The Ascent of Robots

In 1950, Isaac Asimov published the novel, I, Robot, and within that work, he outlined his “Three Laws of Robotics”:

First edition cover (1950) of I, Robot

First edition cover (1950) of I, Robot

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

 

Humanity is on the cusp of a true robot revolution—will we be so prescient?

The technology shift in labor started with the computer age in the late twentieth century, but intelligent robots will be the coup d’etat for the labor market. Others are writing about this coming phenomenon: science fiction writer Liu Cixin is a nine-time winner of the Galaxy Award in China for his work and recently penned an article for The New York Times, titled, “The Robot Revolution Will Be the Quietest One.” [https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/07/opinion/the-robot-revolution-will-be-the-quietest-one.html] He writes of a world run by robots more intelligent than we are…a world where humans become no more significant than pets.

Will society re-segregate not on lines of race, but divided between the rich upper class, the robots they control, and ‘the rest of us’? Or perhaps we’ll witness a societal backlash, with a new rise of Luddites rioting in the streets, destroying robots, while crowds chant as they upload the scene to social media?

Luddites destroying looms in the 1800s to protest the Industrial Revolution

Luddites destroying looms in the 1800s to protest the Industrial Revolution

 

But the Luddites didn’t prevail at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and neither will the coming Rage Against Robots.

Is it all gloom and doom? We humans have survived the industrial and computer revolutions, shifting with an ever-changing labor market, though there have been winners and losers in the game. There will be a huge demand for the care and maintenance of robots—feeding those brains with code and repairing the intricate mechanisms—harking back to a time when our ancestors cared for the faithful plow horse.

But one major impediment stands in our way—we humans are populating ourselves out of a planet even without the competition of robots. On our current trajectory in propagating the Earth, we will overload the boat and sink into the sea from where we came, unless we stabilize our population growth and find sustainable methods of living. The world populations must embrace education and birth control—our survival depends on it.

 

 

Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

And change we must, because the Ascent of Robots is upon us.

 

 

K.E. Lanning, author of speculative science fiction and scientist

First published on January 26, 2017, in OMNI https://omni.media/the-ascent-of-robots