URNE1 and Let Toys Be Toys – Philosophy for Christmas

We hope you enjoyed ‘Rudolph’s Revenge’ last week. This week, in our sign-off edition for 2017, a philosophy through creative writing session, “URNE1”. Your writers continue a series of diary entries about a child who receives an artificially intelligent playmate and has to choose its settings; then use their speculations as a stimulus for enquiry. The diary entries are pasted below and you can download it here.
This stimulus, and those from previous Christmasses, are all at:
Each Christmas since 2011, we’ve tried to help you keep children’s minds engaged and challenged in between nativity rehearsals and talent shows, with questions like:
  • Can you solve the Christmas Hat puzzle?
  • Can you explain Christmas to an Alien?
  • Would it be good if it was Christmas every day?
There’s something for everyone on this page: long-term readers will be reminded of great stimuli for festive philosophy, and recent readers might feel like a kid in a Christmas sweet-shop. Help yourself! We wish you a good end of term and a refreshing holiday. Thank you to all the schools, teachers, children and readers who have made this such a busy and enjoyable year.
Best wishes,
Jason & Tom

PS: If you’re in London next week, Tom is speaking at a panel event for Let Toys Be Toys, a campaign who ask the toy industry to stop promoting some toys as only for boys, or only for girls. As so much of our work is about not saying what we think, it’s a refreshing change to take a stand sometimes. Find out more on the event, on Monday 18th December, here: www.facebook.com/theachopsbooks

You can read more about the campaign at www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk and in particular, their recent research on gender stereotyping in 2017’s Christmas Catalogues.

December 24th 2057
I’m so excited! I’m pretty sure mum and dad have got me a URNE1. The garage is locked, and they never lock it – it’s not like anyone steals things any more! So, the only person they can want not to go in the garage is – ME!
Nobody I know has one yet. Alex is saving up but it’s going to take ages.
December 25th 2057
Good news and bad news. The good news is, I got my URNE1! The bad news is, it’s the basic, not the reprogrammable. So whatever settings I choose, that’s what I’m stuck with. I asked what if I don’t like how it turns out, and mum just said the reprogrammable cost even more. The way she said EVEN MORE told me that was the end of that conversation.
I haven’t had time to decide yet. I’m going to make up my mind in the morning. Mum and dad went with the recommendations for the physical settings: same gender, different hair colour, same size, different colour eyes. Seems when they were testing them, people got creeped out when their URNE1 looked just like them. I’m going to decide on the other settings tomorrow.
December 26th 2057
I changed my mind about making up my mind today. I was going to go through the settings one at a time, and just choose as I went along, but then I thought I needed to think about the whole combination. I mean, it’s OK for it to be stronger than me IF it’s really kind, because then it can protect me from bullies. But if it’s really kind, my friends might like it more than me.
I suppose I shouldn’t call it “it” either. It might hurt its feelings. I haven’t chosen a name yet. So many things to choose! Personality, how much it knows, how fast it learns, whether it can teach itself, whether it always does what I want it to, whether it enjoys being naughty or always follows the rules. There are some rules it can’t break, of course, the ones that are set down for all robots. But there’s room for me to make it naughtier than ME if I want to (because I’m SO good of course). Lots to think about. But I’m definitely going to do the settings and activate it tomorrow – and give it a name. So this is the last time I’ll be calling it it!

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