Robots are getting stronger and smarter every day. How long will I have my job before a robot steals it? And they're taking over our families, our houses, our cars... basically, our whole lives. Visions of the future in which people are dominated by superior machines have always been with us. Sometimes they turn us into human livestock; in other scenarios, our appliances actively try to exterminate us. Though Hollywood movies usually depict robots as metal people, the reality is more subtle than that.
The machine has long since grown around us: we are living inside the robot.
For decades, robotization has been used widely to accomplish work that used to be done by people. The industrial revolution rendered human brawn redundant; now the digital revolution is computerizing cognition. This development is not only taking work off our hands, it is changing our very nature. After all, highly productive, precisely functioning machines require highly productive, precisely functioning people. As a side effect of standardization, mass production, computerization, bureaucracy and globalization, human beings have been robotized to an advanced degree. While we wait for the day when a humanoid robot will shake our hand and introduce itself as an artificial intelligence, the machine has long since grown around us: we are living inside the robot.
Why is the relationship between people and machines always painted as a confrontation, never a collaboration?
It's odd that we worry about cyber implants and complex genetic engineering technologies robbing us of our humanity when there are much simpler ways of becoming inhuman. It has to be said; sometimes it seems as if it's the people who are best at imitating systems who get awarded the highest social positions. The robots are taking over in an unexpected way. Why is the relationship between people and machines always painted as a confrontation, never a collaboration?
For instance, look at chess competitions. In the 1990s, the machine was supposed to prove its intelligence by beating a human being at the game. It succeeded and these days, a grandmaster can't even win against his own phone. But we also realize that chess is a limited game that illuminates intelligence in a one-sided way. There's so much more to human beings than that. How ridiculous would it be if we staged competitions between people and horses to see which of them could run faster? People on horses make for a more interesting outcome.
It will be better if people and machines work together to build a better world.
There are differences between cognition and calculation. So let's recognize that robots aren't the same as people. Rather, they're a new species, with which we can coexist on earth just as we do with other plants and animals. Why would we become robots when we already have robots? It will be better if people and machines work together to build a better world.
This text was originally published in Save the Humans! and is part of the HUBOT weeks, to contextualize our latest project HUBOT, the job agency for people and robots. Want to learn more about this project? Join NNN and we will keep you in the know!