The robots are coming

My son played me a video of the latest robot technology. It showed a strange creature, something reminiscent of the monstrous hound from Fahrenheit 451, walking, running and jumping. The engineers pushed the robot to make it overbalance, then right itself.  Suddenly, it appeared vulnerable. I found the image disturbing, even saddening.

The next day, I heard experts in a discussion on the radio suggest we will need to ensure robots can feel pain so that they react accordingly to get themselves out of difficult situations. With advances in artificial intelligence, robots will think and feel emotions just like us. This brings up ethical and moral questions. We will build these machines to do the unpleasant and dangerous tasks that humans would rather not do. We will subject them to terror, anguish and suffering. Considering the human capacity for cruelty and thoughtlessness towards animals and those who have less power or status, the future for robots seems pretty bleak to me.

Added to this, is the fact that robots are predicted to take over more and more of the jobs people currently do. Our world will be run by a robot workforce. To some, these scientific advances seem exciting and necessary. I simply feel concern. What are humans going to do with themselves when there is no work to be done? We are all ready becoming a civilisation of social media recluses; hiding behind our screens. Obesity and illness due to inactivity are growing issues. There is disconnection with the natural world and being out of doors which many believe is linked to mental health problems.

I am grateful for new technologies allowing me to surf the internet, discover knowledge at my fingertips and share this blog with the world. I am grateful for electric lights, central heating and a washing machine which make my life easier. I am grateful for medical procedures and antibiotics that keep me alive. I am grateful for cars and planes that carry me to far-flung places in the shortest of times. However, I am aware, as much as these advances have given us wonderful benefits, there are costs to the environment and our health.

We humans are always striving for more and better. We get carried away thinking about how we can improve our lives. The grass is always greener, if only we had this or that, life would be perfect. Our large brains look for solutions that give us more time on our hands; yet with less to do, we seem constantly busy, rushing from one pointless activity to the next, often not looking up from our phones. Fuelled by advertising and the media we fill our lives with stuff, but more technology makes our lives empty and we get further away from our natural selves.

I wonder if continuing to make advances just because we can is always a good idea. Maybe we don’t need a legion of robots to work for us. Maybe we need to scale back: keep only what we need; return to a simpler life, with some hard work involved, much of it outside under the sky. It might even save us.

8 thoughts on “The robots are coming

  1. Thanks for sharing your views that I find very insightful. Knowing our limits is an ongoing test as humanity progresses – especially with varying types of technology. I wonder if robots and Artificial Intelligence can backfire on humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I vote for a simpler life. I live in Henry David Thoreau territory, where he admonishes us “Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.” When I watch everyone with their phones in their faces constantly, their Alexis telling them what to do, what music to listen to, and what the temp is outside, I turn on my classical music, turn off my phone and any other ‘robotic’ device, and listen to the birds, read, meditate, and realize I don’t fit into this ‘new’ world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an interesting topic, for sure! I don’t believe we should strive for a true AI. We would be better off to use our technology to improve our own bodies and minds than create another life form to take our places, so we can what? Sit around on floating loungers by a pool no one ever uses, just like the people in WALL E?

    Don’t get me wrong. I would personally love to have a conversation with a true AI and learn more about how it views this world from its unique perspective, but if we are going to create life, we have a responsibility towards that life. Giving it the ability to feel pain, to feel at all, means we can no longer treat it as a machine. Not just for ethical reasons, but also for practical reasons. You give an AI a reason to protect itself and you are just asking for trouble.

    I’m not worried that we will see a true AI in my lifetime, but I am concerned by how reclusive and reliant on tech we are becoming, to the point that we are losing our grasp on the “human” factor. Yet even as I say this, I’m entering it into my smartphone. It’s going to take a concerted effort to simplify and avoid overuse of tech.

    Excellent thought-provoking post! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, economics often wins over ethics in our society. Our use of, and growing dependence on, technology is an interesting and difficult subject. Thank you for your comments. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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