It is my conviction that if robots ever get freedom and spring to life, they will make the most rational beings ever. They'll have common-sense, be levelheaded and objective. They’ll be more rational entities than you or me. In fact, if anyone or thing is truly genuine and individualistic, it will be these artificial intelligence robots. Offer me a therapist or a robot and I’d take the robot anytime. Hands down.
In 2014, noted clinical psychologisttDr. Robert Firestone, authored a book called The Self-Under Siege: A Therapeutic Model for Differentiation. He argues that a person’s group, society, or environmental influence affects how people live their lives and influences their destinies. Some groups carry positive influences, while others cause irreversible harm through their toxic teachings.
"In order for us to live our own lives and fulfill our own destinies," Dr. Firestone insists, “we must differentiate ourselves from destructive societal influences. Differentiating from negative influences and identities from our past allows us to become who we truly are, rather than following a prescribed identity from our society. To the extent that we are able to develop and sustain our own unique identities and follow our own unique desires, we will be able to live truly fulfilling lives."
Identity economics supports the doctor’s theory of social or group influence. In their book, Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being, Nobel-prize winning economists George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton proposed that it is identity, rather than rational economics, that explains why people who face the same economic circumstances make different choices.
Our conceptions of who we are and who we want to be are shaped by our groups. In turn, these conceptions shape our economic lives more than other factors. Such as driving how hard we work, and how we learn, spend, and save. A person buys the kind of food he does, dresses the way she does, buys the sort of books, movies, or DVDs that he does. Chooses his job or career and so forth, based on the likes and dislikes of the group he lives in. That’s all the more so if his group is insular and if the group conditioning is strong. The group could be ethnic, racist, nationalistic, religious, economical, cultural, gender-oriented or political. It could be Old World Amish, Seventh Day Adventist, MAGA, LGBT, Latino-American, anything you can imagine.
To that end, Dr. Firestone prescribes four steps of psychological differentiation that make us more aware of how we have been influenced by destructive societal influences. The steps include: breaking with our destructive ideas, recognizing and changing negative personality traits that come from our groups, looking into the psychological defenses we developed as an adaptation to those ideas, and developing our own values, ideals, and beliefs.
It seems to me the good doctor errs in at least two respects.
First, few individuals are able to step outside their groups and assess them objectively. I think it’s against our human natures to do so. We all live within certain perimeters like egg-boxes. Our minds are conditioned by those egg-boxes. It’s only in Plato’s 'Allegory Of The Cave' that a prisoner could break his bonds, flee the cave, wonder the world, and see an outside existence. You and I are fettered by our conditionings and can never assume the powers of mythical angels to assess our societies as from above.
Cognitive psychologists call these limitations inhabiting an embedded and embodied existence. It’s embedded, because we hunker in these groups and are socialized by them. It’s embodied, because the experience of these groups invariably shapes our brains as we mature and therefore, affect the ways we decide and behave. “You can take the monkey out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the monkey,” says an awful ethnic slur that can readily be applied to any group. Only robots, that are created and function outside of groups, can cogitate fairly, objectively, and rationally. Your safest choice for a therapist, consultant, or adviser, I say again, is a robot.
Second, Dr. Firestone lets certain groups off the hook. It's only some groups, he says, that impart toxic influences. Frankly, I question the good doctor’s assumptions, since how can we differenciate good from bad?
We grow up in the group and are influenced to readily accept all of what our group tell us (until and unless we’re threatened by those ideas). That’s why we follow certain social media sites and news outlets rather than others. For instance, liberals tend to follow “the failing CNN” or “fake NY Times” rather than Breitbart or Fox that would only criticize their opinions. These cognitive biases, like cultural bias which pulls me to confirm what my group says, comes from my powerful but limited brain that distorts the way I perceive the world.
And sorry, Dr. Firestone, but little can be done to correct that. Not only are we profoundly irrational people, but it can be impossible for us to seperate destructive from constructive group ideas. And impossible to ever really achieve absolute individuality. In fact, the only way we can differentiate ourselves from our groups is if we become robots. Therefore, robots make your clearest-thinking entities. Give a robot life and I vote it as the next US president. It will "Make America Great Again". Of course, robots are programmed by scientists and may therefore carry all the social junk of those scientists. But that’s another argument.