Brainy Robots Start Stepping Into Daily Life
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times, July 18, 2006.
These are some fruits of the research field known as artificial intelligence, where reality is finally catching up to the science-fiction hype. A half-century after the term was coined, both scientists and engineers say they are making rapid progress in simulating the human brain, and their work is finding its way into a new wave of real-world products.
The advances can also be seen in the emergence of bold new projects intended to create more ambitious machines that can improve safety and security, entertain and inform, or just handle everyday tasks. At Stanford University, for instance, computer scientists are developing a robot that can use a hammer and a screwdriver to assemble an Ikea bookcase (a project beyond the reach of many humans) as well as tidy up after a party, load a dishwasher or take out the trash.
One pioneer in the field is building an electronic butler that could hold a conversation with its master -- á la HAL in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- or order more pet food.
Are these devices being developed to relieve mankind from a life of drudgery or are they being developed to relieve the employer class from the `burden' of a maintaining a payroll?
Futurists once predicted that mankind would eventually free itself from drudgery through the development of marvelous machines capable of catering to one's every whim...
Like many predictions made by `futurists' it was assumed that all would reap the benefits, not just those who could afford it.
The task of developing these futuristic products isn't `free' so it stands to reason the primary thrust of developing AI enabled equipment is to put humans out of a job...a noble goal if this didn't mean the human being displaced wasn't faced with starvation and homelessness.
Not to go all Luddite on you good citizen but we've already passed the point where automation has left too many of us without a means of supporting ourselves/families.
Where is the shortened workday/week we were promised when these productivity enhancements were initially being introduced? Where is the job sharing and extra share of the profits we were promised?
I guess `promised' is too strong a word. These wondrous changes were actually only `alluded to' by those forward-thinking futurists...to bad there hasn't been any `futurists' among us since...the turn of the last century.
So we have to deal with the reality. These `promising' new technologies won't benefit our society they will destroy it.
Yet one more display of idiocy at the highest levels of our society.
"It's time to build an A.I. robot," said Andrew Ng, a Stanford computer scientist and a leader of the project, called Stanford Artificial Intelligence Robot, or Stair. "The dream is to put a robot in every home."
I ask you to use your imagination and consider just how many `homes' will have a robotic slave as opposed to how many will be, say, doing armed security work at the homeless camps...
Who will benefit and who will suffer, this is the real question posed by automation in an ownership society.
This technology also has a dark side. The creation of self-directed machines that don't ask questions or make moral judgements would make the masters of such devices invincible...the machines lose nothing when they cease to function.
Humans on the other hand...
That aside, it's not the technology itself but how it has been and is likely to continue to be used that creates cause for concern.
There is yet another question begged by these developments: Where is the line between `expendable' and `menace'?
The wealth of the nation has become concentrated into fewer hands. Thanks to our fait currency these people can now afford to automate pretty much every field imaginable in what may turn out to be a comparatively short time frame.
What to you do with billions of starving, useless humans?
Altruism doesn't seem to be the elite class's strong suit...and no one is accusing them of being stupid either.
It's one thing to embrace a technology and quite another to ignore the consequences.
This piece was likely printed as a techno-fluff piece, a little glimpse at what may be coming soon to stores...or workplaces nationwide.
Couple this scenario with the potential for human hybrids and genetic engineering and we have to wonder how long it will be before we become `obsolete'...
With all the problems facing our society this is what the investor class is spending their money on, machines that will (not might) replace humans...
This is not a question of `if' but `when'.
Don't take this as an absolute, not all humans are in danger of being replaced...just the poor ones followed by the professionals once the technology is perfected.
If you're rich you can click your heels with joy! Never again will you have your instructions questioned nor will you be required to give them twice.
If you're not rich, be afraid, be very afraid...because the days of the `surplus' population will definitely be numbered.
Thanks for letting me inside your head,