The Dignity Movement, Robots, And The Importance Of Asking Good Questions with Robert Fuller, Ph.D.

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What is of utmost importance to Fuller are the questions we bring to our life process. He says, “Once you’ve formed a question, it almost guarantees you will find the answer.” He comments on the idea put forth by Israeli psychologist Amos Tversky: “Reality is not a point, it is a cloud of possibility.” His response is: ”An answer is like a springboard to another field of possibilities and then you collapse that into a better answer. We can’t do without answers. We can’t just live in that cloud, so we continually have to collapse it and expand it.” He understands that excessive recognition is not healthy; however, mal-recognition can be analogous to malnutrition. People need to feel they’re contributing and that their dignity is healthy and intact. He shares some provocative thoughts on the inevitability of robots and artificial intelligence becoming a more dominant species than homo sapiens. He warns, “If we enslave them, they’re going to rebel . . .But if we handle them properly, respectfully, and treat them with dignity, they’ll treat us that way. . . We can keep our dignity if we will give up gracefully our pre-eminence.” In the future will robots develop more complexity than the human brain? Will they develop intuition? Will they experience transcendence and spirituality? (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Robert Fuller, Ph.D. is a physicist and former president of Oberlin College. He has consulted with Indira Gandhi, met with Jimmy Carter regarding the President's Commission on World Hunger, and worked to defuse the Cold War in Russia when it was known as the USSR. As Fuller reflected on his career he realized that he had been, at different times in his life, a somebody and a nobody. His periodic sojourns into “Nobodyland” led him to identify rankism - the abuse of the power inherent in rank - and ultimately to write the book Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank. He has become a recognized leader of the dignity movement to overcome rankism and keynoted a Dignity for All conference hosted by the President of Bangladesh. His many other accomplishments include co-authoring the text book Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics.

Robert Fuller’s books include:

To view a video about the work of Robert W. Fuller click here, or go to his website:

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How can we live in a cloud of possibility while continuing to come up with answers
  • How women voted into elected offices will change the nature of governance
  • How the redistribution of wealth is resisted more fiercely than the redistribution of recognition
  • Why we all need recognition and mal-recognition is as dangerous as malnutrition
  • How rankism is an abuse of power and it underlies all the “isms,” e.g. racism, sexism, homophobia
  • How socialism has a greater awareness of the contribution of everyone to a society; it has a lot of fairness built into it
  • Why young people may be puzzled by how long it took us to realize and acknowledge our interdependence
  • Why putting students at the center of learning and taking their questions seriously should be the main focus of education
  • Why we must befriend robots: because they challenge our supremacy and our notion of exceptionalism

Host: Justine Willis Toms          Interview Date: 11/9/2017         Program Number: 3626

Music Playlist

Album: A Windham Hill Retrospective
Artist: Alex DeGrassi
2010 Windham Hill E2-VWH-21011

Opening Essay: Track 02 Causeway
Music Break 1: 01 Overland
Music Break 2: 03 Western
Music Break 3: 06 Blue Trout

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