Prepare for the Overlords!

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

The other side

The inevitable "Down with robots!" movement
There are many cases in which robots are going to start colliding with the human workforce, and when that happens, the inevitable result will be a backlash against the robots. People will say the robots are stealing their jobs, but that's only a limited view of what will really be happening. Useful robots will multiply the effectiveness of human ingenuity and help get more done with less human capital. The bottom line is, if you're the one who owns the robots, you're going to do very well in the future. However, if you are an unskilled worker or laborer, and you're competing against robots for productivity, you'd better learn some new skills.
Some people might say these predictions are all overblown, that we already have robots working in the car manufacturing industry, for example. But I'm talking about self-contained, mobile robots that are humanoid in shape and size, not the large pre-programmed robots that help assemble automobiles in automobile factories. Those robots are stuck in one place, they don't move around on their own or make their own decisions; they are not autonomous. But the humanoid robots of the near future will be autonomous.

These advanced robots will be able to move under their own power and they will have a goal instead of just a preprogrammed motion. In other words, they will know that the ultimate goal is to sweep the sidewalk or do the laundry or do the dishes, but getting to that goal will require lots of decision-making on the part of the robot. So these are robots that are far more capable of taking over basic human labor jobs that now employ a large number of our citizens at the lower end of the economic scale.

The "My robot hurt me!" backlash
Sooner or later of course, one of these autonomous robots is going to directly or indirectly cause harm to a human being. I don't mean intentionally, I mean accidentally; perhaps a human trips over a robot or the robot displaces something causing someone to trip and fall. There's no doubt that such an event would be used by an anti-robot movement to illustrate how robots are dangerous and should perhaps be outlawed.
Of course, a more sinister scenario involves the possibility of someone hacking into a robot and programming it to do dangerous things. There's also the very real inevitability that the Pentagon will purchase robots and program them to cause harm to other human beings, ultimately making them part of the military forces.

So, there's no question that robots will eventually be accused of harming

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eureka, California, United States
As Popeye once said,"I ams what I am." But then again maybe I'm not