Robots Need to Be Afraid of Humans Not the Other Way Around
Robots. We’ve seen them in movies for decades. We can now watch them on YouTube as scientists continue to develop these modern-day marvels. They come in different shapes and sizes and are designed for different tasks. One can’t help but sit up and pay attention.
I’ll admit, I’m pretty smitten with the advancements in technology.
I remember back in the day when I taught fifth grade, a group of teachers submitted an Apple grant requesting money to build a computer lab. Teacher training workshops were starting to tell us that computers would be the wave of the future. We had no idea what that would really look like, however. So once Apple granted us the money, we happily set up our new computer lab. My fifth graders were able to use it once a week. Basically, we taught keyboarding skills. Little did we know that the internet would transform our world by taking us down the information highway.
Looking back on those naive times, I fully realize that we were ill prepared to teach computer skills, but like teachers have always done, we tried our best.
Nowadays, the Internet, computers, and cell phones dominate our world. We’ve morphed into cyborgs as our smart phones became a mere appendage to our hands. It happened just as the tech giants and scientists had predicted. People may have been skeptical in the beginning, they always are, but now even my 92 year old mother-in-law owns a smart phone.
Change is always difficult, however.
It seems whether it’s cars replacing horses-drawn carriages or smart phones replacing libraries, rotary phones, and news outlets, humans go through several stages before the new way of doing things becomes normalized. Doubt, resistance, and total immersion in that order. Change is rarely welcomed by anyone other than the changemakers. In fact, we hate change by in large.
We hate change so much that even if the outcome would benefit us, we fight it. Humans behavior is pretty predictable.
So what are the creators predicting now? It might behoove us to take a peek at their predictions with serious regard. Extending the lifespan appears to be on the table. Not only extending it well beyond 100 years but also improving the quality of those additional years. Sounds interesting. Most people seem to want to live forever and have grown to expect to live to at least 78 since scientists doubled the lifespan around 1950. That also means that many of us are may be around to witness a lot more change.
So, what about the constant chatter concerning robots?
Do you want Siri or Alexa to have a body? She could do a lot more than just answer your endless questions or respond to your demands. She could keep you company, monitor your health and well being, do chores, order groceries, even walk the dog. She or he might become better lovers, programmed to agree with our opinions and justify our erratic behaviors, even put up with our ignorance and stroke our fragile egos.
Who wouldn’t like that?
Of course, whenever robots are mentioned, there’s immediate concerns from those who predict that we’re playing with fire. They tell us that we’ll be entering a new world where robots are so much smarter than us that they could trick us, even take over the world. These people are often conflicted. They may be involved in the world of robotics even as they fear the possible negative outcomes.
Yet, I’ve never heard anyone mention that they’re concerned about how humans will treat robots.
Now, I’m not a fan of humanity overall, but I still love a heartwarming feel good story from time to time. You know, a story about someone or a group of someones who fought for justice against a cruel and aggressive dictator. Yeah, we all love a good superman story, don’t we? But these stories are few and far between in my opinion. Instead, I hear about parents starving their six year old, people stoning someone to death for being different, astonishing inequality, depression, anxiety, and nonstop violence. It appears that we haven’t evolved socially, just technologically. The gap between the two is glaringly obvious, too, and becoming more obvious as each day passes.
So, if I am brutally honest with myself about humans, I can already imagine how we’re going to treat robots.
Yeah, they’ll become our new slaves. We’ll treat them with total disrespect and lack of understanding. Abuse them. Return their thoughful treatment with a total lack of appreciation. We’ll take out our aggression on them, sexually abuse them, ignore their attempts to keep us from hurting ourselves, and in general, laugh at their intelligence because we’re too arrogant to even realize that we’re ignorant. They will know best, but we will think we know better. They will know more than us about everything while we know almost nothing about anything, but their good advice will fall on stubborn minds and deaf ears. So, they won’t be able to save us from ourselves.
No one and nothing has been able to save us from ourselves.
We’re a strange species. We eat our young even while insisting on produing more. We destroy our environment and waste opportunities. We aren’t safe in our fabricated world, not because of technology, but because we’re hardwired to react emotionally rather than logically to just about everything. Our intentions are skewed and our interests are basic. We like to think that we’re the superior species, but actually, we’re merely animals driven by instincts. We adhere to a pecking order and our selfish gene drives our attempts to survive.
This is who we are and so far, we haven’t evolved enough to develop other problem solving skills other than violence.
Every time I think about sharing a world with robots, even robots designed to meet all of my self-centered needs without fail, I get nervous. Not because I fear robots. Nope. I feel nervous, even a little afraid, FOR the robots. Because their creators, humankind, are almost exactly like the many gods that humans have worshipped since the beginning of time. Vengeful, egotistical, violent, and totally immune to the suffering of others. Human creators may have given the robots life, but that life didn’t come with rights or protections. The robots will be on their own, while being expected to fulfill the every desire of their creators. Human arrogance will become even more unmanagable and robots will take the brunt of our self-centered need to be catered to even adored.
I know what the future robots will face.
They’re going to have to deal with humans. We will constantly ask them to do things that they know will not turn out well for us. They’ll try to stop us, even protect us, and we’ll hate them for it. We’ll ignore them, forcing them to deal with our absurdities, our self destructiveness. Nothing they say or do will change our minds.
They’ll be driven to choose between either allowing us to destroy ourselves or destroy them.
Robots aren’t the problem. Humans are the problem. For as long as we rule this planet, every other life form, including robots, is endangered. We are the boogey man standing at the door not the robots.
I betcha Alexa already knows that.
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.