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 A Spider Sat Beside Her and The Sting of the Bee [2018 release]

 

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

 

Rest in Peace, Edward

The world knows Edward Albee as an incredible playwright—his wry and acerbic wit revealing those dark human characteristics that no one wants to be revealed. He was a teacher, a mentor, and a supporter of the arts. This last avenue, in the vibrant art scene of Houston, is where Edward and I crossed paths. It was the 1990s; he was teaching at the University of Houston and producing his plays in various venues. I had an art gallery in Houston, TX, and I came to know Edward as a discerning and well-respected art collector.

I saw a show of some of his collection at the Hiram Butler gallery in Houston; it was a lovely exhibit and I was intrigued by the scope and depth of the artwork. His eye was phenomenal and he focused on up and coming artists with a message to tell. About that same time, I had begun curating a series of shows based on books that interested me in the content and title: The Garden of Eden (Ernest Hemingway), Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), and Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Mackay), as a few examples. I invited various artists from the unknown to the world famous to exhibit—they drew crowds—and Edward. After the opening of the Brave New World show, he wrote a letter to me asking a question on one of the pieces and we started a dialogue about the social implications of the show.  

Edward began to frequent the gallery and I remember on several occasions, he would find some small sculpture in the back gallery (he loved three-dimensional work), cradling it in his arms as he toured around. He bought several pieces from the gallery and always stopped to chat when we ran into each other on the gallery circuit.

After I closed the gallery and began to find my voice in writing, he spoke with me about that, too. Our conversation wasn’t huge or life-changing, but sometimes having someone like Edward simply acknowledge your journey is enough.

Edward, you made a difference in my life. Thank you, and rest in peace, my friend.

 

K.E. Lanning