Robots: Part 3
Gary Kline

Unlike the first two essays on robots that were rooted in the present, this third and last piece is my best-guest regarding where robotics (eventually implanted in the human brain) will assist the entirety of humanity.

My best guess is that at first, these grain-sized bots will be electronic; later technologies will integrate these tool-sets at the DNA (genetic) level. --Of course, things forecast here are very crude, and essays like this--especially best-guess ideas--may never be complete.
Gary Kline
May, 2007
{Update #2, June, 2012}

Robotic assistance for humankind.

The idea of an “intelligent” machine seems frightening to many people, even some with advanced degrees and in the computer field. While creating an intelligent program that will, say, create other efficient computer programs or chug away at advanced mathematical problems is possible-- more about this immediately below--creating a computer program to control a robot that can act willfully or even simply simulate human “will” is fairly remote. I would guesstimate that developing a computer-simulated will is at least 75 years away.

Fearing such developments lacks credibility for the following reasons: for one thing, for an “intelligent machine” to do harm, the machine must have a Will, an authenticity--the capability to realize its own intent. To achieve this level of capability will indeed be possible eventually, but only if conscious intelligence is designed into a machine. I see no reason whatsoever to build, much less to design a robot with this level of sophistication. Bots that can, and do, with “assumed authenticity,” compose music or even create unique artwork, music, or literature. I would ask, “Why bother, when billions of years of evolution have given us that ability? and naturally.” An “artificial authenticity” is an absurdity that is unnecessary.

Here is an example of the absurd--although, at the time, it was seem as a research project: During the 1970's a computer was programmed to write new and unique programs. (The plans to create a program that will create other computer programs is not new.) Using artificial intelligence logic of the day, this early program was tasked to create a sorting program whose already existing base-line program ran in plain linear time: Put simply, a program for sorting N-elements would run at N-speed. Given 3 time N elements to sort, the existing sort program ran in (3 times N) speed.

The program-to-create-a-sorting-program came up with a sorting algorithm that ran in N-to-the-four-power or N4, or polynomial time. If we simply use a second to denote the time it took, the humor of this early AI program becomes evident. In other words, using the artificial-intelligence program, to sort 8 names required N4 (or 84 or 4096) seconds. To sort (3 times 8) names took 331,776 seconds. Since those early AI programming exercises, I assume these shortcoming have been fixed, but it lends an idea of the problems involved in emulating or simulating human thought. Our brains process thought in chunks of billions of parallel streams. (A “stream” is a single thought procedure.)

Even the best parallel computation with 2007 technology is in the thousands. It is true that in a few more score years computer hardware and software will be able to achieve stupendous tasks. Give the computer vision and arms and it may be able to draw reasonably complex diagrams that it created. And compose music and orchestrate it; derive new and unique mathematics; create worthwhile short stories and novels. Come up with interesting new philosophical paradigms ... and vastly more.

But _why_ need anyone give computers a synthetic authenticity that would be considered giving a computer (or robot) a Will? It is conceivable and someday probably will be achieved. At the same time, by then, human intelligence will have been increased thousands of times over what it currently is.

Enhanced Brain Functionality.

For the sake of argument, let's say that an especially malevolent billion-dollar corporation contradicts its inherent wisdom and decides to build a robot with a synthetic Will in 50 or 100 years. By that time, human intelligence will have an “IQ”1 A legitimate question is to wonder what type of society it can be, what type of society it will be when the vast majority of people have superior intelligence. As I see it the answer is pretty clear. People will still be pretty much the same. Intelligence does not necessarily mean that everybody will be hard-bitten Atheists. Humans seem to have an inherent need for a daddy-god, or some kind of spirituality. Society will be pretty much the same as it is now, only better. People will still argue, be jealous, desire things, be driven by interior needs. What will be missing will be the extremes of behavior. I see these extremes as being the main cause of discord. I believe our world would lack color if we stripped ourselves of emotions or cut them down too far.

My hunch is that there are genes that cause--or tend to cause-- natural depression, and, likewise, natural optimism, and happiness. Similarly, there may be genes that make us tend toward being an ethical person that follows a righteous or beneficent path as a matter of course. We all know people whom we consider good--who have a natural inclination toward doing the right thing, who are naturally helpful, kind, and empathetic. There are billions of people like this. If the opposite were true, humankind would have killed itself off in its earliest days. Cooperation precedes competition. Thus, it would be a requirement to turn on these positive genes while switching off genes that tend toward unmitigated selfishness, hatred, greed, and other anti-social behavior. This will help get rid of the kinds of sociopathic behavior that has caused humankind so much grief and destruction since we great apes evolved into homo sapiens sapiens.

Of course, we need to take every precaution to avoid the law of unintended consequences--genes that can be switched on (experimentally), can also be switched off (perhaps maliciously). So before we let technology turn us into enhanced-intelligence-machines, years--perhaps decades-- of testing will be necessary. But to fear advanced robotics--even intelligent robots who can “think” and “create” and who have a sense of Being-hood is without foundation. As we create higher intelligence in machines, we will, at the same time, be creating more intelligent persons. When we accomplish this Computer Assisted Intelligence will, in essence, turn persons into kinds of robots. Future humans will, by having been self-evolved, be very much like people today with the pluses of being naturally kind and empathic, full of compassion for persons at every level. They will be filled with a deep sense of community along with a firm individualism. The idea of the future of super-intelligence in humans will have nothing whatever to do with the Nietzschean idea of an ubermench class; not just a few people, but that eventually everyone will be able to have this level of intelligence and character enhancement. Another benefit of these changes will be that everyone will be able to achieve Maslow's highest level of his hierarchy: self-actualization or self-realization. As we evolve ourselves into the realm having bionic or robotic minds, we will reach ultimate liberation.

Robots Performing Art.

It has been possible for many years to use computers to emulate playing piano as well as a vast array of other instruments. Artificial voice technology is rapidly improving so that it may well be able to have a singing computer with perfect pitch. Who needs a real, live singer when you will be able to buy one for something in the low hundreds of dollars to emulate a hundred-piece orchestra? Or a trio? With solid state disk and terabytes of memory, your emulation system would be able to compose pieces just to fit your mood; music and lyrics both.

Advanced algebra is enabling computers to move with vastly improved capacity and to avoid collision with anything nearby. It will not be long before there are computers that can emulate the top dancers; no, I'll go even further: in ten or twenty years, robots a meter high will be able to dance and swing far better than the best human dancer. Throw in a few hundred nano-gyros and a mix of small, and very small motors with somewhat larger motors. And lo! on stage will be five or seven extremely nimble dancing robots.

Given this, are we still going to be ready to pay actors or actresses who are moody, temperamental, and who also demand ten millions dollars each for a few months of play acting? (Obviously, when computer voice technology has improved, the studios will be able to do everything through computer animation. There are enough “roughs” with wire 3D frames that can be put into libraries of short takes. These takes can be used to create a motion picture that will be difficult or impossible to tell from reality.

But How many of us want artificial music machines? even if they create music that is every bit as beautiful of that a live singer or musician? (“Some might; I would certainly have to ponder the issue hard.)

So what if “the studio” or an independent company risks $millions to afford $10 million each for actors Gerty Glamorous and Harry Handsome? It will be close to a century--perhaps two--before there will be a computer to write the screenplay? Writing will long remain in the top ranks of creativity.

Even when computers, or computer-aided-writing devices, have won the day, and all the rest of the technology has reached the ability to surpass us... do we really want that? For me, the answer is a simple “very probably not.”

In times yet unimagined, robots will be parts of future-tech that will help us keep a low profile on our great mother. Technology will let us leave a small footprint--or none whatever--or possibly to do what each of us dreams of: to leave the place better than we found it. Sometime in the 21st century, what the Idealists dreamed of nearly two centuries ago is likely to come to pass. The primary work of the “developed world” will be ideas, innovation, design, and, obviously educating the generations, past, present, and future.

robotics will costs tend of thousand of jobs; these will be the old jobs. the standard comparison given is buggy-whip manufacturers as horse-and-buggy transports was transformed into horseless carriages. the buggy-whip manufacturers lost out and transformed as cars short-circuited their industry. New jobs--fewer of them initially--will evolve. that is just how progress has always worked. and always will.

When we consider where the rapidly-advancing future of robotics is taking us, we can reflect on what John Adams wrote to his wife: that the future would be one of abundance ans increasing leisure. A world in which his grandchildren and future generations would have the opportunity to study “painting, poetry, music, architecture” and more. John Adams was a couple centuries ahead of his time, but with the advent of robotic labor to save us from both simple and complex tasks means that the time he had in mind is very near.

1 The term “intelligence quotient” has lost a great deal of the value that it had several decades ago. This is because the use of intelligence, as it applies to humans, has broadened, morphed.