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What Catullus teaches us about our relationship with robots

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What Catullus teaches us about our relationship with robots

Thanks to my children he rediscovered Greek and Latin. Not so much the versions as the literature. AND’ an instructive review. For example, re-reading Catullus – whom I have always loved – I noticed how certain poems adopt the same mechanisms as our posts on Facebook and Instagram, when we want to send a message to the loved one who has left us. Like: I’m telling the world how much I suffer just so that you know it too and understand that no one will ever love you like that.

On this journey through time, a Greek philosopher happened to me, Senofane, who said that if animals could draw, horses would depict god as a horse and oxen as an ox. This attitude explains why we have always continued to make human-like robots: yes, I know, there are very different shapes, but the vast majority are anthropomorphic. From the first, the famous electric, which debuted on April 30, 1939 at the New York fair entitled “the world of tomorrow”. Elektro had been built within two years of Westinghouse and it was a colossus: more than two meters tall, weighed over a hundred kilos. He knew 700 words but did not know how to combine them, he spoke in clichés. On the other hand, he could perform twenty-six different actions, among which the ability to inflate a balloon until it burst (which will make Elektro an attraction in country fairs for about a decade). But the thing Elektro went down in history for is the fact that he knew how to light a cigarette and pretend to smoke.

A (less) social life

by Riccardo Luna



Pretend, yes. Because robots don’t have lungs, they don’t really breathe. But we like to believe otherwise. This is why we make them anthropomorphic. Because in this way they immediately become more familiar. But the end result is the opposite. It is the alarm, the fear: they want to take our place! They steal our jobs! How many times has it been said? Robots, on the other hand, do not steal our jobs, it is now scientifically proven; but they do tiring, dangerous and tiring jobs that we rightly don’t want to do. If a nuclear power plant blows, who is better to send on reconnaissance? A human or a robot? And when Notre Dame burns in Paris, who goes to put out the fire on the front line? A robot. After all the countries that have invested the most in technology and automation are those where employment has grown the most, but it has transformed. We are not talking about new jobs, but about new, different jobs. That weren’t there before. It is a skill problem, of course: having the necessary skills to do these new jobs. Not of lack of employment.

Erica, the most beautiful robot in the world, is out of a job



In short, robots do not steal our jobs for a trivial and fundamental reason: they are not like us. They are not able to contemplate the unpredictable, the emotion, the feelings that are instead the fundamental part of being human. They are not like us even if we continue to make them in our likeness image. And so on the one hand we are fascinated by them, and on the other we hate them. We love them and hate them at the same time. It’s possible? Of course it is possible. Catullus said it in one of his most famous poems: “I love you and I hate you, how can it happen, you ask me, I don’t know, but I feel it happening and I am pining for it”.

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