Friday, April 12, 2019

Seventh Session: Friday, April 12, 2019

Chapter 8: The Kindest Robots

Links to Videos on Robots in Japan for Seniors

Undiscovered Japan: Using robots to care for the elderly


Robots help the elderly in Japan's nursing homes


Assignment Asia: Robotic friends for Japan's elderly

The soft side of robots: elderly care


Seventh Session: Friday, April 12, 2019

Chapter 8: The Kindest Robots

Selected Quotes for Discussion:

“Call it kindness that is manufactured from pneumatically actuated joints, smooth silicon skin, printed circuits, and heuristic[1]algorithms[2].” (p.187)

“Words, tone of voice, facial expressions, and even the angle of your head can tell Pepper what kind of day you’re having.” (p.187)

“To Canada and other developed nations, Japan is the model for how to cope with an aging population. But insiders tell a different story.” (p.191)

“If kept at present levels, the Japanese social care system cannot be sustained… …Japan will eventually be a million workers short.” (p.193)

“Japanese care workers don’t complain about their wages because they think this is not just a job but their social duty.” (p.193)

“Japanese authorities want guest workers, not future citizens. …We need more workers, but we need workers who speak Japanese and who understand our culture. The problem is not with the capabilities of workers from abroad. The problem is with Japanese society itself. I’m not confident our society if ready to invite these people.” (p.194)

“The estimated production cost of a single robot is as much as $236,000 Canadian. …It will probably take 20 or 30 years until we have a commercial version.” (p.196)

“Sugano estimate no more than 20% of the communication between his robot and humans will be via speech. Most of the interaction will be based on visual and other cues.” (p.198)

“If we speak to them, there’s often no response. When Telenoid talks to them, they always respond. …What I have found is that sometimes it is better for a resident to talk to a robot than to talk to a human” (p.203)

“Humans have to pretend that what the senior says is new. Robots are better at handling repetitive conversations. …When they don’t talk, their dementia increases.” (p.205)

“ERICA can tell the difference between a statement and a question. She can recognize emotions and uncertainty in tone of voice. She has a computer brain that maintains some sense of herself, the humans around her, and the social scenario in which she is operating. They are the building blocks of empathy.”  (p.211)

“The android has to infer what a person wants. …Are they getting what they want? Are they frustrated or excited? …And this is where we get into cognitive empathy. The reason people want androids like ERICA is to feel like it’s a real social interaction.” (p.212)

The Japanese have a word to describe how ERICA makes me feel: sonzai-kan. The English word that most closely approximates sonzai-kaiis ‘presence.’ Some have referred to sonzai-kanas possessing an aura. The Japanese word also means that the being or thing leaves a strong impression on us. …Some link the idea of sonzai-kanto the soul.” (p.215-16)

“Japanese society is much more at ease with androids than the West is.” (p.218)

“We can easily accept our robot or android body as our own body if they can talk like us. I want to give this android technology to people with disabilities—such as people who cannot move their body at all.” (p.221)

“In colloquial terms, the uncanny valleyrepresents the visceral ‘creep factor’ that humans have for various kinds of entities, including stuffed animals, people with prosthetic limbs, dead bodies, zombies, and of course, robots. …at a certain degree of lifelikeness, the creep factor begins to set in. However, as the degree of lifelikeness gets better still, the creeop factor starts to dissipate.” (p.223-24) 

“Sometimes she is taken to the factory. I feel different when she is not here.” (p.226)

“Humans are biologically programmed to seek companionship where it exists and to manufacture it where it doesn’t.” (p.227)

“What’s astonishing to Ikegami is the extent to which a human can develop a pet distance-type relationship to Wilson the volleyball or an intelligent machine.” (p.229)

“I felt as if the machine was real. I just wanted to know what the machine was thinking and feeling. That the machine didn’t look humanoid didn’t matter” (p.230)

“Ikegami does not believe that the key to making robots empathetic or capable of forming relationships with people lies in making them intelligent. He thinks the key is to make them seem alive by making them both autonomous and unpredictable.” (p.231-32)

From videos:

 “Because Kabo-chan talks to me, I began to realize I should not think of lonely things anymore. Now I’m only thinking of good things.”

“Using Paro can reduce by 30% psychotropic medication used for anxiety. Paro’s effect continued 2 hours longer than medication.”

 “When you grow old, you can’t speak very well so it’s nice to have a robot to speak with. The more I talk, I think it’s good for my brain too.”


[1]describes a computer program that modifies itself in response to the user, e.g. a spellchecker
[2]a logical sequence of steps for solving a problem, often written out as a flow chart, that can be translated into a computer program

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Sixth Session: Friday, March 29, 2019

Chapter 7: Homeless in Brazil

Questions for discussion prepared by Wei Djao.

1.  How is Tata, Shalla’s son, developing empathy?

2.  In the last chapter, the author says:  “Shalla Monteiro was born gifted in empathy” (p. 295). What is this gift? Are people born with or without it?

3.  The author writes further:  “But it took the bitterness of her parents’ troubled marriage to learn to live in the moment and to find moments of bliss and deep connection with others.”  Must we go through extended experiences of frustration, hardship or sadness to develop empathy?

4.  Poetry played a part in the initial contact between Shalla and Raimundo.  Do you think Shalla would act or change her interaction with Adriano or Raimundo if they were incoherent, illiterate with little or no education?

5.  Describe a meeting (encounter or incident) you have had with a homeless person, a pan handler or a beggar.  How did you feel about that person at that time?  Would you have changed your thinking, feelings or action after reading Goldman’s chapter on homelessness?  How?

The following are some quotes from Chapter 7.  Use them or not in  your discussion.  Bring up passages from the chapter that struck you as interesting or inspiring.

Page 162 Mostly we try to get the painful images of how these people live out of our minds as we pass by. 

Page 165 Adriano, I learn, is 28 years old and has lived on the street for the past 12 years, after leaving home due to some family difficulties that I can’t get him to reveal. He is very clear—almost defensive—that this is where he is supposed to be.

Page 164 “We must find a way to understand people’s lives whom we’ve judged. You don’t judge a person you just pass by and look at [because] you do not understand.” “It’s true,” Shalla says, nodding. She hangs on to his words, listening to and curating the twists and turns of his thoughts. Occasionally, she picks up on a thread and helps him draw out the meaning or clarify an idea.

Page 165  She explains that Adriano uses the word capacity to mean an ability to think, to act, to produce. Shalla wants me to understand that Adriano has a self-awareness of his own agency.

Page 166  “What have I observed about human beings? A capacity that everyone thinks and carries with them. But I have a capacity, yes, I have the capacity to have life, I can achieve everything in life. I have capacity, I am a human being equal to all. Simply this!” “This is beautiful, Adriano,” Shalla exclaims.

Page 172  The emotional connection was very important to their relationship.

Page 175  Still, compared to many with schizophrenia, Raimundo was easier to talk to, given his ability to communicate, both verbally and through his writing. Often people with hallucinations or delusions mistake the intentions of others, leading them to become fearful.

Page 175 As Dr. Gentil walked farther away from the supermarket, he noticed another person in distress just a metre or so away. This man was likely intoxicated and unconscious. He was also homeless. “The man was at risk of all sorts of medical problems, but there was nobody around. Nobody would call an ambulance for him.” The disparity was troubling to Dr. Gentil. He even wrote to Brazil’s medical board, the Conselho Federal de Medicina, and asked if there was an ethical obligation to offer help. He says the board replied that the problem is so widespread that he “cannot be personally responsible for it.”

Page 179 But what gave her the instinct to build that bridge and to cross it in the first place?

Page 179 “She has the ability to transform ideas into actions very effectively,” he adds, noting that there were a number of situations during the initial process of moving Raimundo off the street when Shalla “had to use all her diplomatic and political ability to get all those people who helped her to do their job.”

Page 181 “When I saw Raimundo for the first time, I couldn’t see anything other than [the fact that] he was enlightened,” she says. “He was meditating. It was something that I cannot explain, because it’s not rational. It’s like when I met my husband, Ignacio. We were in Mexico City, in a very huge square called the Z√≥calo.”

Page 184 She saw someone ignoring the pain and degradation of homelessness to strike a pose of enlightened meditation. She saw a soul who lived in the moment.

Page 184 “What I want to do is to encourage people to develop emotional connections to those who are homeless, to develop friendships,” says Shalla. “I think that is my path, you know?”

Page 185 “I think it can be inherited, though I don’t know if it’s necessarily genetic, but rather through the experience of living with someone,” she says, pushing her son on a set of swings. “The form in which the child perceives the other. Children absorb a lot from their environment.

Page 186 “It’s like this little park we are in,” Shalla explains, which has an enclosed fence and childproof gates. “In here, the children are free, but when you leave this area, the child can no longer be open. I hope Tata doesn’t have that sense.” At this phase of beginning to set limits, Shalla tries to give Tata the confidence to continue exploring, to improvise, to move naturally through the world. “My philosophy is to preserve the being,” she tells me. She says there is some discussion about whether Tata understands that Adriano is homeless, but mostly it doesn’t seem to matter. We sit in a sand pit while Tata plays with trucks, and I ask him again about his friendship with Adriano. “I play with him. I talk with him.” Tata runs his trucks through the sand, accompanied by sound effects. “How did you become friends?” I ask. “I gave him a kiss and we became friends,”


Thursday, February 21, 2019

CBC Interview with Dr. Brian Goldman

This may be of interest to you, a CBC interview with Dr. Brian Goldman from 5 years ago. Thank you George Oliver for sharing this.

Listen to Brian Goldman from Broadcasting Canada in Podcasts

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/broadcasting-canada/id698061670?mt=2&i=1000317957357

There is also an interesting podcast from NPR's Hidden Brain series on Compassion.

https://overcast.fm/+Ht3jcWFL8




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fourth Session: Friday, March 1, 2019

Please read Chapter Five, The Bar at Ground Zero for Friday's book club meeting.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Third Session: Friday, February 15, 2019

Please read Chapter Four, The Donut Shop for Friday's book club meeting.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Second Session: Friday, February 1, 2019

Chapter 3:  Psychopaths, Narcissists, and Machiavellians – The Dark Triad

Discussion Before the Break

1.  What are the common denominators shared by the psychopaths, narcissists and Machiavellians? (p. 38)

2.  What are the behavioral traits and activities in the brain that characterize the psychopaths? (pp. 42-46)

3. Goldman presents many different categories of people lacking in empathy:
            criminal psychopaths                          successful psychopaths
            grandiose narcissists                          vulnerable narcissists
            Machiavellians                                    narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)
Discuss the similarities and differences among them.  (pp. 42 – 48).  But don’t spend too much time on this question. 

4. There is a brief discussion of the callous and kind people in one study cited by Goldman.
How would you distinguish between these two categories of people, based on the book or your own experiences? (p. 45)

5. How can the empathy trait be used for either good or bad purpose? (p. 56)

6.  What are the characteristics of a Machiavellian according to Goldman? (pp. 59 – 60)

7. Goldman gives only one reason for the rise of narcissism and psychopathy.  Can you think of other reasons?  


Discussion After the Break

1.  Goldman raises the nature vs. nurture issue in this chapter. Discuss whether the psychopaths, narcissists and Machiavellians are born this way or they become the Dark Triad after birth.

2.  Goldman went through a range of emotions (surprise, embarrassment, shame and grudging acceptance) in reaction to his scores on the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised questionnaire.  Why?  Would you have experienced the same reaction if you scored like him? Explain.

 "Epigenetics:  Why Inheritance Is Weirder Than We Thought.