How Robots Can Help Us Embrace a More Human View of Disability
Thusha Rajendran , 9 May 17
       

Shutterstock

When dealing with the otherness of disability, the Victorians in their shame built huge out-of-sight asylums, and their legacy of “them” and “us” continues to this day. Two hundred years later, technologies offer us an alternative view. The digital age is shattering barriers, and what used to the norm is now being challenged.

What if we could change the environment, rather than the person? What if a virtual assistant could help a visually impaired person with their online shopping? And what if a robot “buddy” could help a person with autism navigate the nuances of workplace politics? These are just some of the questions that are being asked and which need answers as the digital age challenges our perceptions of normality.

The treatment of people with developmental conditions has a chequered history. In towns and cities across Britain, you will still see large Victorian buildings that were once places to “look after” people with disabilities, that is, remove them from society. Things became worse still during the time of the Nazis with an idealisation of the perfect and rejection of Darwin’s idea of natural diversity.

Today we face similar challenges about differences versus abnormalities. Arguably, current diagnostic systems do not help, because they diagnose the person and not “the system”. So, a child has challenging behaviour, rather than being in distress; the person with autism has a communication disorder rather than simply not being understood.

Natural-born cyborgs

In contrast, the digital world is all about systems. The field of human-computer interaction is about how things work between humans and computers or robots. Philosopher Andy Clark argues that humans have always been natural-born cyborgs – that is, we have always used technology (in its broadest sense) to improve ourselves.

The most obvious example is language itself. In the digital age we can become truly digitally enhanced. How many of us Google something rather than remembering it? How do you feel when you have no access to wi-fi? How much do we favour texting, tweeting and Facebook over face-to-face conversations? How much do we love and need our smartphones?

Sign in to view full article

       
Is Violent Political Protest Ever Justified?
The mass protests against Donald Trump’s election, inauguration, and executive actions might subside – but based on the scale and ...
Christopher J. Finlay
Thu, 30 Mar 17
The Stress of Sitting in Traffic Can Lead to More Crime
Society pays a heavy price for traffic. It leads to lost time, more pollution and increased spending on gasoline.
Louis-Philippe Beland, Daniel Brent
Mon, 13 Feb 17
What If Several of the World’s Biggest Food Crops Failed at the Same Time?
Less than one-quarter of Earth’s total cropland produces nearly three-quarters of the staple crops that feed the world’s population – ...
Anthony Janetos
Thu, 8 Jun 17
Organ Transplants and Scarcity, Innovation, and Politics
We all want to live a long time. And in vigorous good health while doing so.
David T. Jones
Mon, 20 Feb 17
My Smartphone, Myself: Digital Separation Anxiety in The Postmodern World
Has this ever happened to you: you accidentally leave your cell phone at home, and it feels like your soul ...
Abraham Martínez González
Wed, 18 Jan 17
An Epoch Times Survey
Advertise with Us
An Epoch Times Survey
Sports Elements
Read about Forced Organ Harvesting
BUCHERER