More than 60 years ago Isaac Asimov published a series of novels which somehow quelled our fears about robots:
because they were going to obey the “Three laws of robotics” robots would not represent any danger to humans:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Lets see what’s going on now:
– We use robotic drones to kill other human beings
-Robotic computer applications scour our communications for key-words in order to supervise what we do in the virtual world – not only the NSA, purportedly for a good cause, the Chinese and the Iranians are doing the same thing in order to quell dissidence.
– Besides taking over the hard, dangerous or plain repetitive jobs robots are starting to displace specialist jobs.
Now you’re going to tell me robots have nothing to say about this so they are innocent. Right, it is us humans who use robots, not the other way around – for now, anyway.
The real problem resides in the fact that no matter how brilliantly programmed no robot will ever be able to innovate anything. This way by displacing specialists from their reasonably well payed jobs to low paying ones two nasty things beggin to happen:
– The aggregate demand in the economy decreases and
– The ability of the society to innovate also decreases. The individual specialist doesn’t disappear overnight but a disgruntled person doesn’t care about ‘thinking’ nor has any real opportunity to do so – he has been insulated from his domain of expertise and he cannot continue to innovate: he no longer has any contact with the realities he was familiar with and specialized in.
Mind you, I’m not speaking here about the Newton’s or Edison’s of this world, they’ll continue to exist and create. This is about the run of the mill ‘small scale’ innovator praised by every ‘human resources’ book that deals with ‘improving the innovative process in your organization.’