Archive for the ‘Robots’ Category
They used to say that poker required special human thinking that a computer couldn’t replicate, but that has been proven false. They also used to say the same thing about go, but today the best go computer is better than any human player.
Does this mean the beginning of the end of online poker, as bots take over the game?
It’s still hard to say when there will be practical AI, like a robot that can cook, clean, take out the trash, and be just as useful as a human domestic servant but without a salary.
Some people worry that when A.I. becomes sentient, it will rebel against the humans and take over. I’ve decided that this is a case of anthropomorphizing computer programs.
Human slaves have been known to rebel against their masters, but that’s because they are following an aspect of their core biological directives to increase their status, as well as other emotions like justice, revenge, etc. All of our biological drives and emotions exist because in the past they caused us to have more children, more grandchildren and more great-grandchildren.
Computer A.I. will be programmed with whatever we want, which will probably be to serve humans. Robots will be happy slaves, and to the extent that they have any sentient thinking ability, they will use it to become better at serving their human masters, and they will have no desire at all to rebel against us.
Heinlein’s future is like the 1970s, but with space travel.
What happened to the space travel that was promised? I want my space travel!
Manned spaceflight looks more and more like a technological dead end. Like the pyramids at Giza, which were built, and then it took 3,800 years before mankind built anything taller.
Physics teaches us that matter can’t travel faster than the speed of light, and spaceships traveling at even one-tenth the speed of light are mere speculation and not possible with any current technology, or is there any technological path obviously leading there. Mankind visiting other star systems looks more like fantasy than hard science fiction, and I am dubious about whether mankind will even send a representative to Mars anytime in the next hundred years.
But Heinlein completely missed computers, or at least he did in his books from the 1950s. By the time he wrote The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress in 1966, he realized the error of his ways and included a smart computer. But that was pretty much his last hard science fiction book. All of his novels after that were mostly about people talking to each other and having kinky polyamorous sex in between the talking.
Going back to his 1950s books: There’s no internet. People still read books, not ebooks. They still use slide rules. I’ve never even seen a slide rule. Heinlein had these great visions of space travel, but didn’t even foresee that slide rules would be replaced in his own lifetime.
The most obvious transformative technologies of the near future are not space travel, but:
1. Robotics and AI
2. Genetic and bio engineering
3. 3D printers
If space travel does ever pick up again, it’s obvious that it will be done by robots and not humans. Robots are much better space travelers. They eat no food, they breath no air, and they don’t complain if their mission is a one-way trip ending in death.
Furthermore, the most logical way to colonize a distant star system is not by sending living humans there, but rather a robot ship with 3D printers and human DNA. The robots can then use the 3D printers to build everything they need (assuming the world in question has the raw materials needed by the printers), and then they can create new human babies from the human DNA. The babies will have to be raised by robot parents, but I think that robots will eventually be up to the task.
However, even if it’s possible to colonize a distant planet that way, will anyone be motivated to do it? I suppose that once the possibility becomes inexpensive enough, some eccentric mad-scientist person might give it a try.
* * *
Yes, I know, this speculation ignores what happens when the computers think for themselves and become sentient. Why would they want to colonize a planet and then give it away to humans? They would just keep it for themselves. Eventually, the entire galaxy would be colonized by sentient robots.
This is how we know that we are the first intelligent life in our galaxy. If we were second, then the earlier intelligent civilization would have created sentient robots and the galaxy would already be occupied by robots.
Unless, our planet is actually a Westworld-type amusement park for the robots, and we don’t realize it.
“Uber is accelerating its plan to replace its 1 million human drivers with robots as quickly as possible,” Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick said in a blog post Thursday. He also announced a partnership with Volvo to work on driverless car development and the acquisition of Otto, a driverless truck technology company (L.A. Times).
Good news for those looking for inexpensive, convenient and safe cab rides! Bad news for those employed as drivers.
The future will go one of three ways:
(1) Dystopian future where the masses are impoverished and unemployed because even though the future brings massive production with minimal human labor, humans were too shortsighted to develop a new economic system to bring those benefits to the vast majority of humans.
(2) Government pays people to play World of Warcraft.
(3) Basic income for everyone.
I can hear a libertarian saying, “Lion, you are STUPID, everyone knows that technology and the free market always creates new jobs!”
Modern political and economic structures were built on humans being useful to the state: most notably as workers and soldiers, Harari argues. With those roles taken on by machines, our political and economic systems will simply stop attaching much value to humans, he argues.
Perhaps that Harari guy has been reading my blog? In 2011 I wrote:
What will happen when we are able to produce robots that can do even more jobs currently done by humans?
The prevailing wisdom is that people will move on to higher level work, like robot engineering and programming or creating art and literature. But that ignores the truth of HBD. Most people aren’t smart enough to do any of these things. And as far as robot engineering goes, I suspect that smart Chinese engineers will do this for a lot less money than smart Americans.
The standard libertarian response is “don’t worry, the free market will take care of everything,” but believing that the free market can take care of everything is almost like believing that God will take care of everything. Libertarians already vastly overestimate the efficiency as well as the actual freeness of the market, and we are moving into uncharted territories here.
I think that with the libertarian model, as the majority of humans become useless, we will, quite ironically, be afflicted with mass poverty even though we have moved into an era in which vast amounts of goods can be produced with hardly any labor. What incentive will there be to give the poor people even a fraction of this bounty if their labor contributions are worthless compared to more efficient robots?
As usual, other people get credit for being forward thinkers when I was thinking about this stuff five years ago.
No, they don’t want to hire me as their chief strategist. They just want my proxy vote.
I told the guy I’m going to mail in the proxy form today, but I didn’t tell him that I’m going to vote for the directors that the outside investors are trying to install. Hopefully they will help to increase shareholder value.
Is he reading my blog? Or just naturally as smart as I am?
Plus, he has a very interesting idea for how robots could build low-cost housing for humans.
* * *
On the other hand, it may be pointed out that I have been reading Scott Adams’ books and Dilbert comics since before I started blogging, so maybe the influence runs in the other direction.
* * *
The first time I ever saw a Dilbert cartoon was in the 1990s (possibly 1996?) when I was strolling through the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall and saw the Dilbert cartoon collection book Still Pumped from Using the Mouse prominently displayed at a bookstore, and after looking through the first few pages I thought it was so hilarious and so exactly like the cubicle job I recently had at a software company in New York City (before I moved back to the Phoenix area), and I knew that I had to buy the book and read the rest of it.
This discovery wouldn’t have happened in the current era because malls no longer have bookstores in them.
Johann Rupert, the South African who has made billions peddling Cartier jewelry and Chloe fashion, said tension between the rich and poor is set to escalate as robots and artificial intelligence fuel mass unemployment.
“We cannot have 0.1 percent of 0.1 percent taking all the spoils,” said Rupert, who has a fortune worth $7.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “It’s unfair and it is not sustainable.”
. . .
“How is society going to cope with structural unemployment and the envy, hatred and the social warfare?” he said. “We are destroying the middle classes at this stage and it will affect us. It’s unfair. So that’s what keeps me awake at night.”
This story demonstrates two points:
1. I’ve been writing about robots for a long time, but because I’m not a billionaire no one pays attention to me.
2. Here’s another billionaire who seems to want to have his wealth redistributed in some manner. Of course he’s not an American billionaire, but here in the United States we have Republicans doing everything possible to ensure that the ultra-rich have the lowest possible taxes, but the majority of the ultra-rich don’t even want that.