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Why We Should Let the Robots Take Over
George Dvorsky   Jan 1, 2013   io9  

Wired’s Kevin Kelly has penned an article in which he argues that we should let robots take our jobs — a welcome development that will help us to “dream up new work that matters.” Moreover, it will be through this process that humanity can liberate itself from dangerous and demeaning work, and allow us to become “more human than we already are.”

Why We Should Let the Robots Take Over

Top image of Jimmy Fallon by Peter Yang via Wired.

Kelly starts off his piece by asking the question, "Imagine that 7 out of 10 working Americans got fired tomorrow. What would they all do?" Indeed, as he correctly points out, the robotics and AI revolution is in full swing, and the writing is increasingly on the wall. At the same time, however, our innovations are creating an unpredictable technological landscape — one that's as counterintuitive as it is promising. He writes:

Why We Should Let the Robots Take Over

Before we invented automobiles, air-conditioning, flatscreen video displays, and animated cartoons, no one living in ancient Rome wished they could watch cartoons while riding to Athens in climate-controlled comfort. Two hundred years ago not a single citizen of Shanghai would have told you that they would buy a tiny slab that allowed them to talk to faraway friends before they would buy indoor plumbing. Crafty AIs embedded in first-person-shooter games have given millions of teenage boys the urge, the need, to become professional game designers-a dream that no boy in Victorian times ever had. In a very real way our inventions assign us our jobs. Each successful bit of automation generates new occupations-occupations we would not have fantasized about without the prompting of the automation...

...It is a safe bet that the highest-earning professions in the year 2050 will depend on automations and machines that have not been invented yet. That is, we can't see these jobs from here, because we can't yet see the machines and technologies that will make them possible. Robots create jobs that we did not even know we wanted done.

Robots and automation, he argues, will empower us to find new and exciting things to do. But in the meantime, we will continue to react in predictable ways. To that end, Kelly proposes his Seven Stages of Robot Replacement:

In the coming years our relationships with robots will become ever more complex. But already a recurring pattern is emerging. No matter what your current job or your salary, you will progress through these Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, again and again:

1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do.


2. OK, it can do a lot of them, but it can't do everything I do.


3. OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often.


4. OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks.


5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it's obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do.


6. Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more fun and pays more!


7. I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now.

This is not a race against the machines, he says, as that's not a race we could ever hope to win. Instead, we'll be paid in the future based on how well we work with robots.

Read the entire article at Wired.

All images via Wired.

George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.


“We have preconceptions about how an intelligent robot should look and act, and these can blind us to what is already happening around us. To demand that artificial intelligence be humanlike is the same flawed logic as demanding that artificial flying be birdlike, with flapping wings. Robots will think different. To see how far artificial intelligence has penetrated our lives, we need to shed the idea that they will be humanlike.”

This is not true – For robots to be truly accepted in cooperation and collaboration with Humans in their daily tasks, then they will indeed be required to move and resemble Humans. The Japanese know this, and this is why they are pursuing robots that function and resemble Humans, especially for use in offices and for elderly care at home. There have been many articles here at IEET which have already highlighted this. It is very important and imperative that robots do assimilate Human likeness and movement.

Who cares what an industrial robot looks like, they don’t operate in the Human social environment. Baxter can function at home, but it has no legs.. doh! Unless Baxter has a common control interface CPU to operate several drones situated in different rooms of the home, or office, (possible but needlessly expensive), then an NS5 styled, anatomically correct robot would still be more efficient and practical and therefore ultimately more enduring and less expensive?

Roomba’s are fine as they are? I would not want my NS5 wasting time vacuuming the premises! Same with home security, integrated AI could sport a very visually impressive notion such as that promoted in “Caprica”, with the robot Serge?

OK, I can see the ease of use that Baxter promotes as a transition between “what is” and “what will be”.. but is anyone asking about robot ethics here, already! How easy is it for me to show Baxter how to use a firearm and shoot everyone that comes in the coffee house? (cause obviously the asshole manager just fired me!).

I would guess that immediately a robot is not ring fenced to protect Humans from conflict and damage, then we need operational ethics and etiquette for any robot operating in the Human environment – check out the Japanese innovations once again!

Advanced humanoid Roboy to be ‘born’ in nine months

The Big Robot questions – Patrick Lin

Human-like Robots in Homes by mid-2020s, experts say - Dick Pelletier

” “Right now we think of manufacturing as happening in China. But as manufacturing costs sink because of robots, the costs of transportation become a far greater factor than the cost of production. Nearby will be cheap. So we’ll get this network of locally franchised factories, where most things will be made within 5 miles of where they are needed.” “

Indeed, localised 3D printing outlets, integrated online design at home, ordering, even dispatching using Baxter, could mean your home office and small business extended to a local automation dispatch outlet nearest to your customer?

“The real revolution erupts when everyone has personal workbots, the descendants of Baxter, at their beck and call.”

Yes and no? Are we, the proletariat, to become the administrators and managers of robots operating within the future social environment and welfare state, (trash and sanitation and power) – yes, likely. Would we employ robots, (rather than lazy pesky Humans), for our small business and private enterprise – yes, more than likely. Will the state operate community tasks or subcontract services to these small business administrators and pay them, rather than operate their own services – they would be foolish not to?

“Everyone will have access to a personal robot, but simply owning one will not guarantee success. Rather, success will go to those who innovate in the organization, optimization, and customization of the process of getting work done with bots and machines. Geographical clusters of production will matter, not for any differential in labor costs but because of the differential in human expertise. It’s human-robot symbiosis. Our human assignment will be to keep making jobs for robots—and that is a task that will never be finished. So we will always have at least that one “job.” “

So where does this leave the provision for productive work and wage earning for the mass unemployed who are not robot repair techs and administrator/managers? Seems the sums still do not add up? Sure I could be controlling some mining bots on the Moon or Mars, (*yawns* why am I doing this? A robot could do this?)

In short, and taking a more holistic view of shape of things to come..

1. Robots are used to extend the Capitalism socioeconomic model promoting private enterprise, productive work and capital gains rewards for services and work done – for the few.

2. Basic Human needs are provisioned by the state to overcome suffering caused by growing Human mass unemployment and lack of productivity – through use of efficient, cheap, reliable robots and automation?

Instead of working for corporations, (because they have now made you redundant?), you will be working as a self-employed private enterprise who rents/leases/buys bots from?… a corporation robot manufacturer/provider? What’s the difference?

In the interim, option 1 may be preferred and workable, and more than likely will be the necessary transition through growing mass unemployment. Yet a growing population of Humans and their needs will still place the burden upon the few Humans still being productive – this still cannot be sustainable in the long term?

The only option is for state services to provision for basic Human needs and social welfare in return for commitment, participation and adherence to social contract? This would not just include welfare benefit/stipend payments for circulation of monies for trade of goods and services, but welfare needs, (aged home help robots, sanitation and trash removal services, robotic public services and help etc), may be provisioned as a part of this social contract and for participation in society? And home help robots will be more dextrous and capable than merely Baxter!

Healthcare provision is crossing this transition presently, with US attempting to make healthcare more widely available, and the UK republican party attempting to disassemble all of the hard work and ethic of social healthcare progressed since the last world war. When there is so much profit to be had from growing aged population and fast paced innovation in healthcare drugs and technology the profiteering from masses “quality” of life shifts towards “quantity” of life and longevity? It’s no wonder that anyone with mind towards profit does not want to promote a social ethic to give this away freely for the benefit of all?

In the short term robotics and automation needs and means investment, innovation and capital growth/gains for oligarchs – there is no escaping this, or there will be NO robots or futurism ideology for any of us? Profits will drive the innovation for better robots. Yet along the path, there must be the transition towards philosophy for social welfare and community?

“This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. Ninety percent of your coworkers will be unseen machines. Most of what you do will not be possible without them. And there will be a blurry line between what you do and what they do. You might no longer think of it as a job, at least at first, because anything that seems like drudgery will be done by robots.”

“Let the robots take the jobs, and let them help us dream up new work that matters.”

Agreed, and “hopefully” all the drudgery will be done by robots and not the other way around, and without the mass unemployed competing with the likes of high tech robots to clean away trash and sewage from unsavoury and robot hazardous slums and ghettos for a few pennies a day, (presently some manual workers on expensive cruise ships are paid a mere $1 dollar for services per day with the benefit of room and board – something to remember when you book your expensive cruise vacation!)

Seems Humans are either busy “exploiting” other Humans or moreover future robots?


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