Notes to Generation R

Notes to Generation R is a photographic series in response to a book, the Next Human, by a Korean analytic psychologist, Dr. Na Mi Lee. See below for the artist statement.

 

notes to generation R 1

Notes to Generation R, 2014

inkjet print on luster

 

notes to generation R 2

Notes to Generation R, 2014

inkjet print on luster

 

notes to generation R 5

Notes to Generation R, 2014

inkjet print on luster

 

notes to generation R 7

Notes to Generation R, 2014

inkjet print on luster

 

notes to generation R 10

Notes to Generation R, 2014

inkjet print on luster

 

A Korean analytic psychologist, Dr. Na Mi Lee, writes in her recent book the Next Human that in a near future, humans will be raised by robots, fall in love with robots, and rely on robots in every aspect of their lives. Dr. Lee names this generation R, and notes emotional maturity will be crucial for this future generation.

When ducklings are raised by a cat, they forget they are ducklings. But a cat cannot teach them how to swim or quack.

What sets apart humans from robots is defecation. Though robots need energy as humans eat food, they do not feel the need to wash themselves or use the bathroom. The idea around bathrooms in the future will change according to human relationship with robots. If humans are superior to robots, then bathrooms will become sacred, temples to worship the human-ness. If humans become inferior, then bathrooms will be like a scarlet letter of barbaric human beings.

In Korean language, there is a word for ‘mind’ but it encompasses larger circle of meaning: ‘maum.’ It means human’s ability to think, plus their emotional and spiritual value. Psychology will be another similar term but still not equivalent. ‘Maum’ is what makes humans more than a physical being. We think, laugh, desire, get exhausted, feel lazy, like, or dislike. We seek hobbies. We have something to value: ethics, law, family, money, love, dream, and vocation. We feel under the weather, sink deep in our thoughts, and doodle. There is something untouchable yet present besides our physical body.

On the other hand, robots, even their ‘mind’ is based on the mechanical structure. They may have programmed list of things to value, laws to follow, or ways to process, but they do not have the spontaneity that makes each human individual.

Since humans are far from perfect beings, there is no way they can create a perfect robot to teach humans how to be human. The generation R may grow up as just a physical being only able to process what’s given. Of course, they will still have ‘maum.’ They will feel the unexplainable gush of hotness rising from deep inside. But how will they react to it? Keeping oneself calm and suppressing emotion is already desired in today’s society. Wouldn’t the future humans grow up to deny their human-ness, eagerly working to be more like the robots raising them?

Notes to Generation R is my reaching out to the future generation. It is a reminder that they are not just robots with flesh. They are not chunks of meat that shamefully need to use the bathroom. As a human unable to survive without technology, I cannot stop the path the world is taking. The least I can do is to constantly remind people of their being humans, warn them, and perhaps mindfully celebrate our human-ness.