Yishay Mor  
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Do avatars deam of human rights?
[games, learning, philosophy, technology]

The Milgram experiment always sends a shiver down my spine. I say it should be a part of any national curriculum. A reminder of what we're all capable of. Luckily, you can't do that kind of thing any more. Well, at least not to humans.

A new study replicated the Milgram experiment with Avatars. The results are.. creepy. Sorry, I can't find any better word. Just look at the videos. (I shouldn't say that, you should read the paper). What gives me the creeps is not the fact that people relate to Avatars in much the same way they react to humans, although I'll get back to that soon. It's just watching a human administer the electric shock, even if he's sending it to an avatar. The Horror. The Horror.

This sheds a new light on the potential of interactive narrative environments (such as 'Façade') for learning. If we react to avatars as if they were humans, then their influence on us - for good and for bad - could be similar. We would pay attention more to an avatar we trust and respect, be offended by their insults, and reflect on moral dilemmas they present us.

But this also puts ideas such as human rights for robots in a new perspective. No, I haven't gone bonkers. I'm not anthropomorphizing Aibo and Sonic the hedgehog. Its us humans I'm worried about. Our experiences have a conditioning effect. If you get used to being cruel to avatars, and, at some subliminal level, you do not differentiate emotionally between avatars and humans, do you risk loosing your sensitivity to human suffering?



(hat tip to Rough Type)

posted by Yishay Mor on Thursday 4th, January 2007 (12:57) - comments (3) - permanent link


posted by Yishay Mor on Monday 8th, January 2007 (10:16)

<a href="http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/009246.php">Régine Debatty</a> also reports on this.

posted by Yishay Mor on Tuesday 9th, January 2007 (01:49)

And Clive Thompson, from http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2007/01/in_the_vc_condi.html is always worth reading

posted by Nicolas Balacheff on Friday 12th, January 2007 (13:09)

We have a very poor imagination, and hence the first thing we do when we imagine that there is a willing behind a phenomena is to antropomorphize. It was the case of the nature (Isis) a long time ago, the computer more recently. This is surely more likely to happen with robots and avatars. The only solution is education! The more we know and understand, the more we are able to locate ourselves on the planet and in life. The more we can develop an ethic and wisdom respectful of our environment whatever it is: humanistic, biospheric or noospheric.

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