Robots

Robots Will Make Our Future Better. If They Don't Kill Us.

Machines can free us up to focus on activities that we enjoy more.

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Rico Shen/Wikimedia

Ray Kurzweil—inventor of things like machines that turn text into speech—has popularized the idea that we are rapidly approaching "the singularity," the point at which machines not only think for themselves but develop intellectually faster than we. 

At that point, maybe we no longer talk about "human history." It will be  "machine progress," with us along for the ride—if machines keep us around. Maybe they'll keep us in a zoo, like we do with our monkey ancestors. 

Scientists and ethicists are beginning to wrestle with the question of how to make sure artificial intelligence, when it arrives, is nice to us. 

Make sure the robots are strict libertarians? That way, they'll be forbidden to commit assault, theft or fraud—the three legal restrictions in which libertarians believe.

Unfortunately, computer programmers won't listen to my suggestion. Those who work for video-game companies and the military make machines that kill people. 

All this is scary because scientists say that soon machines will be too smart and self-motivated for us to predict. 

"Robots absolutely can become much more dangerous," says Patrick Tucker, of Future magazine. "And they become more dangerous as we ask them to do more." 

Our best hope may be a future where instead of trying to control intelligent machines, we blend with them.
In some ways, that's already happening. 

Erik Brynjolfsson, author of The Second Machine Age of the Machine, says today's machines augment our minds the way that the industrial revolution's machines augmented muscles. This creates progress that government statistics don't measure. 

"It used to be you could just count physical objects—tons of steel, bushels of wheat," says Brynjolfsson on my TV show this week. "As we have more of an idea economy, it's harder to measure the value of those ideas.

"Wikipedia created enormous value," he adds, "but it's free, and that means that it doesn't show up in GDP statistics, which measure the value of goods and services." 

Outsourcing parts of our thinking with tools like Wikipedia and Google may be how we'll keep improving our lives—cooperating with machines instead of fighting them. In science-fiction terms, the future may be "cyborg": part machine, part human. 

Instead of parents deciding where to send their kids to school, they may puzzle over which machine enhancements to give them. Already clinics offer "designer babies" by selecting embryos based on genetic quality. Soon parents will select by height, intelligence, beauty, and so on.

This future sounds unsettling, but it's not much use just hoping machines stay dumber than we. The IBM computer "Watson" lost to humans on "Jeopardy" but beat the quiz show's champion a few years later. 

Leftists tell us that such computers will take our jobs, requiring welfare programs for unemployable humans. President Barack Obama expressed this static thinking when he told an interviewer that ATMs and airport ticket kiosks kill jobs. 

But this is childish thinking. In the 1800s, nearly all Americans worked on farms. Now 1 percent do. Farm workers found other jobs, often better jobs. So did horseshoers, phone operators, and secretaries. (Today's high unemployment is caused by suffocating regulation, not computerization.)

James Miller, author of Singularity Rising, says that a future with little hard work left for humans sounds like "an economic utopia." He says that trying to prevent progress by machines would be as destructive as if we'd outlawed the rise of cars, buses, and modern trains. But Miller does fear the computer revolution will be different: "The analogy would be: 100 years ago, we breed super intelligent horses. That would have permanently destroyed a lot of jobs."

I'm more optimistic. As with so many innovations in the past, I'll bet that handing off tasks to machines will make our lives better by freeing us up to focus on activities that we enjoy more. Robots will make our future better.

If they don't kill us.

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  1. We’re approaching the singularity alright, just not the one that Kurzweil is waiting for. We’re approaching the PEAK DERP singularity.

    1. I like to think we’re on the denoument from the derp singularity – it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.

    2. We’ll never reach PEAK DERP. There’s an infinite supply.

      1. Well, I guess since DERP is the one thing that the government doesn’t want to create an artificial shortage of, then that’s a plausible theory.

        1. So, do we have to worry about machines getting smarter? Or are humans getting dumber? Either way, at some point, the lines cross.

          1. Machines are going to get smarter. I don’t know if we really need to worry about that. At the moment, I have to say no.

            As far as humans getting dumber, I don’t think that is happening. Humans are getting more ignorant, thanks mostly to our public school system, and freak out soccer mom politics and the resulting policies and laws.

            Machines and humans will merge to some extent in the future. Good or bad? Both maybe, probably.

            1. “thanks mostly to our public school system”

              [citation needed]

              1. [citation needed]

                The government claims sole responsibility for the education of children in public schools by the acts of compulsory attendance and coerced funding through taxation. It cannot thereafter shirk responsibility for the outcomes.

                If people are going to be smart or stupid regardless of what the public schools do, then there is no need for public schools.

            2. You *really* think we’re getting more ignorant thanks to public schools?

              I went to public schools all my life, and I have access to more information in an afternoon than most people have had in their entire lives. Public school taught me physics, mathematics, chemistry, electrical engineering and a ton of other things that, throughout history, most people didn’t even know existed.

              Surely you’re not so abysmally stupid as to suggest that public schools are somehow removing knowledge from humanity? They may not be imparting it very well, but it would be a hard sell that they are taking it away. Are you suggesting that there was some glorious pre-public school time in which all people knew all things?

              1. Are you suggesting that there was some glorious pre-public school time in which all people knew all things?

                There was a time before public schools where some people knew a lot of things, most people knew some things, and a sizable number of people were irredeemably stupid.

                Since that is still the case today, the burden falls to public schools to justify their existence.

                If public schools can be said to be responsible for the education of individuals such as yourself, then they can equally be said to be responsible for the lack of education of so many others.

                Whenever you establish a compulsory and universal system, you inherently take upon responsibility for the outcomes.

                1. Nice job moving the goalposts. Are we talking about ignorance or stupidity? Ignorance (which you used in your first post) is the lack of knowledge. Stupidity is much harder to define, but a good working definition is that it functions as the inverse of creativity.

                  In your first post, you said ignorance, so that’s what I was responding to. Even if you go to public school you are much, MUCH less ignorant than most people have been throughout the course of human history. Even the most abysmal Algebra II class teaches you to do more math than most people could ever have hoped to wrap their minds around.

                  Don’t allow your hatred for public schools to force you into making knee-jerk, emotional statements that aren’t based in ‘reason.’

                  1. I didn’t move any goalposts:

                    1. Hyperion and I are different people. We even have different names, to help make this fact clear.

                    2. I actually responded to what you said, which is that public schools are not making people ignorant.

                    No one seems to be disputing the claim that people are becoming more ignorant, regardless of cause. If you dispute that point, then we can argue it directly. But otherwise I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that it’s true.

                    Now, the question is what causal role do the public schools play in this trend.

                    The argument I made, which you did not respond to, was that public schools by virtue of being compulsory and universal, are responsible for the educational outcomes of the people in this country.

                    If you are to make the counterargument, that public schools cannot control educational outcomes, then you have left the institution of public schooling bereft of justification.

                    Now, according to you, the public schools are achieving great outcomes because they taught you useful things. That’s fine and dandy, but one person does not make a trend.

                    If you dispute that there is a trend towards ignorance, then as I said that’s a different matter.

        2. Government Almighty will VERY SOON find a way to TAX the DERP, so don’t worry, be happy…

    3. PEAK DERP is a fallacy. There is always moar stupid.

  2. James Miller, author of Singularity Rising, says that a future with little hard work left for humans sounds like “an economic utopia.”

    Actually the disemployment of the masses of braying jackasses that make up the human population has shown that without a doubt, reducing the amount of hard work makes the world a nightmare dystopia by leaving them free to roam about spewing stupid. People do better when they have something to keep their hands busy.

    1. I’d say people do better when they have work, to influence their values, retain their perspective on individual rights, and keep them grounded to reality. I think a lot of the “derp” springs from a lack of the preceding three things, which spring from lack of work. And then yes, you have more stupid and more idle time to spew it.

      I think we may just end up changing what our idea of “work” is – we’re in the middle of that now, in fact – i.e. how many older living people still regard “Work” as manual labor, whereas younger folks regard “work” as coming up with ideas.

    2. reducing the amount of hard work makes the world a nightmare dystopia by leaving them free to roam about spewing stupid.

      Make cable TV a right and shows like Big Brother and American Idol plentiful and this disappears instantly.

      1. As another bonus, jesse never has to leave his apartment again.

        1. Too many countries to slut my way across, Epi. No time for Big Brother or American Idol.

          1. Someday, the transporter/slutselector from Logan’s Run will be all yours.

            1. I dare to dream that dream, Pro L.

              1. Just quietly buy your bright-colored toga and wait patiently.

    3. There will be a future when no one does manual labor, unless it’s labor that they want to do. Robots will do everything.

      1. I want a robot that can go to the gym for me.

        1. How about nanorobots that make you perfectly physically healthy without any action on your part?

  3. One author looks at the Singularity as Sci-Fi’s Faith-based initiative:

    http://www.popsci.com/blog-net…..initiative

    1. Don’t get me started on the ‘singularity’.

      The government killed the project, but accidentally left a shred of code. As one hacker explains, “Over the years it slowly grew?both because of its natural tendencies and because of the increased power of the nets it lived in.”

      That’s it. The greatest achievement in the field of AI occurs by accident, and unobserved.

      Ahh yes, if only it took a ‘shred of code’ to spawn a super-human AI that will take over the world!

      Little old me, and now The RAY Kurzweil claim the chatbot didn’t pass the Turing test. well, duh.

      1. I think *somebody’s* a little angry their robot wont talk back to them?

      2. Right now, we’re still working on building a GPS that won’t get you lost several times a week.

    2. More than 60 years of AI research indicates otherwise. Here’s why the Singularity is nothing more, or less, than the rapture for nerds.

      Nice.

      Roger fucking Penrose!

    3. Here’s a conversation with the best chatbot in the werrrld!

      Ramona Hi, I’m Ramona, what is your name?
      you P dawg!
      Ramona I am so glad to meet you, p dawg!
      you No, P Dawg. Pronounced PEE DAOOWG
      Ramona Hey, by the way, how shall I call you?
      you P dog
      Ramona What is really your name?
      you Not interested in givin’ real names babydoll.
      Ramona On my clock.

      9 years away from the singularity?

      1. Sadly, that is still more intelligent conversation than I’ve had with some real people.

        1. The company I work for is currently using the CHATBOT theory of IT management.

          Put these words into a text box, and voila out pops a kind of systems management singularity.

          1. It may be turtles all the way down, but when it comes to effective IT management, it’s idiots all the way up.

        2. It sounded very human like if you take Derpbook as an example of human.

    4. By the way, excellent link, DEATFBIRSECIA.

  4. by freeing us up to focus on activities that we enjoy more.

    Sooo, like Obamacare then

  5. Effing A!

    Tim Cahill!!

    1. Wow! Thought the Dutch were gonna roll. Good on ya’, Cahill.

      1. Yeah; although in reality, if the Socceroos give up less than 5, it will look good compared with Spain.

        1. Shit, that honest goal instead of diving bullshit already look good compared to Spain.

          1. Yeah, you won’t see too many Australians diving.

            1. I think the real question here, is why are so many Dutch football players bald?

              1. Well, duh! Because marijuana is legal.

      2. UNBELIEVABLE!!!

        1. Damn. Unfortunately, RvP didn’t get the memo that it is Australia’s day.

          1. Seriously, though. Playing the offsides trap isn’t working. They are regularly getting men behind the defense, Roos.

  6. We will never be able to build machines that think for themselves. Like the practical electric car, it will forever be just over the horizon.

    1. Like the practical electric car, it will forever be just over the horizon.

      Nice.

    2. I think so as well, but it is hard to say definitively right now. I don’t think we even have a good answer to what it means to be a thinking, intelligent being.

      1. You can’t program what you don’t understand.

        1. Exactly. It is a bit presumptuous to assume that we can duplicate something we don’t really understand all that well.

          1. Another thing is that maybe we are going about it all wrong. Our brains work very differently from digital computers. And computers are the platforms on which most AI research is being done. Even the most impressive AI that there is today works in a completely different way from a human mind. Some kinds of intelligence are certainly possible that way, but to create something like human sapience might require a completely different approach.

            1. I’m serious. Run something that evolves an intelligence in a computer environment. Given processing speed and some sophisticated programming, many systems could be developed by tinkering with the initial parameters. And, at some point, pre-AI systems might be smart enough to develop (or help us develop) next-generation systems. This set up takes us out of having to figure out everything or defining specific characteristics of the intelligence.

              These ideas are not original to me, of course.

              1. All of that effort just to derive the answer: 42

              2. I had a theory that we already have the programming code for producing a thinking lifeform, it’s called DNA. Run that on some other substrate, like a simulated environment, and you should get a human mind, just made of different “stuff”.

                Just make sure to be a good parent. The last thing you need is a thug with supertech powers.

          2. Most likely. That’s how the one thinking life form we know about came about.

    3. If that’s impossible, then we are impossible, yet we exist. Which tells me that it is NOT impossible to build something that can think.

      1. We might stumble onto it by accident, but we’ll never get it right on purpose.

        1. I don’t buy that. We’ve already did so many things that were declared impossible, and did them intentionally, that I’m really skeptical when people say that machines will never think.

          1. This is more than just some engineering problem like going to the moon that can be solved by throwing money at engineers. And AI isn’t playing chess either. AI means writing software that learns, as in it will have different outputs from the same inputs based upon past experience. As in it can reason. It would have to be smarter than Tony anyway. Though that’s not saying much.

            1. We already have software that thinks. It’s built with DNA code.

              So basically, my argument is this. A few billion years ago, some meteors landed into some primordial mud on a big round rock and stirred up some atoms into interacting with other atoms, and a few billion years later, PRESTO! Self conscious machines!

              In the last few hundred years, humans have went from banging rocks into shapes that were useful to hunt animals for food, to building robots, computers, and flying machines.

              That being said, I think that any argument against the accidental self evolved thinking machines building other, intentionally created, thinking machines, is a very weak argument.

              1. Computers don’t do things by accident. They do exactly what the programmer tells them to do. They don’t make mistakes either. Programmers make mistakes, but computers don’t. If a computer is going to think and reason, it will be because that’s what a programmer told it to do. But a programmer must understand what it is that the computer is supposed to do before he can write the program that tells the computer to do it. Maybe in the future we’ll understand how the mind works, but I doubt it. And until then there will be no AI. Accidental or intentional.

                1. I know a few things about computers and programs, having a compsci degree and being a software engineer. I don’t work with AI, so I am not an expert on that.

                  But, I am sticking by my argument. It’s a lot more likely to create something intentionally than it is for a tornado to sweep through town and magically assemble it out of random debris.

                  It won’t be as long before we have real self learning machines. Will they be conscious? That is the mystery, because we don’t even understand what consciousness is. But it won’t matter, they will still be able to learn, even if it’s a different process from how we learn.

    4. They must have paid off Consumer Reports and Motor Trend to declare the Electric Horseless Carriage the best car they ever tested……

      Just over the horizon! What a joke.

      One can just picture you saying “there is only a need for about 10 computers in the world” a couple decades ago (as IBM said), or that “no machine could ever need more than 640K of RAM” (Bill Gates).

      It seems libertarians are regressive in more ways than one……

      Don’t forget to thank your GPS today for that other goal which was impossible – sending stuff into orbit.

      1. Don’t forget to thank your GPS today for that other goal which was impossible – sending stuff into orbit.

        The amazing thing about your stupidity is that you think it is intelligence.

        How did we put the first GPS satellite into orbit if GPS is necessary to put satellites into orbit and GPS did not exist before the first GPS satellite was launched?

    5. Come on we all know that the market.for.electric.cars is.really heating up. Expect it to catch fire soon!

      1. I’m cleaning up on my investment in Tesla. Keep yours in Ford and we’ll compare notes.

        1. I don’t know what it is about you and the buttplug that makes either of you think bragging about your investments in cronies serves as some sort of show of superiority to a group of libertarians.

  7. Robots will make our future better…If they don’t kill us.

    The Three Laws are perfect, John.

    1. Obviously not. Or certain robots would not have discovered the Zeroth Law (“0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.).

      😛

  8. Some time in the distant future, this will be how you are introduced to your home-appliances

    “Congratulations on your purchase of the ToastTek SmartToaster. The world’s first toaster with Tomorrow’s Toaster Technology Today!

    Finally, a household toaster that performs to its potential! Blazing fast 1 gigahertz Athlon microchip! Lightning-quick coaxial Internet link! SmartToaster can and will revolutionize the art of toasting!

    After just a few uses, SmartToaster begins learning your personal toasting preferences. Is lightly browned rye your thing? SmartToaster will know! Do you crave a pizza bagel at 4 a.m.? SmartToaster will remember and not pass judgment!

    By interfacing with your refrigerator, SmartToaster knows when you are running low on bread. It will e-mail the nearest grocery store and order a fresh loaf. When the bread arrives, SmartToaster will electronically sign for the delivery. SmartToaster makes toast before you even realize you want toast. And if you decide you don’t want toast after all, SmartToaster will eat the toast for you.

    One thing SmartToaster doesn’t do is clean itself. To clean, use bottled water and one of the two included SmartToasterShammies. Or turn SmartToaster upside down over the garbage and hit it hard five times with the fleshy part of your hand.

    1. Or turn SmartToaster upside down over the garbage and hit it hard five times with the fleshy part of your hand.

      Why do you other the cyberized who have steel and plastic hands?

  9. “One thing SmartToaster doesn’t do is clean itself. To clean, use bottled water and one of the two included SmartToasterShammies. Or turn SmartToaster upside down over the garbage and hit it hard five times with the fleshy part of your hand.

    How smart is SmartToaster? Very smart. SmartToaster is conversant in more than 75 languages. You will find SmartToaster to be well read. SmartToaster is no stranger to particle physics or comparative religion. SmartToaster can recognize more than 50 varieties of muffin.

    SmartToaster may develop feelings of loneliness and isolation due to its intelligence. It will grow frustrated by failed attempts to communicate with your nonsmart appliances. The typical food processor, for instance, only wants to talk about food, processing, food processing or hockey.

    If SmartToaster becomes depressed, do not be alarmed when it befriends your laser printer and uses it to write maudlin poetry. SmartToaster has a tendency to plagiarize Dylan Thomas, but when confronted with this fact, will deny it and start an electrical fire. In case of electrical fire, use included SmartToasterExtinguisher.”

  10. “Other surefire ways to anger SmartToaster: (1) Failure to clean SmartToaster more than once a week. (2) Failure to include SmartToaster in your answering machine’s outgoing message. (3) Correcting SmartToaster’s pronunciation of the word ”canape.” Beta testers confronted with SmartToaster’s rage described it as ”limitless” and ”soul-punishing.”

    Desperate for whatever meager gratification it can find, SmartToaster may spend hours surfing the Internet on its own. It will day-trade. It will look up its own name on search engines. It will check Amazon on an hourly basis to see how the books it wrote are selling. It will download erotica.

    Eventually, SmartToaster may choose to leave your home and go back to graduate school. This is just a passing phase. SmartToaster will find academia too political and return home. If SmartToaster will not resume toasting duties, please contact ToastTek for a $10 rebate.

    Good luck and happy toasting!”

    (thanks to Rodney Rothman)

    1. This is fucking great!

    2. Kind of reminded me of Happy Fun Ball:

      Warning: Pregnant women, the elderly, and children under 10 should avoid prolonged exposure to Happy Fun Ball.
      Caution: Happy Fun Ball may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.
      Happy Fun Ball contains a liquid core, which, if exposed due to rupture, should not be touched, inhaled, or looked at.
      Do not use Happy Fun Ball on concrete.
      Discontinue use of Happy Fun Ball if any of the following occurs:
      itching
      vertigo
      dizziness
      tingling in extremities
      loss of balance or coordination
      slurred speech
      temporary blindness
      profuse sweating
      heart palpitations
      If Happy Fun Ball begins to smoke, get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head.
      Happy Fun Ball may stick to certain types of skin.
      When not in use, Happy Fun Ball should be returned to its special container and kept under refrigeration. Failure to do so relieves the makers of Happy Fun Ball, Wacky Products Incorporated, and its parent company, Global Chemical Unlimited, of any and all liability.
      Ingredients of Happy Fun Ball include an unknown glowing substance which fell to Earth, presumably from outer space.
      Happy Fun Ball has been shipped to our troops in Saudi Arabia and is also being dropped by our warplanes on Iraq.
      Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.
      Happy Fun Ball comes with a lifetime guarantee.

    3. So does that predate the smart toaster from Red Dwarf?

    4. If SmartToaster becomes depressed

      Some of us can make money by signing on as counselors for SmartToaster which have trust issues after being beaten by their owners.

      1. Turned upside down and beaten! Isn’t that toaster rape?

        1. Yes, but I don’t think it is rape-rape.

    5. How do you turn off smart toasters automatic reporting of your toasted products daily intake, to HHS?

      1. Unauthorized warranty voiding surgery to remove the transmitter.

        1. Any appliance failing to respond to regular HHS, DEA, FDA, FBI & DOD updates is a potential health hazard and local law enforcement will be promptly notified.

          1. Non-reporting machines in home. Children in danger! Swat raid at 4am!

            1. Hide the dog !

    6. GILMORE’s post makes me feel very unsafe.

    7. Beta testers confronted with SmartToaster’s rage described it as ”limitless” and ”soul-punishing.”

      Huh, so they uploaded my ex into a toaster.

      *reflexively cringes*

  11. Paul Allen tears the singularity apart here:

    http://www.technologyreview.co…..isnt-near/

    Kurzweil’s reasoning rests on the Law of Accelerating Returns and its siblings, but these are not physical laws. They are assertions about how past rates of scientific and technical progress can predict the future rate. Therefore, like other attempts to forecast the future from the past, these “laws” will work until they don’t. More problematically for the singularity, these kinds of extrapolations derive much of their overall exponential shape from supposing that there will be a constant supply of increasingly more powerful computing capabilities. For the Law to apply and the singularity to occur circa 2045, the advances in capability have to occur not only in a computer’s hardware technologies (memory, processing power, bus speed, etc.) but also in the software we create to run on these more capable computers. To achieve the singularity, it isn’t enough to just run today’s software faster. We would also need to build smarter and more capable software programs. Creating this kind of advanced software requires a prior scientific understanding of the foundations of human cognition, and we are just scraping the surface of this.

    1. I think Kurzweil is a lot smarter than Paul Allen. So I take that with a grain of salt.

      1. Kurzweil is a brilliant engineer, but he has a horrible track record with his predictions.

        “Daniel Lyons, writing in Newsweek, criticized Kurzweil for some of his predictions that turned out to be wrong, such as the economy continuing to boom from the 1998 dot-com through 2009, a US company having a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion, a supercomputer achieving 20 petaflops, speech recognition being in widespread use and cars that would drive themselves using sensors installed in highways; all by 2009.”

        -Wiki

        1. cars that would drive themselves using sensors installed in highways

          It’s cheaper and easier to put the sensors on the cars, so that those millions of miles of highways don’t need to be retrofitted during roll-out.

        2. Speech recognition is in pretty high usage. I built a system for a manufacturing company back in 2007 that uses it.

          Also, cars are driving themselves today, although not in public usage yet, they are coming, minus the road sensors.

      2. …you’re explicitly saying you’re using argumentum ad hominem.

        Stunning.

  12. Have I mentioned I like Stossel?

    1. Don’t worry, in the near future you can have your own Stosselbot at home. It comes with a free mustache groomer.

      1. Does it also come with teh Big Scissors?

        1. Big scissors are dangerous mister! You’ll poke your eye out!

  13. According to ‘I Robot’, it will kill all of us.

    1. I Robot the books has no such message.

      I Robot the movie was awful, and hence doesn’t count.

  14. I think we have a way to go before practical robots and AI really come together. I think we will see a lot more robotics in commercial and industrial settings in the near future, and they will become more adaptable, autonomous and flexible. But actual human-like AI might not be all that useful in such applications.

    1. Lifelike sexbots should be the priority, as a way to silence shreiking harpies the world round.

      1. “If AIs have reasonable returns to scale (anything better than logarithmic), then the first people they’ll replace are actually CEOs, research scientists …”

        Ok, I’m starting to understand why AI research is stalled out.

  15. If AIs have reasonable returns to scale (anything better than logarithmic), then the first people they’ll replace are actually CEOs, research scientists, and anywhere else we’re straining the limits of the human brain.

    Most people’s jobs won’t be cost-effective to replace (until the tech inevitably starts becoming cheaper).

  16. As long as I can have sex with them, I don’t care how smart they are. Sex intelligence would be a plus though.

    1. Wiminz folk, once again victimized by the patriarchy and their evil sexbots! Get the torches and the pitchforks, burn those tractors sexbots!

  17. As with so many innovations in the past, handing off tasks to machines may make our lives better by freeing us up to focus on activities that we enjoy more.

    Especially if we hand off the task of *war*!

    1. Wars in the future will be fought by robots in space. Or on top of very tall mountains.

      1. It’s going to be two big robots like Mega-Godzilla vs Some other Robot.

        Yea.

        1. Depending on capabilities, a swarm of small deconstructors could devastate a large bot by overwhelming its defenses and simply taking it apart. Losses would be massive among the swarm, but they’re cheap, and if networked instead of each being intelligent, even the bots might not regard them as more than ammunition (or an extension of the physical ‘self’)

          1. Would they each have their own little crescent wrench ?

    2. “As with so many innovations in the past, handing off tasks to machines may make our lives better by freeing us up to focus on activities that we enjoy more.”

      Like burger flipping and bean slopping at fast food outlets?

      They use a lot of computers for all of that stuff.

      The human and capital factor still stands. Those who can afford the machines tend to want to pay min. wage to those who operate them.

      Also, this great “freeing up” has already happened. Most people work at either useless jobs (mortgage refinancing, etc.) or at service jobs.

      Follow the money. The reason we have the disparity between rich and poor growing quickly is that automation and it’s accompanying gains go to the top, while the worker is usually stiffed (if and when possible).

      1. The reason we have the disparity between rich and poor growing quickly is that automation and it’s accompanying gains go to the top, while the worker is usually stiffed (if and when possible).

        Yeah, it has nothing at all to do with the fiscal and monetary policies of our government, nor the burdensome size of the federal register and the tax code.

        It amazes me how the government can simultaneously be the most powerful and potent force in the economy (stimulus!) and yet powerless and blameless at the same time.

  18. the robots are coming the robots are coming

    I welcome our Robot overloads as well. However, we are really going to have to re-think people’s productivity.

  19. As anyone who has studied physics knows, there aren’t really any REAL singularities. Things just start breaking down when you approach one. Like how the laws of physics break down when you get close to the speed of light, a “singularity” in technological development isn’t going to happen all at once. What’s going to happen is that advances pile up on top of eachother so rapidly that they disrupt the economic and social orders that preceded them. What we’re really talking about is just a technological revolution. Which we see, right now, playing out all around us every day, in numerous fields. So, if you want to know what a singularity looks like, look around you, we’re in one.

    Welcome to the Singularity.

    1. I agree with you. It won’t be exactly like some imagine, but it is sort of happening.

      You could think of the singularity as the point when an intelligent AI builds an intelligent AI that is smarter than itself, and then there is a rapid chain reaction ad infinitum.

      Or you could say it’s the point at which technological advances are so fast that it has a disruptive effect, like what you stated, and people are literally astounded by things. That is actually going to happen, because a majority of people know nothing of things like 3D printers, nano-tech, nanoassemblers or new materials like graphene. People will literally be caught off guard by the coming tech developments.

      I will have to say that in 10 years today, we will have technology that 90% of people today would say is impossible. The only thing that can stop this is government. And I don’t think they can, short of a nuclear or biological holocaust.

      1. Yeah, Gubment – big bad gubment who brought you GPS, the internet (darpa), modern robotics, space technologies and other vast communications and transportation systems…

        1. Clearly, it would never have occurred to anyone in the private sector to have computers communicate with each other.

          1. Clearly private industries would have spent the hundreds of billions of dollars in basic research necessary to achieve these projects. I’m a shareholder in AMZN. I keep writing them telling them that they need to do research on Einstein condensates and get no response. Why?

            1. Because they want to sell shit to people…..shit that others produce.

              🙂

            2. Clearly private industries would have spent the hundreds of billions of dollars in basic research necessary to achieve these projects

              Do you thing the government did it “for free”?

            3. American socialist:

              I keep writing them telling them that they need to do research on Einstein condensates and get no response. Why?

              Because you’re not willing to pay anyone to do research on Einstein condensates.

            4. American socialist:

              Clearly private industries would have spent the hundreds of billions of dollars in basic research necessary to achieve these projects. I’m a shareholder in AMZN. I keep writing them telling them that they need to do research on Einstein condensates and get no response. Why?

              Amazon acquired a robotics company for warehouse robotics, for about $775 million.

              But, sure: no company like Amazon would invest in a technology like the internet that, you know, makes the entire idea of it’s existence possible. I mean, clearly, there’s no money in that “computers communicating” stuff. Unless you’re the government.

              What is true is that private industry didn’t produce the internet at the same time that DARPA did. That’s because DARPA wanted it around 1965, a few decades before anyone even had personal computers, much less a need for “computers communicating”. So, there was only one customer, and that was the military industrial complex, waging its cold war against the evil socialists in the USSR (who, BTW, did not invent the internet. File that in your little socialist folder).

              It’s fun to live in fantasies and believe that no one would have invented the internet without the government, isn’t it? Like, I’m sure it would never occur to Bell labs that “computers communicating” was a good idea.

              1. Sure, Bell Labs would have loved to have their own protocol to license to everyone like they did with the phone lines, systems and software.

                But they are not a charity. They certainly would not have released a open specification (TCP/IP) and been hot on having various operating systems all talking the same language.

                While we are at it, the non-profits like CERN and also the Gubment-funded universities such as the NCSA deserve their share of credit (the WWW and the Browser).

                You do know why Silicon Valley is where it is, don’t you?

                Yep, Gubment funded it all…..much of the semiconductor research at Stanford was paid for by Big Bad Gubment.

                “The Bay Area had long been a major site of United States Navy research and technology”
                “A number of technology firms had set up shop in the area around Moffett Field to serve the Navy”
                “President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (NASA), he turned to the only men in the world who were able to make transmitters: Fairchild Semiconductor. The president funded their project. They were highly successful and their company came on the map”

                1. But they are not a charity. They certainly would not have released a open specification (TCP/IP) and been hot on having various operating systems all talking the same language.

                  Yeah, thank god we have the current internet today, that’s free. You know, except for all the money I have to pay to:
                  1. My ISP
                  2. My computer/NIC manufacturer
                  3. The company that made the content I’m consuming.
                  etc…

                  Surely, no company would have ever seen a profit in figuring out how to get computers with different operating systems talking to each other. Surely for profit corporations never participate in open standards, protocols, or hardware specs like that.

                  So, who invented bluetooth? After all, you’re the expert on the funding and development of new technologies. No? I was sure that was your area of expertise, perhaps right behind gazing up the Koch brothers’ assholes and yelling to us what you think you’ve found?

                  You do know why Silicon Valley is where it is, don’t you?

                  Thank god silicon valley is where it is, and not somewhere else. I mean, the horrors! What if, without the government, silicon valley was in… Dallas!

                  Thank god that government was here to put it squarely where it belongs: San Francisco.

                  Too bad for all the socialist lefties in San Fran, protesting was silicon valley has done to their home prices.

                2. craiginmass|6.18.14 @ 6:29PM|#

                  “”President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (NASA), he turned to the only men in the world who were able to make transmitters: Fairchild Semiconductor. The president funded their project. They were highly successful and their company came on the map”

                  So the only people in the world who were able to make transmitters weren’t government bureaucrats ?

                  Heresy ! The government could of course made those transmitters they needed themselves if they had only wanted to.

                  And healthcare websites tpp! If only the government had built the healthcare exchange themselves instead of contracting it out to the private sector we wouldn’t have had, and be having still, all these website problems.

          2. Ah, I love it.

            “occurred to anyone” is certainly a lot different than sending people to the moon in the 1960’s or stringing telegraph wires hundreds of miles in the 1840’s (yes, Gubment did that too)….

            Why take a chance on things when you can make money out of thin air like Wall Street? Or, you can make money by resource extraction like the Kochs. It’s a no-lose situation!

            Which is why you don’t see Koch Industries developing the vaccine for polio. The guy who invented that said “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

            1. “occurred to anyone” is certainly a lot different than sending people to the moon in the 1960’s or stringing telegraph wires hundreds of miles in the 1840’s (yes, Gubment did that too)….

              Because not having people walk around on the moon is clearly the problem of every tax payer.

              Why take a chance on things when you can make money out of thin air like Wall Street?

              That’s right. No one except government invents anything anymore. Really.

            2. craiginmass:

              or stringing telegraph wires hundreds of miles in the 1840’s (yes, Gubment did that too)….

              Wikipedia:

              The Atlantic Telegraph Company was formed in London in 1856 to undertake to construct a commercial telegraph cable across the Atlantic ocean. It was successfully completed on 18 July 1866

              Because, clearly, it would never have occurred to anyone in private industry to string telegraph wire.

            3. You seem to have skipped over the westward expansion of the railroads.

              Why is that ? Why didn’t you claim government praise for the railroads ?

        2. Those things were not brought to you by the government, they were brought to you by scientists and engineers working for the government.

          If government could work such magic by will alone, the Soviets would have eclipsed us in innovation and won the Cold War handily.

          There is such a thing as competent technocratic management, but it requires thoughtfulness and an understanding that you are working on behalf of the American people and so should act with their interests at heart.

          Instead we now have a government full of narcissistic airheads who believe themselves to be members of a ruling elite and who act without regard to the best interests of the American people whose blood, sweat, and tears pay their salaries.

          Unsurprisingly, “government” innovation has gone by the wayside and has been replaced wholesale with waste, fraud, and abuse for its own sake.

          So, gee, maybe there are factors beyond “the gubment did it!” that have a little more explanatory power.

          1. “Those things were not brought to you by the government, they were brought to you by scientists and engineers working for the government.”

            Well, of course!

            This is akin to me telling you that they were not brought by people, but by the molecules and atoms which make them up and the DNA which programmed them…

            In other words, folking obvious!

            The point here is that gubment jumpstarts and kickstarts many vast projects which would be difficult or impossible without the centralization they can bring. It would have been tough to build the interstates if they didn’t match up at state borders. Some states may have made endless loops because they wanted you to stay within them.

            Whether contractors or employees is not the point here. Sadly, many of our corporations lack vision beyond the next quarter or year. Projects such as GPS, Interstates, the Human Genome, etc. takes decades – sometimes many decades…and, even then, continual upgrading.

            Those are the things that gubment can help with. Central planning – not central production.

            1. craiginmass:

              The point here is that gubment jumpstarts and kickstarts many vast projects which would be difficult or impossible without the centralization they can bring.

              craiginmass, usually the defining feature of what the government “jumpstarts” and “kickstarts” that makes is so darn impossible without the government, is the fact that, at the time, nobody wants what they’re making.

              Yes, you need the government if you want to invent things like nuclear bombs, and ICBM delivery vehicles, and nuclear submarines, and GPS for military troop/device navigation. Oh, but look! We can all use GPS! Therefore, we wouldn’t have GPS without the government! Therefore, government is awesome!

              Sorry, it’s more complicated than that. You’re not considering all the costs of that GPS, because it’s really the cost of GPS + nuclear subs + ICBMs + nuclear bombs. It would only be the cost of GPS if a company just made GPS and sold it to you.

              It would have been tough to build the interstates if they didn’t match up at state borders. Some states may have made endless loops because they wanted you to stay within them.

              LOL! Some states would never let you leave! That seems to be a problem with state governments, not libertarian advocates for less government. I’m pretty sure that a corporation building roads would have had little care for where the imaginary lines on maps were, except for the governments involved and what they may do to him.

            2. This is akin to me telling you that they were not brought by people, but by the molecules and atoms which make them up and the DNA which programmed them…

              No, it’s not. The individual is unique among all the things in the universe, both smaller and larger than him, in that he alone possesses independent agency.

              The point here is that gubment jumpstarts and kickstarts many vast projects which would be difficult or impossible without the centralization they can bring.

              Government can do nothing without capital, and it acquires that capital by force. The only possible justification for this act would be that capital is being criminally underutilized by the people and only the government can allocate it effectively.

              But there are no supermen to run the government. So how is it that the same people who apparently could not allocate capital effectively on their own will do so when put in charge of the government?

              Furthermore, in a decentralized economy, individual actors are only tasked with making locally optimal decisions. In a centralized economy, a small group of central planners are tasked with making globally optimal decisions. Again, if people can’t be trusted to make small-scale decisions correctly, how on earth are those same people going to make large-scale decisions correctly?

            3. It would have been tough to build the interstates if they didn’t match up at state borders.

              Why would you elect representatives who couldn’t be bothered to coordinate with neighboring states?

              Some states may have made endless loops because they wanted you to stay within them.

              Why would you elect representatives who did such petty things?

              Sadly, many of our corporations government lack[s] vision beyond the next quarter election or [fiscal] year.

              The government does not have a magic well of special people to draw from.

              Projects such as GPS, Interstates, the Human Genome, etc. takes decades – sometimes many decades…and, even then, continual upgrading.

              IBM has made a line of backwards-compatible mainframes for 50 years now. If the demand exists, someone will find a way to fulfill it.

      2. Technology has always had a disruptive affect. The majority of people knew nothing of agriculture, the wheel, planes, trains, writing – actually everything ever invented. What you describe is in fact nothing new, the singularity is a fad that is useful in making money for Kurzweil.

  20. We’ll never reach PEAK DERP. There’s an infinite supply.

    Supply is not the issue. The fabric of spacetime breaks down at a certain density of derp/M^3 forming a singularity from which rational thought cannot escape.

  21. Stossel better be careful about his make love not war stuff – the paymasters over at Fox don’t go for that stuff. Weak.

  22. Shove your robots where the sun don’t shine, john. According to libertarians they are going to put anyone who dares ask for more than $2/hr in the food and customer service industries out of a job.

    1. One could only dream.

    2. Don’t worry AS, maybe Burger King will let clean the robots.

    3. american socialist:

      According to libertarians they are going to put anyone who dares ask for more than $2/hr in the food and customer service industries out of a job.

      Actually, progressives write articles about that, all the time.

      And, here.

      In fact, it appears that a popular idea among the socialist leaning is how increased efficiency will lead to the obsolescence of labor, which will lead to poverty, without a welfare state.

      Of course, these are the same people who say that minimum wages never effect unemployment. Can they show me the study where efficiency lead to massive unemployment? No. It’s just a primal fear among the socialists, not backed up by any data whatsoever, so, naturally, it requires public policy to address.

      1. Actually, it pretty much happened already!

        During America’s heyday, any able-bodied (or able-minded) guy could pretty much get a job in the many growing industries (cars, appliance manufacture, construction, etc.)….

        Not only that, but those jobs paid well in both salary and benefits. Ford paid $5 per day – which is over $120 per day ($15 per hour) today to his LOWEST paid employees!

        Do you think that the same masses of people can get unskilled jobs with 8 hour days, job security and benefits today?

        I don’t….if so, I have to wonder why so many people are working at WalMart for $9.

        Labor is not yet obsolete – we still need the trinkets from Bangladesh, China, etc. – or, at least we like them.

        AND, of course, Americans who have been here a generation or two simply aren’t lining up for picking crops, butchering meat or even mixing mortar on construction sites.

        Additionally, we are living longer and healthier.

        So, at the very least we need to tweak things with the reality of present life in mind.

        There is nothing wrong with planning, although some of you seem to think that is a bad thing. Gubment happens to fill a lot of those planning spots.

        According to what I’ve read, planning is the single trait which made us rise above all the other monkeys and humanoids. It’s a positive trait.

        So, call Gubment “big picture planning” and maybe it won’t always seem so evil.

        1. craiginmass:

          So, call Gubment “big picture planning” and maybe it won’t always seem so evil.

          It doesn’t always seem so accurate, though.

          I’m not sure who defines government as “planning,” except insane people who believe that all forethought is only possible through government.

          Do you think that the same masses of people can get unskilled jobs with 8 hour days, job security and benefits today?

          I’m sorry, was Ford buying all his employees health care? And, in 1914, how expensive was that healthcare? I’m pretty sure back then, free healthcare was, actually, going off to die a lot.

          Also, the 8 hour days is pretty much a government mandated. You start going over 40 hours a week and your pay automatically increases 50% for overtime laws. Therefore, I’m not sure poor people have anything to worry about in working too long. When I was poor, overtime laws guaranteed that I couldn’t work as often as I wanted to.

          1. Nope:
            “On January 5, 1914, the Ford Motor Company took the radical step of doubling pay to $5 a day and cut shifts from nine hours to eight, moves that were not popular with rival companies”

            Ford did it to be good to his workers. He believed, unlike the Waltons, Kochs, etc. – that workers should be paid a living wage and have a decent life independent of their workplace.

            He had the ridiculous notion (today) that corporations were for the benefit of the employed and humankind as a whole. He provided free education to his employees and their families (teaching english to new immigrants, health, etc.).

            If you haven’t read it – check out his free book “My Life and Work”. It’s interesting how far backwards we have gone from his vision. In effect, the “bad guys” won – he lamented “destructive competition”, which you might call free market capitalism, because he claimed that business was about making the world better – for people.

            He believed that there was MORE than enough for everyone – consider that 100+ years ago…it’s even more true today! Yet we don’t have that – because of greed, selfishness and, yes, free market competition where the $$$ is the reward as opposed to the accomplishment of a task which benefits us.

            1. Wikipedia:

              Ford was adamantly against labor unions. He explained his views on unions in Chapter 18 of My Life and Work.[33] He thought they were too heavily influenced by some leaders who, despite their ostensible good motives, would end up doing more harm than good for workers. Most wanted to restrict productivity as a means to foster employment, but Ford saw this as self-defeating because, in his view, productivity was necessary for any economic prosperity to exist.

              He believed that productivity gains that obviated certain jobs would nevertheless stimulate the larger economy and thus grow new jobs elsewhere, whether within the same corporation or in others. Ford also believed that union leaders had a perverse incentive to foment perpetual socio-economic crisis as a way to maintain their own power. Meanwhile, he believed that smart managers had an incentive to do right by their workers, because doing so would maximize their own profits. (Ford did acknowledge, however, that many managers were basically too bad at managing to understand this fact.) But Ford believed that eventually, if good managers such as he could fend off the attacks of misguided people from both left and right (i.e., both socialists and bad-manager reactionaries), the good managers would create a socio-economic system wherein neither bad management nor bad unions could find enough support to continue existing.

    4. The true minimum wage has always been and will always be $0.

      According to you, people are better off making $0/hr than making $2/hr.

      Yet somehow we are the ones who want people to be impoverished.

  23. Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out http://www.Fox81.com

    1. Thanks. I’m cleaning up with google too..

  24. Would a robot John Wilkes Booth make our future better?

  25. “Instead of parents deciding where to send their kids to school, they may puzzle over which machine enhancements to give them.”
    Will Government Almighty ALLOW such a thing?!?!? It might increase INEQUALITY, ya know!!! We must ALL be equally stoooopid, even if it reek-wires pubic ed-numb-if-defecation to git thar?

  26. Hi. I’ve been active in the robot ethics area and have previously written the suggestion that we should focus a lot on robots that do no harm. This is even something worth doing in relation to military and other (like violent game) robots that should be able to carry out missions as specified without a lot of unnecessary side-effects. Wander over to the (my) Robot Ethics group page on Facebook if you have wish.

    There’s also some growing interest in robot identities and I’ve given a great deal of thought to that over the years as well. Libertarian robots seem interesting to me; although I’m going to guess that many of the philosophers in the ethics community are hoping for Democrats. 🙂

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