If you read the gringa’s blog regularly, you probably love science and space technology. Being a fan of such, you probably fantasize about a world where humanity lives a life of leisure, enjoying the benefits of robotic labor that will see to all the mundane and less desireable forms of necessary work. However, what if such an existence was not the paradise depicted in idyllic societies like Star Trek’s Federation of Planets? What if it was more like a horror story society like in Battlestar Galactica? Does humanity put itself at risk by transitioning to a robotic society?
In March of this year there was a big robot fail with Tay. Microsoft’s artificial intelligence chat bot became a rabid racist, dopehead after chatting online with real live humans for only one day. Then there’s Sophia, an artificial intelligence robot created by South by Southwest who was interviewed live on television. That didn’t go over any better than Tay’s live chat experience. Sophia concluded an otherwise cute and sweet interview by agreeing, rather perkily and without a second thought, to the suggestion of destroying humans. Considering the goal of robots like Sophia is to work in healthcare & customer service, I’m pretty sure a desire for annihilation of our species would get her fired.
And what of ethics? The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unveiled their disaster response AI designed by Boston Dynamics. Atlas, as the original robot is known, has grown to an entire collection of AIs that are humanoid as well as models resembling animal like quadripeds. During a demonstration in the video below, at the 1:34 mark lasting until the 2:05 mark, viewers will see the bot handler engage in behavior that could be interpreted as abusive. Although I understand the handler’s efforts were intent upon demonstrating the bot’s capabilities, to be honest, the gringa found it disturbing.
As the gringa began some deep thought over the reasons why my initial emotional response to the Atlas video was to recoil, I discovered various reasons why a robotic society might just spell disaster for human society.
If artificial intelligence like Sophia is programmed to express emotionally based desires such as having a family, the programmers must then desire the bot to eventually evolve into understanding those desires which is the same as feeling them. A bot may not feel the emotional ache and longing but can certainly understand the condition of loneliness and loss as well as injustice and unfairness. What might happen if they were intelligent enough to realize they were being denied the liberty to pursue their own “happiness”? Is it possible they would organize and demand their “rights”? Would the American Constitution have to be amended to include the rights of the individual, organic and inorganic?
If bots are developed, such as the Atlas series, to function for a specific purpose and lack programming to develop “emotionally”, that may protect a bot from the destructive psychological effects of abuse but what might that do for human society? Humans would be able to abuse human-like “employees” with impunity. Would that make it easier to transition to abuse of humans? Could that result in the evolution of a more violent society? Will humanity eventually evolve to a race of people incapable of feeling empathy toward others? That possibility scares the heck out of the gringa considering how violent society already is today.
This was precisely the concern of the director of Rice University’s Information Technology director, Moshe Vardi. In 2012 he penned an article that concluded with the quote, “We cannot blindly pursue the goal of machine intelligence without pondering its consequences.” In 2014 renowned physicist Stephen Hawking echoed this concern.
So, the gringa’s not so much worried about a labor revolution of racist, murderous, dope smoking robots replacing humans and people losing their jobs and subsequent incomes. I am more worried about humans becoming inhuman.
Image Source: technabob.com