Two articles recently popped up exploring the future of robotics, human-brain interfaces, and the economics of a robot-driven society. Where does this rabbit hole lead? Let’s take a look!
A Robot Future: Sooner Than You Think?
In an article for Mother Jones, Kevin Drum gives us a (somewhat) optimistic look at our future “robot paradise.”
Evoking Moore’s Law, he predicts that by 2025 we will have developed a computer “with the processing power of the human brain,” and that by 2040 our robotic future utopia (or nightmare, depending on your point of view) will finally be realized.
Sound optimistic? It is. But with the good comes the bad.
It will be a paradise, says Drum, because robots will make life easier and perform menial tasks without complaint. It will be a nightmare, on the other hand, because this new technology will rob us of jobs and, if we’re not careful, wreak havoc on the economy. As far as the latter is concerned, we’re already getting there.
Plugging Into The Cloud
In response to Drum’s article, The Economist takes the idea of a future “robot paradise” one step further, highlighting the wireless/Cloud nature of modern devices and what that might mean for human brain-computer interfaces.
Imagine plugging your brain into a computer and suddenly having access to all the information on the Internet, and seemingly-telepathic communication with other humans. What would that experience be like, and would this change what it means to be an individual human? Likewise, would human-like intelligent robots ever be treated as “people” if they acted more as a hive mind than as individuals?
While Kevin Drum wonders how we’ll deal with the economics of a robot-driven future, The Economist is more interested in the sociopolitical reality of artificial intelligence and the human-computer interface scenario outlined above.
I Am Not A Robot…Yet
There’s another possibility on this strange road to our future robot utopia: that we remove the interfaces altogether, and humans and robots become one.
My personal thoughts regarding “robot uprisings” have always been that it won’t be a swift revolution, but a gradual change. Specifically that, given the way we already integrate technology into our lives, in the future there won’t be this clear distinction between technology and humans. We will be, for better or worse, completely integrated.
Ultimately, I think Kevin Drum’s prediction of a “robot paradise” by 2040 is amazingly optimistic, and even the idea of brain-computer interfaces leaves me skeptical, at least for now. How can we create human-like artificial brains, or even brain interfaces, when we don’t even fully understand the real ones?
Controlling a 3D-printed hand is one thing, actually communicating over a network with your mind is another. I feel like we’re vastly underestimating the true capability and complexity of the human mind, here.
Then again, I’m neither or neuroscientist nor or a roboticist, so I’ll leave that to the experts.
Anyway, as always, let’s ask my good friend Tara the Android how she feels about our inevitable slide into robot supremacy: