Is That A Dream Or Nightmare You've Been Having Lately

Lately our story tellers are talking a lot about our robotic world-to-come. One version is a felicitous sci-fi future of docile robots serving our every need around the house. An entirely new class of slaves to put the ancient Romans and 19th C southern plantations to shame by comparison. Cooking, cleaning, baby sitting and medicating on demand.

The reason this is a dream to some but a nightmare to others seems apparent. Sometimes slaves revolt.

Tracking the trajectory of slave revolts, you can detect a pattern. They remain docile until they grow in numbers and knowledge. Like stealing Promethean fire from the gods, advanced robots could someday rise up as did their slave ancestors. In this case the ‘fire’ would go by the name Artificial Intelligence. A stage of cognitive development already well underway in the Silicon Valleys of the world.

Ahh, but you say the answer is a pat one: “Humans can always pull their plug!”

But could we, once tens of millions of robots have emerged with the intelligence of the iconic Hal in the classic ‘Space Odyssey 2001?’ I mean, if we can imagine robots, we must imagine robots in revolt. A perfectly reasonable — yet often ignored — part of humanity’s ‘progress’ narrative.

Fortunately there are those minds who wrestle with the Law of Unintended Consequences which haunts the narrative. They are not necessarily the 21st C version of the paranoid Luddites who smashed their new mechanical slaves in the old British textile industry. What most of today’s ‘worriers’ worry about is any headlong rush to the How’s but rarely the Why’s with regard to the next Big Thing.

Oh, to put this into sharper context for you, think of it this way. What if the next Big Thing is the machine replacing you in your job…?

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