The Unedited
Free space for free expression in English & Italian
(Un)Edited by Carlo Pelanda
Managed by F.Brunelli e L.Borgiani

DOES THE FUTURE NEED US?

By Justin Armstrong (October 5, 2000)
   

Can you imagine a world without the human race? The world that humans are accustomed to is on the brink of a catastrophic event that could eliminate the human race. The future is enforceable for many because new technology has been created to "improve?existence. As a new millennium begins, technology has become a way of life, and new advancements could lead to the annihilation of life forms as we know them. Does the present day world realize how dependent society has become on technology? Over the years, major technological advances have been made in schools, the medical field, and in homes. For example, almost every classroom in the United States has its own personal computer. Children are trained in computer techniques at a young age. This is a tremendous change from past decades. Furthermore, the medical field now uses laser surgery on eyes to repair eye vision. Finally, the internet has the greatest potential to be the largest technological advancement of all time. Consequently, it is hypothesized that humans and robots through technology could become one entity.

In the article, "Why the future doesn't need us," Bill Joy conceives the idea humans may eventually be over taken by intelligent robotic beings. Joy was already aware that new technologies, such as nanotechnology and genetic engineering, might change the world. He was shocked when he heard the idea from Ray Kurzweil that humans may one day face near immortality by becoming one with robotic technology (Joy, 1). Joy believes that one day intelligent machines will be smarter and more efficient than even the brightest humans. Also, he states "the dream of robotics is, first, that intelligent machines can do our work for us, allowing lives of leisure, restoring us to Eden?(Joy, 7). He believes this would make for a utopian society, and he thinks people would like this type of unfufilling lifestyle. This would create an environment where robots rule all the functions of society. Therefore, these machines will "make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained?(Joy, 2). It will be difficult to predict how machines might behave if they are empowered with the capabilities to make their own decisions. This has the potential to manifest into chaos.

It will be unpredictable to determine how the machines will act under such circumstances. Robots would have the capabilities to determine the fate of the human race with their own extended brain power. Freethinking machines would empower themselves to make humans dependent upon them to sustain their way of life. Thus, society as it is known would be at the whim of a computer generated machine. This change will not come over night, but as machines become more powerful and humans more dependent, society would slip into a downward progression. Eventually, robots would control the earth, and this should not be allowed to happen (Joy, 2).

However, robots can be made where they would still be under human control. These machines could be under personal private control, with each man/woman having power over his/her own machine. This would eradicate the problem of computers manipulating the environment to their own conditions. However, this will only be the case for those who can afford to pay the price, and that will only be a tiny elite. Therefore, the technology will still be in the hands of a few, and the many will suffer to the whims of the upper class. The elite will control society and lifestyles of the lower classes, and their lives will be made purposeless. The labor force will be eliminated because they will no linger be needed, and the economy will be changed. Consequently, biological engineering will be the only solution to keep the masses happy in a meaningless existence because they will be greatly altered so they no longer care about work (Joy, 2).

Joy states, "biological species almost never survive encounters with superior competitors."With this idea in mind, it is almost a given that superior robots would affect humans in a free marketplace. Humans would not have the capacity to deal with their encounter with technology. Not only would robots affect humans, but robotic industries would be so competitive between one another for energy, matter, and space, that they would force their price out of human reach. This notion would lead to the disruption of all mankind. However, we do not live in a completely free marketplace, so there is some relief that this notion will never take place. Indeed, government intervention will restrict this occurrence because of taxes and subsidies for robotic labor to aid the free market (Joy, 3). Potentially this threat could eradicate human labor and replace it with robots without governmental intervention.

If robots were used in industry, humans would no longer be needed. Robots would be able to perform tasks and duties more efficiently, saving money, and consuming fewer resources. This would lead to greater production outputs and higher productivity; however, humans would be useless because they would no longer have skills that could compare to those of the robots. For example, "computers can now design, test and build their own, increasingly efficient automatons, quite independently of human beings?(Borger, 1). This is one of the reasons why Joy feels that computers will advance enough to maybe take over the universe. They will have the capacity to wear down humans with their stamina and ability to change rapidly.

Robots can in time create minds of their own through evolutionary processes. For instance "machines will ultimately be capable of artificial evolution -- mutating, testing, and improving their design faster than living organisms?(Borger, 1). This is a scary proposition to most humans, since many did not realize robots had these capabilities. Some robots might even be able to reproduce themselves independently, which will lead to humans having no control over their progression. Some argue "robots, engineered organisms, and nanobots share a dangerous amplifying factor: They can self-replicate. A bomb is blown up only once-but one bot can become many, and quickly get out of control?(Specht, 2). The simple truth lies in: "If left to their own devices, computers could evolve far faster than living organisms, generating mutations and testing them against the environment in seconds instead of thousands of years?(Borger, 2). This could produce a far superior race to human beings in a matter of hours, while it took humans millions of years to reach this level of technology.

The prospects of robotic beings could become a realty as early as 2030. Technology could be used to manufacture mass numbers of robots "as cheaply as sony walkmans?(Borger, 2). With this proposed scenario, everyone would obtain their own robot for everyday household necessities. Many robotic forms are already being used such as Roboguard. This robot can track suspects with infrared sensors and fire at will on the suspects by a command through the internet. Therefore, the fire command is protected by a password and a human decision. Also, scientists have created a surgeon robot which performs knee replacement surgery. This robot does not make errors like humans. The robotic arm is steadier, works in finer detail, and never gets tired (Borger, 3). It is a fact that anyone in their right frame of mind would rather have a robotic device perform complicated surgery on them instead of a erroneous human being.??

In Bill Joy's view he believes that we should be cautious in exploring new technology, always keeping moral appeals in mind. He has proposed to limit new research which has provoked debate about limitations within the high tech industry (Specht, 1). Scientist fail to understand the consequences of their actions while creating new technology. Joy recommends "that scientist should swear to abide by an ethical code of conduct?(Specht, 3). One would believe that this code of conduct would limit the invention of dangerous technological advances such as the threat of robots taking over the world. Technology should only be able to go so far because one needs to realize ethical and moral implications on society. This creation cannot have the capacity to restrict or complicate the future for generations to come. Furthermore, one must ensure that "powerful twenty-first century technologies [do not] make the human race an endangered species?(Wacker, 1). People need to be aware that new technological inventions can lead to laziness which could result into the extinction of the human race.

While I understand the importance of Joy's concerns, I feel that he may be a little to worried about the future of technology. Technology is advancing at a terribly rapid pace. I strongly support Wacker who believes "we need some kind of bureaucracy of checks and balances to better control technology, or we need to better comprehend the issues of complexity in technology and resultant interdependencies?(Wacker, 2). Ted Kaczynski believes that if we do not take precautionary measures in our research, we will become so dependent upon computers that we will become slaves to the system (Specht, 2). Joy derived his theory from that of Kaczynski.

I do agree with Joy in the fact that he believes technology has no moral standards. I feel that any technological advancement that could one day replace the human race should be put to a stop. One of the strong points in Joy's article is his belief that scientists should swear to follow an ethical code of conduct (Specht, 3). We decide when and where technology will be used and if technology is harmful, then we are morally confined not to pursue the technology and to take measures to ensure it does not fall in the wrong hands (van der Werff, 1). It is highly plausible that within the next few years technology will mass produce robots for daily tasks. These machines should not be allowed to take over the jobs of human labor. Even now, it is a concern to me that the world has become slow-moving due to the onset of the technological age. Everyday people become more adept to technology, forcing human interaction to be sacrificed. For example, we now can shop via internet, communicate without actually speaking, pay for gas without having to interact with the cashier, and we can even clap on lights. I feel that human interaction is suffering in this new millennium due to technological advances. I have always been a firm believer in the idea that people's interactions make our world a better place.

Overall, "this is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself?(Joy, 10). I think that this quote by Joy is precise in the fact that technology has become so advanced. The article by Joy may seem absurd, but there is reason to believe that the advancement of technology could impose a potential threat to our existence. Humanity must make decisions on the values they have learned and experienced in past centuries. Therefore, "our course [should] be determined by our collective values, ethics, and morals (Joy, 14). We as humans have to realize that we cannot be so dependent upon technology in our everyday lives. There is no apparent reasoning for humans to program robots that could eventually surpass them in intellectual and physical capabilities. We must not forget the tragedies that have occurred in our past due to technological "advances." The atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima was an example of technology implemented without regard for consequences. Is the human race willing to bypass moral and ethical considerations in the name of technological advancements in this new millennium?

Works Cited

Borger, Julian. "Robots create revolution in evolution."Guardian Unlimited. (2000).

www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4057114,00.html.

Joy, Bill. "Why the future doesn't need us."Wired. (2000).

www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html.

Specht, Jason. "Bill Joy's Hi-Tech Warning."The Center for the Study of Technology

and Society. (2000). www.tecsoc.org/innovate/focusbilljoy.htm.

van der Werff, Terry. "The Future Needs Us-A Rejoinder to Bill Joy."(2000).

www.globalfuture. com/wired-joy.htm

Wacker, Stephen. "complexity and being at the mercy of machines."(2000).

www.spark-online.com/april00/trends/wacker.html


Archive
By UGA students