Trope-a-Day: Machine Empathy

Machine Empathy: It looks this way – actually, it mostly is this way, thanks to those population demographics that made it necessary, due to lack of a large disposable workforce, for the Empire to adopt automation as early and as often as possible, and therefore ensured that lots of people not only had plenty of experience using machines, but also in customizing machines, fixing machines, and adapting machines to do things that the original builders didn’t think of.  Make those cultural universals for a few millennia, and you’ll have lots of machine empathy going on.

But anyway, in the modern era, a lot of what looks like this would be more properly described as Technopathy, even if the underlying machine empathy is still there.

Empathy Remains Scarce

Interesting comment in this post by Cat Valente over at

On top of that, it’s damnably hard to fashion a sympathetic protagonist out of someone who has never struggled in the way we struggle in our own lives, to present someone who does not come off as a monster of privilege. My hat is off to those who can manage it, to me it seems a miraculous mid-air twist without a net.

Well, in my universe, at least, the answer is simple – they’re not all that sympathetic.  The modal Imperial citizen-shareholder has never experienced any significant amount of war, crime, disease, death, pain, poverty, suffering, injustice, fear, loss, callousness or even inconvenience.  The same is true to a lesser extent – the Empire being the most flagrantly proto-post-scarcity of the set – of citizens of most of the advanced societies of the Associated Worlds.

Their capacity for empathy with those still afflicted with such things, therefore, is highly circumscribed by a lack of imagination, or at the very least a lack of any particular desire to imagine.  That, and that the solutions are always perfectly clear in hindsight, and it does not take much to translate that lack of imagination as to how unclear they may have been in foresight into a stammered “All you of Earth are idiots!”  (There are people who endeavor to point this out to the people who want to make the world better, but it’s not easy.)

So, yes, by and large the average citizen of the advanced future is an accidental total dick when interacting with more trouble-beset folks, even if they are right about How You’re Doing It Wrong.  That’s just sophont nature.

Which is why I’m keeping away from writing this sort of situation.