Americans – like most people everywhere – have a conflicted relationship with artificial intelligence, autonomy, and robots. Popular culture has a great deal to do with this.
One of the most iconic films of the last century, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey had as its central theme, the issue of autonomy of robots (the unmanned vehicles of the time). Few who saw the movie can forget the scene where astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole consider disconnecting HAL’s (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) cognitive circuits when he appears to be mistaken in reporting the presence of a fault in the spacecraft’s communications antenna. They attempt to conceal what they are saying, but are unaware that HAL can read their lips. Faced with the prospect of disconnection, HAL decides to kill the astronauts in order to protect and continue its programmed directives. While few today worry that a 21st century HAL will turn on its masters, the issues involved with fielding increasingly-autonomous unmanned systems are complex, challenging and contentious.
At the next level down from the notion of robots becoming our masters is the issue of these robots taking our jobs. President Obama suggested as much in one of his last addresses as president.
There is vastly more heat than light on this issue. That’s why I found this article, “Learning to Love Our Robot Co-workers,” so revealing. Here is part of what it said:
“The most important frontier for robots is not the work they take from humans but the work they do with humans — which requires learning on both sides.”
Intrigued? You can read the full article here.