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27 February 2015


RL Crabb

So now we have to deal with robophobia? Great.

George Rebane

RLCrabb 403pm - Not only robophobia, but the many dimensions of robophobia. The first is already here destroying human jobs by the thousands. And some worthies still think that the Singularity will be controlled through human policy making. We are inevitably sliding toward machines smarter than we can imagine - you ever try to put toothpaste back into the tube?

Account Deleted

We need to be careful of our choice of words here.
"The first is already here destroying human jobs by the thousands."
Not arguing with your over all contention, but let's look at that sentence.
'Human jobs' - no, just jobs that humans did once but can be farmed out to some thing other than human. No 'job' is ordained by God to be a 'human job'. Well, tending the garden is Biblical, but you get my point. And the jobs are not (yet) being destroyed. I know this can sound pedantic, but we need to be careful to point out exactly what's happening here in order to deal with the fall out from the new order of things. It would be easy to say that I know what you mean and just move on, but sloppy descriptions at this point lead to bad decision making.
There are all sorts of jobs that humans once did that are now done by animals and machines. But they were done by humans for maybe thousands of years. Now we have jobs that have only existed for maybe a few decades or less and they are considered 'human jobs'. We don't mourn for the loss of jobs once done by humans that are arduous, tedious, hazardous or stressful. We don't care about the loss of buggy whip making jobs.
So - what goes on here?
I think 2 main things.
The pace of change. I believe there is some sort of limit as to how fast change can occur and humans can keep up by adapting. Some humans are better at faster change than others, but there is still an overall limit. No - I have no proof or metric that can be described. But the limit is there for the masses and I think it's being breached.
Numero Two-o. Most jobs exist for the pleasure and needs of humans.
Once the AI thingies start making decisions about material and time resource expenditures, will the needs and wants of humans be considered?
If robots don't need recreation and hobbies, for instance, how can we expect them to value our needs for such things? Will infinitely repairable automatons have any concerns for what we call safety?
In short, we worry about foreign cultures overwhelming our country yet the coming age of AI dominance will bring in a culture very foreign to all humans straight across the globe.
Great topic - Brave New World.

George Rebane

ScottO 1132pm - Commend your desire for precision, but my statement about "destroying human jobs by the thousands" is precise. 'Human jobs' are ANY jobs that humans do, and the list of those has never been static since man pressed beasts of burden into service. They are what they are in any age. All we need is to now start parsing what is a 'proper' human job and what isn't. This will add heat without light, and most certainly will not advance any arguments re Singularity that have been made on RR.

We can, if you wish, delineate jobs done for household maintenance by a human, and those done for income received from others. In any event, machines have been and will continue at a greater pace to take over both kinds of jobs for those who can afford the machines.

Account Deleted

Well - I think that's my point. The fact that what humans do as work isn't static. We agree. Who does miss the making of buggy whips?
That's where the pace of change comes in. AI is now making automation expand at a faster pace than humans in general can adapt. Then there is your point about 'affording' the machines. 'Civilized' humans constant desire to be paid at a much higher rate than what the free market would normally bear leads to automation becoming ever more affordable. A business owner actually can't afford humans any longer.
My second point from the above post is the really the big one.
As AI takes over more and more decision making, will the wants and needs of humans always be paramount? The rosy picture the futurists usually paint has the robots eager to please the humans. That's a swell thought, but will it continue?
Humans are doing a bang up job of job right now of both wealth destruction and job destruction by monkeying with the economy and trying to play god to the 'lessors' in society. From the time I was very young, my father would say that we don't to worry about the next Hitler invading us, we (as a society) will beg for the next Hitler to rule us.
Will AI be that wanted despot?

George Rebane

ScottO 848am - I don't think that we have gotten this far over the millennia through some in ivory towers or castles deciding and decreeing conduct with "the wants and needs of humans always (being held) paramount". People worked, risked, and invested to satisfy their own and their families' needs, but the best way they could do that was to satisfy someone else's needs and earn a profit from that. Funny how that works out, but we both know that.

The days of technology-savvy futurists uniformly painting a "rosy picture" are long gone. And we have yet to build the first robot that is "eager to please the humans", or for that matter, eager to do anything. That actually is the big fear about the Singularity - when machines become eager.

Account Deleted

Correcto on the decision making, but that hasn't stopped a lot of folks from wanting to decide what our needs and wants are. And there are always a disturbing number of folks that seem to glad that some one else will do the deciding. We seem to have a govt right now that likes to do a lot of deciding in secret and spring the new rules on us later. They do love to go on and on about how they are led by 'science'. Wait til they showcase 'their' AI to help make even more decisions that will be even more wonderful.
'Bots aren't eager to please us on their own for sure. The programming would be the control of that. It's as you say - when they start getting their own 'eagerness' for their own ideas going, look out.

George Rebane

Apropos to the widespread and concurrent interest in AI and robots, The Reason magazine (by the Reason Foundation) devotes its April (and its still Feb) issue to the topic. When it's hot, it's hot.

Bill  Tozer

there is much to fear about Robots. Robots cleaning our toilets? Nay, we will be cleaning theirs.


When your hot, you're hot.

Russ Steele

I worked for TRW and automotive parts company and an aerospace company. In the early 1990s I was responsible for an initiative to move aerospace technology into the automotive industry. It was not a very succesful initiative, as only now is some of the technology we demonstrated appearing in autos today. But, this is a story about automation, the introduction of robots.

TRW build an engine controller for Caterpillar and they were very critical about how the engine controller was sealed against dust and water. The cover required a very precise bead of sealling compound be placed without gaps and in a precise location. A company from Japan demonstrated a robot that could do the job much better than humans, especially on Monday morning. Problem, the robots would replace several workers who had been employed to install the sealing compound. The compromise with the Union was, the replaced employee would not lose their job, but would monitor the performance of the robot. I cannot think of anything more boring than watch a robot do the same task over and over again, never making a mistake.

Union acceptance has been one of the impediments to the broad deployment of robots in manufacturing. There will be other social and economic impediments, but it will only slow, not block deployment.

Michael R. Kesti

I thought of you, George Rebane, as I watched this.

George Rebane

MichaelK 623pm - Interesting. The white-haired chairman of one robotics company seems to be totally oblivious to the impact of robotics and AI on human work and workers. It sounds like he has read neither newspapers nor the extensive literature on pre-Singularity.

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