Friday, August 12, 2016

Robots: Love and Destruction

These comments are a long time coming. I haven't had much time for thoughtful posts of late. But I am on a 2-week vacation from my Adjunct teaching (really not that much time, as I have to spend a bunch of it getting ready for the Fall semester, and I do have other work), but I have a little.

The articles I am commenting on come from a mainstream, widely circulated, professional engineering magazine - not some sci-fi rag.
First: Apparently there was an article (I didn't read the article itself) in the online edition of the magazine pertaining to humans forming romantic relationships with robots. Okay, I think there have been sci-fi movies over the years exploring this, but in IEEE Spectrum? Here are some excerpts from comments on the article:

Exhibit A: One thing is sure: A company that sells good-looking "male" and "female" robots complete with humanlike anatomy will make more money than Apple, Google, and Microsoft combined. ... future people will see it as normal, just as normal as smartphones are now.

Exhibit B: Another problem is that people might become so enamored with their robot mates that they abandon human relationships. (just like they do with smartphones now? - JC)

Exhibit C: Since we don't know how human consciousness really works, we can't comment on whether consciousness could be simulated acceptably (in robots). If we believe that when humans fall in love, the brain is just implementing some algorithm, why shouldn't a machine be able to implement it too?

So, there you have it: everything comes down to utility, money, and sex. What was stunningly absent was any concern about morality. There could have been, of course- more comments online. However, the magazine only printed ones with the tone of the Exhibits above. This is the world we live in.

The same magazine had a cover article in the June issue about the role of robots in the future, i.e. can we trust them in the operating room, on the road, and on the battlefield.

The section on autonomous weapons was particularly interesting. All those quoted assured us that a human would have a final say on targeting. I have several concerns-even if this is the case.
First, we shouldn't want to make war easier to conduct. Along these same lines, will the technology populations care so much about what foreign adventures conduct if all the killing (on our side) is done by remote control?  
Second, the interviewees claim we would be saving lives-but whose? Our soldiers, sure, but innocent civilians? Does the warfare today with all our targeting technology really protect civilian?
Thirdly, who will get their hands on these remote control destructors? The Cold War and its aftermath have armed every population and tens of thousands of terrorists around the world. Do we really think the arms trade will stop here?
Once again, get out your rosaries!
Oremus pro invicem!


Charlie said...

Sex robots amount to enhanced masturbation. At least the damage will be limited to the pervert and his appliance.

Jim Dorchak said...

I was asked the other day by a person in the former USA if I looked back at the States and missed anything.
I said I missed Chinese food, but that I am afraid to look towards the USA from down here in Chile because I may be turned into a pillar of salt.

Kind of says it all.