A Digital Transition That Humanizes (updated)

In Domestic Abuse, Digital Photos Can Say More Than Victims

Now, as soon as a photo is uploaded, prosecutors can immediately assess the gravity of the wounds and decide how aggressively to pursue a case. The digitally transmitted pictures are now also available for a defendant’s first appearance in court, which experts say is a crucial time in domestic violence cases.

“One of the most serious decisions a judge can take is to set bail instead of sending the person home, where the battery continues,” said Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney.

In Queens, Scott E. Kessler, who heads the district attorney’s domestic violence bureau, has found that when the police take photographs, bail is set in nearly a third of the cases. But without a photo, he said, the figure falls to 14 percent, with the rest of the defendants being released on their own recognizance.

The reason, he says, is the extreme visceral reaction the photos elicit.

“When you’re in a front of a judge, you describe the injuries written in the complaint, the bruising, the swelling, the blood,” Mr. Kessler said. “But until a person sees another human being with those injuries, with the swelling, the blood, the bruising, it’s hard to get that point across.”

Later: And then there’s anthropomorphising a machine: what does this mean? Bots on The Groundpdf

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become an unprecedented field study in human relationships with intelligent machines. These conflicts are the first in history to see widespread deployment of thousands of battle bots. Flying bots range in size from Learjets to eagles. Some ground bots are like small tanks. Others are the size of two-pound dumbbells, designed to be thrown through a window to scope out the inside of a room. Bots search caves for bad guys, clear roads of improvised explosive devices, scoot under cars to look for bombs, spy on the enemy and, sometimes, kill humans.

Even more startling than these machines’ capabilities, however, are the effects they have on their friendly keepers who, for example, award their bots “battlefield promotions” and “purple hearts.” “Ours was called Sgt. Talon,” says Sgt. Michael Maxson of the 737th Ordnance Company (EOD). “We always wanted him as our main robot. Every time he was working, nothing bad ever happened. He always got the job done. He took a couple of detonations in front of his face and didn’t stop working. One time, he actually did break down in a mission, and we sent another robot in and it got blown to pieces. It’s like he shut down because he knew something bad would happen.” The troops promoted the robot to staff sergeant — a high honor, since that usually means a squad leader. They also awarded it three “purple hearts.”

Humans have long displayed an uncanny ability to make emotional connections with their manufactured helpmates. Car owners for generations have named their vehicles. In “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks risks his life to save a volleyball named Wilson, who has become his best friend and confidant. Now that our creations display elements of intelligence, however, the bonds humans forge with their machines are even more impressive. Especially when humans credit their bots with saving their lives.

[…] What the battle bots are teaching us is how easily we identify our own creations as animate.

[…] It’s not about how the machine works. It’s about how humans are wired.

Hmmm – or maybe it’s how clever we are at programming machines to take advantage of how humans are wired — or worse, that we’ve already embedded an expectation of this manipulation into our specification of user interfaces, and thus program to them without thinking….