Reading Response #8
From Chapter 8 of Artful Design, I would like to respond to Principle 8.13, which states: THE HUMANIST ENGINEER. Before coming to Stanford, to CCRMA, I spent whole four years in my undergraduate learning how to be a good, yet pure engineer. I strived to achieve better performance and higher efficiency on systems I built, but never quite thought about the potential values behind all these machines. That is to say, instead of designing them, I was just implementing the programs. At the same time, I yearned for ends-in-themselves experiences through art exhibitions, animations, movies, and all these mediums that I myself is not good at playing with. I have always been searching for a balanced combination, and it is after reading through the whole book that I come to realize there is indeed a field in between, humanist engineer, which lies in the intersection of my means-to-ends technique and end-in-themselves pursuit.
The discussion about Asimov's Laws of Robotics starting on page 420 reminds me of a Japanese animation that I have recently finished called Sagrada Reset. Actually, the story begins with the question that who is the robot in the group. Haruki, the girl with the reset ability, confesses that she asks herself to obey three rules: Deny actions that have huge impacts on the surroundings; Listen to others' suggestions as long as they do not conflict with the first rule; If anyone cries, reset. Her rules very much resemble Asimov's, but Asai, the main character, identifies her as a human because of differences in the third rule.
Apart from the robot theory, the animation also features several other philosophical questions that are both surreal and relevant to the reality. For instance, the main debate between Asai and the administrators is given that every human is born with super power, is it better to limit super power to be only in their town or let everyone just forget the fact that they have super power. (It is really interesting that they both assume it does not work if people all around the world can use super power freely.) While Asai claims that super power is a part of human being and people should use their power as naturally as mother patting her child, the administrators believe that the world will be in a mess if any single person's power grow out of control. This debate exists in real life as well. It is conceivable that the technology we have today sounds like super power hundreds of years ago. No one knows where the rapid development of technology will lead us, but I do like Haruki's take that she appreciates her power because it stops someone from crying. I think this kind of questions with no right answers and small beautiful thoughts (Principle 8.23) are what humanist engineers should embed in their design.