Non-fictional text (2)
Analyze the way the author maintains the reader’s interest in the experiment and its consequences. Give evidence from the text.
The excerpt provided does not immediately start with the text itself, but with the image of a face, which is obviously not that of a human, but of a robot. It shows a round head with big eyes, raised eyebrows and a mouth, which indicates a smile. All in all, this facial expression mimics human features, it looks cute, and the observer may want to touch it and stroke it. You simply feel attracted to that face. Next to it, there is the question, “Could you say ‘no’ to this face?” This image itself, used as a starter for the text, evokes curiosity in the reader. One wants to find out how this picture of a robot’s face is related to humans. In the course of the text, the reader finds out that machines are given human attributes; they can talk and appear socially skilled by directing seemingly logical and polite remarks at you (ll. 18ff). They may be given a face which reminds you of human characteristics. Additionally, the author has chosen the example of a robot that looks like a cat, which plays on the closeness between humans and their beloved pets, which they do not want to kill or lose. They appeal to you not to switch them off, appealing to you morally (l. 27). They address you as if they were social beings and not just machines created by scientists. By showing the robots with human-like features, the author easily reaches the reader emotionally. Humans and machines are thus linked by an emotional bond, which actually should only exist in the humans’ world. When we read about research subjects hesitating to switch the machines off, we clearly understand that there are people who “mix” artificial intelligence and human behavior. They even start conversations with the robots, as if the machines could think and react logically. This is why, from this point on, the reader critically goes on reading, trying to make up his mind about the sense or nonsense of such close relations, and trying to figure out his personal point of view. Beside the descriptions of the experiments and the people’s reactions, the author uses a certain choice of words to catch the reader’s interest. These words, like ‘killed’ (l. 35), ’memories’ (l. 24), and ‘personality’ (l.25), are usually used in reference to human beings, but not to machines which may be damaged or switched off, or have data carriers built in to save information. They do not possess a brain or a heart, they do not have a soul or emotions; they just exist and are functional because they have been built by people. Additionally, the author, in mentioning and quoting Professor Clifford Nass’ work (cf. ll.4-9), creates a scientific, and thus reliable, background for his article, which describes another study based on the Milgram Study in the early 1960s. All in all, Alix Spiegel successfully manages to raise the readers’ awareness of the implications of changing human-machine relations.
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