Vision Statement

Computational objects are "evocative objects." They raise new questions and provoke new discourse about the nature of mind, about what it means to be alive, about what is special about being a person, about free will and intentionality. Computation brings philosophy into everyday life. Objects as simple as computer toys and games raise such questions as "What is intelligence? What does it mean to be alive? Or to die? What is the nature of the self? What is special about being a person?" In the next ten to twenty years, research that will marry biology, information science, cognitive science, and nanoscience is going to produce increasingly sophisticated relational, sociable artifacts that will have the potential to profoundly influence how people think about learning, human development, intelligence, and relationships.

• As research on relational and sociable technology progresses, there will be parallel investigations of how these objects affect the people who use them, how they influence psychological development, human relationships, and additionally, on the way they enter into people's thinking about themselves, including about such questions as the nature of intention, the self, and the soul.

• The development of sociable technologies will require a renaissance in the sciences that study human development and personality. There will be an increasing virtuous cycle of research to understand human personality and to create person-enhancing machines. Indeed, the notion of personable machines will come to mean person-enhancing machines.

• In the past, it has been argued that technology dehumanized life, but as we become committed to person-enhancing objects, this argument will need to be revisited. Making technology personable will entail learning about ourselves. In order to make technology enhance humans, we will humanize technology.

• Historically, when technology has been designed without human fulfillment in mind, but purely in terms of the instrumental capabilities of the machine, there has been a great deal of resistance to technology. This resistance needs to be taken seriously, because it points to the ways in which people associated technology with human loss. The development of sociable technology will require that there be a flourishing of research that takes resistance to technology as a symptom of something important that needs to be studied rather than a problem that needs to be overcome. An understanding of human psychology is essential for the development of sociable technologies. This latter will proceed with vigilance and with the participation of humanists and scientists.

Sociable technology will enhance human emotional as well as cognitive performance, not only giving us more satisfactory relationships with our machines but also potentially vitalizing our relationships with each other, because in order to build better sociable objects we will have learned more about what makes us social with each other.

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