Tuesday, 3 July 2007


In about less than 50 years from now, human beings will have to find ways and means to peacefully co-exist with the extra smart intelligent robots, which are slated to invade and inundate our dear earth in droves. These ubiquitous robots are likely to, then, emerge as an artificial species and jostle for space for their survival and dominance. As with any other technologies or inventions, the introduction of robots brings with it bag loads of fear, awe, uncertainties, paranoia and parody; and of course, a mirage like hope, in abundance. Even as robotics is making rapid strides to demonstrate its prowess, the lesser mortals like us are either oblivious of the far reaching ripples and churnings or remain simply unprepared for another of the great events, in the wake of unfolding of human civilization; after the invention of the most humble Wheel to that of the (search) engine called Google.
As of now, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” hogs the limelight, but in the process, assuming the stature of the Three Commandments of Robotethics. Curiously it exhorts verily “A robot may not injure a human, or through inaction, allow a human to come to harm”. Further, “A robot must obey orders given by a human unless these conflict with the first law”. It then goes an extra mile in cryptically underscoring and insisting that “A robot must protect its own existence as long as this does not conflict with the first or second law”. It simply is ominous, is not it? Though in fact, it is a blatantly biased prescription bordering on anthropocentric views devoid of actual neutrality, there is absolutely nothing very wrong with these sacred laws. It is not true to say that Asimov acted like the ancient Hindu lawgiver Manu the anti-feminist, who went out of his way to protect the holy cows and Brahmins of India denigrating women of the time. But then, Asimov was not a prophet or soothsayer when he codified the important laws and hence, the problem therefore, hinges on the generic and rudimentary nature of the law, requiring further elaboration by the other law givers of the day and the days to come; so that we can effectively cope of with the future societies’ real and perceived needs along with our new queer looking battery-happy metallic brothers and sisters.
In order to negotiate the piquant situation, an emerging field of knowledge is urgently called for. In response, we have now a promising field of blah blah, conveniently christened as robot ethics or robotethics; that is primarily concerned with drawing of elaborate roadmaps (surely not like Mr. Bush, Jr. for the record) for appropriate behavior, expected of the humans and robots. It endeavors to usher in a NewAge, sort of, in which the robots and humans will be guided by morality in a normatively ordered society. In simple words, it means that neither the robots would have the free privilege to trample the humans; nor the humans, misbehave or mistreat the robots in such a wonderful world of ours that has eluded us so far. So far so good and we wish and even hope for the best. The aim of Robotethics is therefore, to introduce the dos and don’ts of life and living in trying times of the future that would require and ensure that the absent minded human beings and the bug ridden hyper robots love each other and continue as good neighbors literally hand-in-hand positions. They ought to coexist in the interest of each other peacefully, hereafter memorizing the dictum of the Book of Code.
In order to make the bizarre ethics effective, it will be necessary for the human beings to be convinced; and the robots, effectively programmed, so that they could distinguish between bad and good or moral and amoral, during the course of their everyday interaction. As you know, ethics, as a rule is voluntary and humans are notorious across the cosmos for their intrinsic ability to flout, bend, break and mend things with impunity by the drop of a hat for the hack of it and also for the sake of self-aggrandizement. Needless to say that if at all, we are going to have a coherent body of Robotethics; as you can rightly guess, the perpetuators in us would most probably turn out to be the perpetrators. However, we need not unnecessarily get worried about this since, it is this very quality, duality and diabolical machination, evolutionary traits that have empowered us as a species to lord over other species and additionally prod over each other on daily basis. Ethics or no ethics, predictably, the poor robots certainly would have to bear the brunt for rubbing their metallic shoulders with the treacherous fleshy kinds. But let us wish all the best for the Code of Robots, currently being developed by a taskforce in South Korea and elsewhere with much fervor, likely to be ready by the year end.
In the secluded laboratories of the developed countries, the robots have been evolving for long of various sizes, shapes and genre. Very soon, the biped varieties (some of them are already out and basking in glories); who would be more intelligent, conscious and capable of taking decision, are going to crowd the homosphere in a big way. These carbon copy cousins of ours are being hurriedly chiseled to wear many an outstanding qualities of ours with heightened capabilities to aid and abet us.
For example, in September 2006, South Korea introduced a robot, able to handle heavy weapons that may be deployed in combat duties, if required. As it appears, the future wars and attritions (please read pastimes) would be fought by the robots having extremely lethal punch and the story of the human foot soldiers would be a passé. The Seoul based Korean Institute of Science and Technology has already developed Ms. EveR-2 Muse, a graceful and charming women robot, which can respond to overtures by its enchanting facial expressions. Similarly, a caregiver robot for the elderly citizens is waiting in the assembly line to ultimately take up its mundane boring responsibilities of the aged population that we carefully shun.
The grapevine is agog with the pheromone scented news that within the coming five years, sexually active and attractive robots will be more than willing to sleep with those interested, towards discharge of conjugal or coital duties and obligations; holding neatly bound copies of Kamasutra and other digital manuals. These robosexuals, as per their operating systems or OSes would be programmed meticulously to guarantee avalanches of massive orgasms and gushing ejaculation; virtually recreating replica of heavens of our choice, right inside our bedrooms or even on deserted office tables. The possibilities, as they say, are just endless in this specialized area of robots and robotics. It does not end here in that the robosexuals can also conceive and deliver some kinds of designer babies to the needy, as extra bonuses.
Sooner or later, we are also going to have queered looking hardworking colleagues and stern looking suave bosses in our offices and other workplaces, with super abilities and stupidity. Imagine a scenario in which, you will be interacting and competing with those metallic frames to get yourself meaningful employment. How would you then manage the office gossips or politics? How would you steal an extra long nap next to the raring robot co-workers or ask for a promotion to the never smiling and intimidating robot boss? Please for God’s sake, spare sometime and think the consequences of living with the terrible tribes of the robots. How will the robosphere look like, then? You would instantly know that, it will be as funny as frightening, for the robots even to loiter near us.
Those amongst us, who must like, can have these robots as their family members, too. They would, apart from tending to chores; most likely demand filial, consanguine and affinal attention and vie for relational status, as deemed. However, be warned, if things go from bad to worse, they may even ask you for inheritance and maintenance allowances. In rare cases probably, the robot relatives of ours may also beat us up black and blue; you know, to enforce the family discipline.
These are some of the few intriguing questions we have to answer fast to stay safe and be happy. The robots of the near future, though of our own making, would certainly go on to generate and stir unforeseen changes and consequences for human societies and civilizations. If we are careless, it may wreck havoc. It is in this backdrop that the wise physical and social scientists, philosophers, jurists, Gurus and the jokers, et al must huddle together quickly, to ponder of a situation that is still hazy and looks damn mystical.
So far, in the decision making process, we have undemocratically kept out the existing hibernating robot leaders and thinkers. Should not we invite them too to hear their views as well since, the robotehics and the likes are directly related to them and likely to govern our mutual interests? I hope the drafting committees of robot laws, ethics, etiquettes, etc are listening.
Since, tomorrow’s robots will be capable of taking and acting on their decisions, it will be proper at this stage that we put in place a robust Code of Conduct and System of Ethics as well as an enforceable statue, acceptable to all the countries (but more importantly it should be acceptable to our robot brothers and sisters) that will address all the mundane things, apart from other trivialities, such as; how far the fellow robots will be allowed to influence and have a say in the life and living of the humans? Once developed, how to enforce the robotethics, robolaws universally and uniformly and still call the shots, as before; without making them aware of it?
Last but not the least, by God, can we allow our rival robospecies to pick their noses animatedly like us in full public view—a near monopolistic evolutionary trait inherited by the bizarre species of homo sapiens?
The nitwit nincompoops are coming for the next revolution, for sure! Take cover and if possible, get prepared.