Sunday, May 29, 2011

What I'm Reading: Tell Me a Story by Roger Schank

To say that May was a busy month is an understatement.

After a successful run of Shining City at Off the Wall Theater--which critics called "provocative, well-acted and the "perfect cast" by the way...) I’m ready to do a little relaxing and actually read something that I'm not trying to memorize as part of a performance.  
The Inner History of DevicesI just finished reading Sherry Turkle’s collection of essays The Inner History of Devices.  This book is part memoir, part clinical textbook about how we related to objects and technology—how it literally changes our lives or affects us, in some ways we don’t even notice.  It looks at the obvious like addictions to online fantasy games or chat rooms, but also looks at people who are living with internal cardiac defibrillators or prosthetic eyes or being hooked up to a dialysis machine.  Written before the rise of Facebook, its startling to think about how we relate to the cyber world and technology, in general.

Why am I reading this book?  For robot research, of course.  As prosthetics get better and better, how will we related to our artificial limbs or tehnologically advanced companions?  Like our robot nanny?

For instance, imagine if Facebook wasn't just a two dimensional interface on a screen, but an actual robot and you could ask it, "So what are my friends up to today?" and it could tell you instead of you having to read it.  How would you start to relate to that robot?  Even if it didn't have a personality?

Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence (Rethinking Theory)Now I’m reading Robert Schanks’ Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence.  (Yes, another book about artificial intelligence for my robot research.)  In a nutshell, this book basically says “Humans are intelligent, as opposed to computers or animals, because we relate and store information in the forms of stories.   Our stories are linked to our memories and its how we communicate and relate to each other.  Stories are who we are.  It’s the best argument for art and culture I’ve ever heard.  Why else do we go to the theatre and movies and read books?  It’s not just a form of entertainment.

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