Technological nature - And the problem when good enough becomes good

Peter H. Kahn, Rachel L. Severson, Jolina H. Ruckert

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

In recent years the sophistication and pervasiveness of our technologies have begun to change our species long-standing experiences with nature. Now we have technological nature - technologies that in various ways mediate, augment, or simulate the natural world. Entire television networks, such as Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, provide us with mediated digital experiences of nature: the lions hunt, the Monarchs migration, and climbing high into the Himalayan peaks. Video games like Zoo Tycoon engage children with animal life. Zoos themselves are bringing technologies such as webcams into their exhibits so that we can, for example, watch the animals in their captive habitat from the leisure of our home or a cafe. Inexpensive robotic pets - such as the i-Cybie, Tekno, and Poo-Chi - have been big sellers in the Wal-Marts and Targets of the world. Sonys higher-end robotic dog AIBO sold well and portend the future. A few years ago, you could Telehunt in Texas. You would go online from your computer in New York City or Miami or anywhere on this planet and control a mounted rifle through a web interface and hunt and kill a live animal. The animal would then be gutted and skinned, by the owner of the establishment, and the meat shipped to your doorstep. Texas outlawed Telehunting, but Teleshooting still exists, using targets instead of animals. In terms of the future wellbeing of our species, does it matter that we are replacing actual nature with technological nature? In this chapter, we address this question in three ways. In Section 2.2, we provide an overview of our laboratorys research that investigates the psychological effects of children and adults interacting with three instantiations of technological nature: (a) a technological view (a real-time digital plasma window display of nature), (b) a technological dog (Sonys robotic dog, AIBO), and (c) a technological human (ATRs Robovie). In Section 2.3, we draw on Bubers account of an I-You relationship to assess whether interaction with technological nature can be considered as authentic interaction. Finally, in Section 2.4, we discuss a peril of technological nature - that it will garner some but not all of the effects of actual nature, come to substitute for actual nature in human lives, and thereby shift the baseline across generations for what counts as a full measure of human experience and human wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Visions of Nature
Subtitle of host publicationComplexity and Authenticity
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Pages21-40
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9789048126101
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

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