Today we present to you a new feature that we hope you’ll love. (Time will tell, eh?) We’ve decided to call it ‘Soapbox TNT’.
We usually avoid posting our personal opinions on stuff. We strive instead to make Unbolt Me a kingdom of unfettered creativity. But sometimes the real world is a crazy dystopia that goes far beyond even our wildest imaginations. It’s fascinating (and kinda scary) to realise that something we read in books and watched in movies just yesterday has become reality today! The world is a strange place indeed.
So, this is what our new feature is all about. It is us discussing various subjects from our own perspectives, and in an attempt to reach some mutual consensus that we can perhaps even learn from. As such, we hope you’ll forgive any ignorance on our part. Feel free to weigh in on what we discuss. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts! The more the merrier!
In short, don’t be shy about joining the discussion. Tell us if you agree or disagree, and educate us when education is necessary. And, above all, let’s be respectful and have fun!
TATI: Tony, have you seen this video that’s been trending on YouTube?
TONY: Oh my god! That’s amazing! Truly sophisticated engineering right there, don’t you think?
TATI: Yes, to be sure!
TONY: I recall reading an article many years ago about how making bipedal robots with a stable centre of gravity was an incredibly difficult engineering challenge that had not yet been overcome. I guess we now have robots that can stay on their feet without toppling over, huh?
TATI: I see you are rather excited with this, aren’t you?
TONY: Hell yeah! It seems we may be nudging closer to the day I can ride around in a robot that transforms into a tank. No more parking problems ever!
TATI: I have mixed feelings, to be honest. Yes, the robots in the video look cute and funny, but they’re a little scary too. And I don’t mean their appearance. I mean their behaviour. It feels like a mockery of humans a little bit. Presently, real human beings are scared, restricted and locked down… but these robots are making a happy ‘Do You Love Me?’ dance.
TONY: I remember you once telling me that robots do make you a little uneasy…
TATI: Here… Let me show you another video.
TATI: Do you see how it tries to get through the door and how that man tries to hinder it in different ways? That robot is smart and persistent enough to stick to its task, and goes ahead anyway. But if it’s also a real AI, how long will it take before it realises that the real barrier to completing its task is the man? And maybe push him away? Or worse?
TONY: It’s something I’ve considered too.
TATI: I was watching this and thinking… damn, it will attack the man now!
TONY: It’s strange but I was also thinking that! But here’s the thing… for the robot to realise that the real barrier is the man, it would first have to be self-aware, wouldn’t it? It would have to possess some form of consciousness. But as it’s just a manmade object then of course it doesn’t possess these qualities. But intelligence doesn’t equal sentience, does it? Those are two different things.
TATI: Yes, but it’s a coin with two sides. You see, they don’t have reason. They have a program. Even a maniac can be reasoned with. Not so with robots. Robots perform code. They just follow commands laid down in their programming that dictate their moves. One moment they’re dancing but add some changes to the code and they will do something different the next. And I don’t think it needs ‘self-awareness’ to distinguish a human being from a wall. We’re still just another object in the robot’s way.
TONY: It could be argued that this is also the best thing about artificial intelligence, that it isn’t truly self-aware, sentient. And while it will never deviate from its programming it will also… well, never deviate from its programming which means that it can only ever act predictably… which also means that we human beings will always be able to stay one step ahead. Well, as long as we continue to think outside of the box, I suppose. That’s the hope!
TATI: ‘This means that it can only ever act predictably…’ Sometimes even I can surprise myself with silly and irrational decisions. Can you speak so confidently for other people? Have you not seen what is happening in the Capitol now? Does it still make you proud to be a human? Do you still think you’re a ‘step ahead’?
TONY: One could argue that the president’s assault on democracy is entirely predictable given his past statements, and that some of his followers would take these statements to their logical extreme is also predictable. But I do take your point. Robots will never act with conscience because they are not self-aware. We, however, have no such excuse so the onus is always on us to act responsibly.
TATI: I put an equal sign between humans’ behavior and robots’ behavior. I can’t believe in robots’ decency because they’re made and programmed by people. Have you heard about the Three Laws of Robotics?
TONY: I have! My father introduced me to Isaac Asimov’s robot stories when I was a child. ‘A robot may not injure a human being’ and that kind of thing.
TATI: Do you think that the Three Laws of Robotics work in the real world?
TONY: Well, no, because I don’t think anybody’s using them in the real world at the moment. Robots aren’t quite that sophisticated yet, not ‘human’ enough where such laws would be necessary.
TATI: I believe it’s not far off…
TONY: I guess it’s wayward presidents I’m more worried about for the moment, but you make a good point. There was a video game called ‘Horizon Zero Dawn‘ that tackled these very themes. The story really blew my mind. I love robots but I do go a little quiet when I think about a world where robots not only take over everything but also consume anything that is organic—including human beings. A bit of a horrifying thought if you ask me.
TATI: And do you still feel safe and easy when you watch dancing robots?