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Anthony was nineteen when I met him, a shy young man who found computers reassuring. He felt insecure in the world of people with its emotional risks and shades of gray. The activity and interactivity of computer programming gave Anthony-lonely, yet afraid of intimacy-the feeling that he was not alone.s In Love and Sex, Levy idealizes Anthony's accommodation and suggests that loving a robot would be a reasonable next step for people like him. I was sent an advance copy of the book, and Levy asked if I could get a copy to Anthony, thinking he would be flattered. I was less sure. I didn't remember Anthony as being at peace with his retreat to what he called "the machine world:" I remembered him as wistful, feeling himself a spectator of the human world, like a kid with his nose to the window of a candy store. When we imagine robots as our future companions, we all put our noses to that same window.

I'm particularly confused about this:

I remembered him as wistful, feeling himself a spectator of the human world, like a kid with his nose to the window of a candy store. When we imagine robots as our future companions, we all put our noses to that same window.

Anothony certainly feels lonely, but afraid of dealing with other people. He finds out that computers make him feel that someone is there. I guess maybe the author is trying to say that Anothony actually longs to make friends with other people when she says "feeling himself a spectator of the human world"?

  • Yes, that's right. Anthony feels unable to fully (or freely) participate in the "human world." – mkennedy Mar 5 '15 at 21:24
  • "like a kid with his nose to the winddow of a candy store" Does that mean that Anthony though socially inept, is longing for a relationship with real people rather than with mechines? – pxc3110 Mar 5 '15 at 23:57
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In this context "feeling himself a spectator of the human world" implies that Anthony feels like an outsider - like the world of people happens right in front of his eyes, but he is unable to participate. The following passage - "like a kid with his nose to the window of a candy store" - can mean several things: that Anthony actually wants to partake in the world of people, that he feels sad that he cannot do that, or both. In both cases, the important topic is separation - the "window" in this case - that allows you to look in from the outside, but you're still on the outside by yourself.

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A person can feel like an outsider looking in, like someone who wants to be more involved, but isn't. Sports metaphors are often used to describe this feeling, such as:

I feel like I was on the bench instead of in the game.

I felt like I was on the sidelines instead of doing what I wanted to be doing.

In the passage you quote, the author uses two metaphors to describe this feeling. In the first, the character is described as a spectator instead of a participant, as though humans are somehow engaged in a huge football match, and the character is watching from the stands. (Although the stands might be a fun place to be if you were watching, say, Manchester vs Liverpool, that's not the image this metaphor strives to paint. Instead, the metaphor is followed up by like a kid with his nose to the window of a candy store, where, once again, someone is on the outside looking in, of merely observing instead of fully participating, all the while wanting to be more involved.)

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