The prediction that, by 2050, we will be able to devise the electronics and circuitry and CPU strength needed to implant a comparable AI (equal to or exceeding the current Human Brain in terms of cognitive and other ‘thinking’ capabilities) into autonomous Robotic frameworks, combined with sensors and complex mechanical systems, could mean that we might be seeing Robots doing more jobs than we can imagine.
Am I guilty of being a bit too optimistic here? I don’t think so. I am sure some readers would have formulated some serious pitfalls; so, please feel free to comment on such below. There are only a few setbacks that I can think of when it comes to this arguably optimistic view. Setbacks would be that the need for dangerous, dirty, dull labor will decrease. Perhaps we ourselves will become less-risk prone and live a less dangerous, dirty and dull life. Here, I am not referring necessarily to the persons themselves… but the jobs that we do. Is that bad? Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe we can focus our energies elsewhere while the Robots ‘do the dirty work’ so to speak. Maybe we could focus on more interesting jobs – or at least on building even more useful and better robots to ‘serve’ humanity.
Maybe it’s about how we look at the idea of what we can term ‘a Robot’? Is stapler a Robot? We are a part of that chain of events needed to mechanically enact the stapler. But what about a copy machine that binds legal papers that need to have handwritten signatures gathered into bundles with a staple in the process? Is that a Robot? Will it get rid of jobs? It’s definitely more advanced than the good old fashioned stapler, but not a ‘Robot’ per se; however, it’s getting there. Still we say it’s ‘not a robot’ and so, it doesn’t threaten us. For now, that’s still a machine albeit with embedded software. Handy, but not a problem perhaps.
Now, what about a machine that is bipedal, looks like a human, can be dictated to, can communicate and type the legal documents, move around in buildings and on the street and ride in automated driven automobiles? It is hooked up with the ‘internet of things’ where we can update the text content at the touch of a button and via voice command. It has, as one of its dedicated protocol jobs, to handle (from start to finish) the creation of our documents and bundling / unbundling the papers as many times as we wish and the electrical supply allows. The ‘Robot’ could help script and arrange papers, staple them and even deliver them to the post office or to the persons in questions or deliver them to a drone who could pick up the document and fly it across town to the destination. Now are we getting close? Are we eliminating jobs? Yes, the dangerous job of bicycle courier is finally on the hit list!
But, where do we draw the line? I am sure those of you who have dishwashers would not want to trade it back for the good old hand washed event… would you? That’s a job we didn’t mind eliminating. Certainly not after the holidays.
Perhaps some get ‘scared’ when they think that the future robots can do ‘exactly’ what we can do! But WHY?
Do we have so little faith in our human race that, when potentially ‘alleviated’ of many of the current so called ‘jobs’ we do today, we won’t be able to better focus our energies and intellect elsewhere? To create even more and other productive ones?
How do you know that this blog post isn’t written by a Robot? Certainly, cognitive programming and complex algorithms would be able to be set up methods, programmed to churn out such written material at some stage, right?
Now, where it starts to maybe get a bit on the ‘border of ethical or moral’ debate (even I will admit), however, is where we postulate a future milestone that may occur where we can almost think of these Robots as having a ‘mind of their own’ or a ‘consciousness’. Then the 3D jobs would indeed, potentially, become a moral quagmire. Again, going back to the play RUR: The Robots described in RUR were not just automatons or mechanical, but were closer to complex biological organisms that (like a ultimate ‘Turing Test’) could fool humans who could not distinguish between a ‘Real’ Human and one of these type of ‘Robots’. That’s a bit far-fetched?
Everyone who knows me, knows that I am and will remain a big fan of: the writer Philip K Dick, who wrote the 1970s science fiction ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,’ and the resulting 1980 science fiction film ‘Blade Runner’ by Ridley Scott. Both postulate the approach where the future ‘Robots’ are more like androids or biological robots. Not to mention the concept of the ‘Cylons’ in the science fiction television series ‘Battle Star Galactica.’
In these pop culture classics, we see an ‘optimistic’ prediction of the year(s) in the future where these Robotic advances would have been realized. For instance, in the 1981 film Blade runner, the replicants were predicted to be active in the Los Angeles of the “near future” of 2015. As far as I know there are no replicants running around L.A. today. Are there ? We didn’t reach that future yet (except maybe the voice-controlled photo viewing machine sequence, which is theoretically possible today and is most likely existing for some special ‘agencies’ let’s say)
Think of them as either tools for evolution or think of them as the evolution of the human race themselves, seen this way: They will be advanced enough to house all our knowledge (Artificial Intelligence), be mobile in more ways than one (can bipedal walk, swim or fly or all of the above and more), stay ‘alive’ for longer periods than our expected terms (what we live to be roughly 80 or so? ) and can operate 7 days a week, 24 hours a day for all 365 days in a year.
The only constraints being the autonomous capabilities of the Robots (sensors, battery life, interactions with unexpected events, etc.) and how such Robots will handle the other ‘out of the box’ situations. But then again, how do we humans learn? Go to the ‘Darwin Awards’ website and see how we still seem to make the same mistakes over and over again.
So, what’s stopping this ‘Robot Take Over’ from happening?
The answer is dualistic and complicated. For some of us, the answer is: Nothing. Absolutely Nothing. And for others: Everything. Absolutely Everything. But that’s the subject for another blog post…. Alas!
For now, I suppose the persons in the former category are the ones building the robots of the future and there doesn’t seem to be any going back on that front. The persons in the latter category have not yet made the laws to block robotics advancement. It may come, but I doubt it, especially when the Robot washes their dishes or helps them to write their laws.
So, get ready. They will take over jobs. They will be more prevalent. Get Robot savvy now. Don’t believe the negative Spin doctors about Robots taking over. Why not see it like this: If well designed, and implemented by the right people for the right purposes and in the right manner, Robots will free us of the 3D jobs and will serve and help us. They will not so much be our ‘slaves’ as our extensively useful and time-saving and electromechanical software-run ‘colleagues’. So, if you were one of those convinced of the evil plot of the Robots, I hope you can let the thoughts perish. I hope this inspires you to at least think about this concept and subject and maybe even to take those first steps into learning more about Robot technologies and seeing Robots free us of 3D jobs as a good and necessary step toward human evolution and not some affront or threat to humankind.