Humanoids and the erosion of aura

Humans have an ineffable quality which can never be replicated in a robot

February 16, 2020 12:19 am | Updated 12:19 am IST

Futuristic cyborg head. This is entirely 3D generated image.

Futuristic cyborg head. This is entirely 3D generated image.

Recently, while reading a magazine, my eyes got stuck on an intimate picture of a woman with a humanoid robot. There was also a brief account of the benefits of having a machine robot as your life partner. It is all about artificial emotional intelligence or Emotion AI, a subset of artificial intelligence, that understands, measures, simulates and reacts to human emotions.

The romantic relationship with a machine takes away the delicate nature of human emotions and leaves you comprehending a simpler version of life within the human ken. Those times are not so far when youngsters opt for tying the knot with a machine!

Technological shift

As a profound technological shift is under way, it is time to think of what comes through the void created by the loss of the “aura” during the production of a humanoid that mimics humans.

The Oxford Dictionary defines aura as a feeling or a particular quality that is very easy to notice and seems to surround a person or a place. As Walter Benjamin puts it, the “aura” differentiates between an original work of art and its reproduction akin to a painting and a photograph. It is like a magical or supernatural force arising from the uniqueness. The aura, according to him, is visceral, a kind of embodied sensation or a spirit that brings soul, eye and hand together to intensify the impression of a painting, which cannot ever be duplicated. His idea of the aura and its relation to authenticity is the reason an original work of art is valued in millions, but not its reproduction.

Another fascinating take on the aura is to believe that unique objects such as human beings have an ineffable quality — that is, being one of a kind. This starts waning and the loss becomes more pronounced while investing an object with human qualities and emotions. Emotions are sophisticated and subtle, the epitome of what makes us human. We tend to think of our emotions and intelligence as two separate entities. But putting them together as emotional intelligence is essentially a different way to be smart and successful.

Human beings are the most brilliant work of art, eternally challenged by creativity. Can it ever be surpassed by a humanoid? Mario Klingemann, a German artist who uses AI in his work, says: “Humans are original, we only reinvent and make connections between things we have seen. While humans can only build on what we have learnt and what others have done for us, machines can create from scratch.”

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