionary purpose of anthropomorphism as:

Neuroscience research has shown that similar brain regions are involved when we think about the behavior of both humans and of nonhuman entities, suggesting that anthropomorphism may be using similar processes as those used for thinking about other people. Anthropomorphism carries many important implications. For example, thinking of a nonhuman entity in human ways renders it worthy of moral care and consideration.

Anthropomorphism is relative to empathy, which is only increased when the thing being anthropomorphized is humanoid in shape and, in most people’s plans for humanoid AI Androids, would become a household implement that ‘lives’ in people’s homes and performs tasks for them.

This is where we come back to the question raised above, because presuming we, as humans, are likely to anthropomorphize the household Android and give it a name and expect it to do household chores, what does it say about us as people that we would want that?

Does it not, essentially, mean that the idea of an AI Android is a servant you don’t have to pay for their services? What do we generally call servants who don’t get paid?


It is very important for me to reinforce the fact that I am not in any way claiming that people who want an AI Android want to welcome back slavery, and I am not suggesting that this is a definite ‘AI is Slavery’ idea. I don’t even know how I feel about my own questions at this point. We have moral gray areas all across the board, but does this constitute as something that belongs in that gray area?

I’ll leave it up to you guys to think about on your own and decide for yourself, but I just think that this is a very important question we in the future may to consider, especially after reading this passage regarding the anthropomorphism of military robots.

As human robot partnerships become more common, decisions will need to be made by designers and users as to whether the robot should be viewed  anthropomorphically.  In some instances, Darling notes, it might be undesirable because it can impede efficient use of the technology.  The paper uses the example of a military robot used for mine clearing that a unit stopped using because it seemed “inhumane” to put the robot at risk in that way.


Interconnected World: How New Media Has Lowered The Barrier To Entry For Global Communication

When you hear the words “New Media” you probably think of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ect. However, New Media is more than just the social media platforms we all use every day.


New Media, defined as “Mass communication utilizing digital technologies” by Oxford English dictionary, is not just limited to social media, but also includes the lightening fast way in which information is shared around the world. New technologies as well as the culture around global communication all are part of the idea of New Media. There are many more ways than just social media platforms that make up all the ways New Media has shaped the way that we communicate in the twenty-first century, and communication is changing every single day. The way that global news is reported and verified utilizing these types of sources is also New Media.

Just a decade ago, even with the internet age at a high point, the bulk of people seeking news were limited to what major news networks reported on, both in traditional print, television media, and in their online websites. While we had access to talk to others from around the world, there was far less platform availability for news to be disseminated by individuals in various parts of the world to a broader audience than one-on-one communication. In other words, digital communication between unofficial sources was still, largely, not an actual method of mass communication so much as a modern-day ‘phone-tree’ .

Though technology has been advancing rapidly for decades now, we have now reached a point in which there are very few barriers to communication with others. Though her take is a little more negative in her post, Mandy Edwards say something very crucial to this phenomenon when she says, “As communication and information travel faster and faster, the world seems to get smaller and smaller.” What this means to most of us is that what would have once been virtually impossible to the average person, communicating with someone anywhere in the world at any time instantly, is now just a few key-strokes or screen-taps away. In essence, New Media has lowered the boundaries of privilege regarding communication.

From the 1995 film Clueless

When I was a child in the 90s, though people on TV often had cellphones, I didn’t know a single person in real life that had a cellphone, because they were an expensive device that had a certain level of privilege attached to its ownership. My aunt and uncle owned a bag phone for their car, and even that was the kind of luxury they boasted about and showed off like one would show off a diamond necklace. Also in the 90s, my other aunt was the only person I knew who had an internet connection, because she owned her own business. Twenty years ago, having an internet connection and a mobile phone were markers of privilege, but today those items are in some ways free (think free Wifi at a cafe and free computer use at libraries) and a cellphone of some sort is relatively inexpensive for even the lowest income individuals all over the globe.

Another way in which there was a certain barrier to access in the 90s regarding the idea of global communication was the cost of long-distance phone calls. Even today, an actual phone call internationally will cost a fortune to some. The cost of even one-one-one communication across borders has formerly been limited to news reported by major news networks, individual communication via mail, or expensive phone calls. The invention of email still required an internet connection and a device to access it from, which we have already established, were expensive commodities for all but the privileged members of society just in the few decades previous.

Inflation Adjusted Price in 1995: $5,467

However, within the last decade alone, the barriers to one-on-one communication have fallen significantly and, more important and more pertinent to the actual discussion of what New Media really means, the barriers to mass communication have fallen away with the rise of social media. Social media as a method of mass communication may have its downfalls, such as lower barriers to entry meaning lower barriers to accountability in what information is spread, but it allows more information to be shared to a large audience and shared around to more large audiences without the curation of major news networks.

While there is often something negative associated with news networks curating what information to broadcast, the major issue is not some censorship-esque control of information, but rather the fact that major news networking sources choose what to report on based on what will get the most attention from their audience. There are a lot of things that an America-centric news report would leave out that social media allows reports on to be spread throughout global audiences, for example. The point of this is that New Media changes the speed and the methods of distribution of information through the channels of social media. What would have likely never become broadly reported news finds it’s audience through social media. New Media has made it possible for people all over the world to share information that is significant to certain groups of people that would otherwise not be considered significant enough to warrant an article on CNN or a spot on the nightly news on NBC in a way that makes it possible for the intended audience to find and access the information with a quick search and a few clicks.

When it comes down to it, New Media is more about the way we think about communication than it is about the methods through which we communicate. Though technology is the basis of the concept of New Media, it isn’t just about the platforms we share information through with social media, it is also about the way we think about communication. New Media has managed to affect global changes in the very idea of communication because it has lowered the barrier to entry to what is and isn’t possible when it comes to communication regardless of location, wealth, or status of privilege.

Difficult Question About Queer Diversity In Fiction

I am going to ask a question that I find difficult to answer, not because I am trying to challenge anyone, but because I genuinely want to hear what some people think. This is not a rhetorical question, this is a real question I think needs to be discussed in both the book world and in the film and television world. While this isn’t aimed at Book Twitter, I got into thinking about this because of reading discourse on queer diversity in the Book Twitter world.

The first and most important question I’ve really struggled with is related to the idea that we need more explicitly queer characters that state their identity or orientation. There’s this idea in both books and in other media that this implied queerness is just a cop-out and we want characters to verbally state their sexuality at some point. My actual question here is, “Does this risk lowering the standards of writing?”

Let me explain: In books, film, TV, ect, one of the most important rules of writing fiction is to not treat your audience like they’re stupid, and to ‘show it, don’t tell it’. I’m one of those people that really wants to KNOW what the sexual orientation of characters are because it’s just so rare still to have queer characters. However, I’m also a big fan of GOOD writing practices, and often when writers find a way to get their character to explicitly say, “I’m bisexual” or whatever, they end up having something so terribly contrived that it drags the audience out of the story. Nobody likes writing where it feels like the author is explaining something to the audience because they’re too stupid to pick up on the context clues, and there’s a serious risk of that happening in many cases.

Yes, there are definitely cases where it fits into the story to explicitly state a character’s sexuality, but more often than not, it doesn’t fit in good writing. A good example of this would be something I wrote once that won’t ever get published where this character, in a conversation, just ‘casually’ gives the other person their Tragic Past when it really did not fit the situation at all. It was so contrived and terrible, but it managed to inform the audience of the whole bisexual backstory of the character.

My biggest worry is that, with this new “SAY IT OUT LOUD!” representation demand in fiction, it’s going to make so many more situations like this. We’ve all read some story where there was a token queer character who explains their queerness just for the sake of having someone queer in the story, and it’s so cringe-worthy, isn’t it? I once read a book where there was a non-binary character that was a fucking SIDE CHARACTER and they had like two whole pages of explaining their ‘Xie’ pronouns to the protagonist and basically giving a lesson on being non-binary and then THEY WERE NEVER IN THE STORY AGAIN! It was so pointless and clearly token queer character, and I have this really frustrated feeling that with the demands for diversity, more and more people are going to start sticking token queer characters who have several pages of preaching on their gender or sexuality just so people can be sure to check that box. That sort of thing is something terrible for QUALITY writing.

I want queer characters more than you could probably understand, but I’m entirely against sacrificing quality for diversity. It’s the same reason a lot of people get on my case for giving queer films bad ratings on Chelsea Loves Movies (even though I DO give Queer Films a leg up by only comparing them to each other). I want quality diversity, and I won’t sacrifice my standards just to see more people like me on the screen or on a page.

My other difficult question is related to my own issue there, because I have to ask, “Is enjoyment of non-explicit relationships that are expressed the same as heterosexual couples (ie, their relationship can be implied, not explicit) a bad thing, because it allows people to get away with never making good on queer character relationships?”

I’m a big fan, in every medium, of normalizing queerness and not making it something that needs to be pointed out. It’s the only way I WANT to watch/read/consume queerness in fiction. However, I’m also aware that we might not be to the point yet where that’s enough, because I’m sure that there are people who use this as an excuse for ‘subtext’ and never delivering on the implication. Other times, people get really upset over some writer not delivering when I feel like they did deliver absolutely adequate confirmation of the relationship that I felt they were always working towards portraying.

Because I’m so torn on this topic, I want you guys to discuss this one with me. Comment, tweet me, and I would say DM me but I want this to be a public discussion, so try not to do that if you can help it. This is one of those places where I find myself really struggling because what I want in quality leaves gaps for chickening out on going there. What do you guys think?

Attitudes Towards Adaptation

In my lifetime, I’ve often found that book-lovers look at the word Adaptation as if it’s a bit of a controversial one.

Ever since I was a child, the big thing that people always complain about with adaptation is that it isn’t as good as the book, or it isn’t like the book, or it changes something, or it somehow doesn’t fit the reader’s expectations. People absolutely hate most adaptations because it, to them, doesn’t represent the story they love from the source material. In fact, there are so many articles regarding the reasons that books are better than movies (almost ALWAYS, as some claim). As a kid, the biggest offender of the bunch to most people was Harry Potter and almost any other film based on a long novel that had to cut a lot of stuff out for the plot. People became enraged at these changes and, I must admit, I joined in sometimes when I was a kid.

Now, I utterly hate the phrase, “The book was better than the movie”. Let me tell you why!

Let’s start with the definition of the word adaptation.


a movie, television drama, or stage play that has been adapted from a written work, typically a novel.

There we go, our product, the adaptation. Very good, now let’s further examine the word adapt.

make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.

You may ask, “What was the point of that, Chelsea?” to which I say that it’s important to pay attention to what exactly an adaptation is in order to understand why I hate the phrase “The book was better than the movie.” The simplest way of putting it is that an adaptation is an entirely new work that is inspired by the source material. The word ‘adapt’ here means that something is made suitable or modified for a new use. The new use is an entirely different work of fiction and, therefore, comparing it to the source material is pointless and just plain illogical.

“The book is always better than the movie.”
This presumption is widespread, but it is less a critical determination than a personal bias. A movie based on a literary source is often seen as a secondary work and, consequently, of secondary value. Literature, generally, still occupies a more privileged position in the cultural hierarchy than movies do; and readers often have a proprietary attitude towards the book, an attitude that influences their reception of a film based upon it. They often are disappointed when a movie does not match their concept of what they have read, not realizing that reading, itself, is an act of translation. Readers translate words into images and form strong, private, often vivid impressions of what the book’s fictional world looks like and what it means; words become translated into emotional experiences. When a film does not square with the reader’s ideas, images, interpretation – even simple recall – of the book, the movie is deemed de facto deficient and disappointing, spawning the general impression that the movie is never as good.
-Linda Costanzo Cahir, Literature Into Film: Theory and Practical Approaches

What Cahir is pointing out here is exactly why film and literature are entirely different things and, to use a common phrase, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. What she is saying in this is not that book readers are snobs, but rather that reading a book is a highly personal matter. Reading a book is a matter of forming your own adaptation of the authors intention in your mind, more or less, in that you, the reader, are the ‘director’ of your own mental movie of what is going on. In film-making, a director takes a script written, usually, by someone else and their interpretation if that source material becomes the film we see. In reading a book, you are essentially taking a script someone else wrote and interpreting it into your own final version the same way a director interprets their script.

Because of this personal nature in reading a book, it’s entirely unfair to then say a movie adaptation is or isn’t good based on whether or not it matches your interpretation of the source material.

There are different types of film adaptations and, I have noticed that people only seem to get angry at direct adaptations that aren’t carbon-copies of the book it is based on. It makes me think that perhaps people aren’t looking at adaptations as they should be, which is to say that a direct adaptation is no more or less ‘valid’ than a radical adaptation. We the viewers/readers should no more compare Harry Potter to its source material than we would compare Clueless to Emma or O Brother Where Art Thou to The Odyssey.

(Yes, if you weren’t aware, those are both adaptations of those works of literature)

Another very important point is that the structure of film-making is vastly different than the structure of book-writing. The very nature of novels is that you have a greater introspection even in the most unreliable narrator-style 3rd-Limited POV. The nature of reading is that you’re given insights that cannot be explored in film, thus limiting the way a film has to adapt (there’s that word again) the story to be told through a different narrative style. Film adaptations often have to express something thematically that may be expressed literally in literature just because you can’t show thoughts and feelings without Word of God voice-overs or some odd-ball film technique. At the same time, disjointed agitation is far more effectively portrayed in film than in literature because one cannot write such a thing unless their writing is some 1st POV stream-of-conscience, and even that might be difficult.

The point is that there are things that cannot be well translated from page to screen and vice versa, and there are limitations to both literature and film that the other doesn’t have. Time is a major factor. Tone is a big difference. Intention is established through a vastly different method in each medium. The two art forms are both limited by the nature of their own existence, they both have strengths, they both have weaknesses, and to consider one inferior just because it isn’t the same is like saying a fish is inferior to a monkey because the former cannot climb a tree. To say that a book is better than the adaptation simply because the adaptation is different is just a ridiculous statement to make.

You can say that the adaptation doesn’t accurately tell a coherent story (or as coherent of a story) limited to its own form (since I mentioned Harry Potter a few times, a good example of this would be the way that, in trying to show enough of the books to remain accurate, Goblet of Fire leaves a lot of plot holes and makes it so that the viewer HAD to read the book to fill in the gaps themselves), but that isn’t comparing the book and the movie to say the story isn’t told coherently enough in the film to merit its existence. The movie may not be good on the basis of film-making, such as the film adaptation of the novel Eragon, that was just a lousy film. It didn’t matter that was an adaptation, because it was just a bad movie. But again, there is a difference in ‘this film or television series isn’t good’ and ‘this film or television series isn’t as good as the book’.

There’s also the matter of times in which adaptations are able to be superior to the book because its changes make the basic story make more sense or fit better. We all know cases where a book just doesn’t tell a story as effectively as it could be told, and it’s not uncommon for adaptations to take a good story premise and adapt the story premise into a film that more effectively gives a good narrative from the premise that wasn’t well represented in the novel. Though it isn’t a novel, a good example of this would be how the film V for Vendetta was adapted into a very coherent and narratively compelling story from a comic book that, while decent, lacked the central coherency to make the story all that compelling.

You notice I don’t say “The movie is better than the source material” because the styles are vastly different. I say that the film was able to make the story have a better central coherency, which makes the storytelling more effective and efficient at getting the themes across. An INCREDIBLE example of this would be the mini-series North & South that is an adaptation of a novel of the same title by Elizabeth Gaskell. That novel was published in a series of pieces and they lack any central coherency. There is no real central plot even to the beginning, and the end is painfully abrupt and unfulfilling, but the story is there, and with that interesting story that the novel fails to deliver in a satisfactory way, the BBC mini-series consolidates the story that is interesting and focuses in on that in order to deliver that compelling story premise the novel fails to deliver. The novel is not good. The mini-series is good. I am not saying the mini-series is better than the novel, because the mini-series would be just as good had it been an original idea and not an adaptation, and the novel would have still not been that good even if it were the only version of the story available.

I have a very strong opinion on the phrase “The book is better than the movie” because, as someone who has studied both literature and film extensively, I feel that is an entirely unfair statement to both art forms. A book can be good. An adaption can be good. A book can be bad. An adaption can be bad. These things are not only not reliant upon each other, but they are not related to each other. So in the future think about this and ask your self, “If there was no book, would this movie be a good film?” or, “If there was no film, would this be a good book?” rather than asking, “Is this movie as good as the book?”

As always, I welcome discussion and comments in the comment section, and I welcome you to share this discussion outside of this post. You can always find me on My Twitter, and since this relates to film and television, you can always find my Movie Blog and my TV Blog as well.