Humans Becoming Robots, Robots Becoming Human

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techgnotic's avatar

On March 1, 2012 the Nevada DMV issued the first license for a Google Driverless Car. The idea behind this innovation is that one day soon new technology will drive cars safer and more skillfully than humans, thus saving lives and billions of dollars in car crashes. How well this idea catches on is a bit questionable, given the powerful “romance” of driving one’s car, but it’s certainly an indicator of things to come in the daily intersection of human and artificial intelligence and mobility. There have always been those who have dreamed of stepping into a mechanical exo-skeletal-type “suit” and letting the engineering do the work, instantly increasing limited human speed, strength, endurance and accuracy.

Mech-suits like the ones that have become standard fare in sci-fi films and videogames may be getting closer to becoming a practical reality more than you might think. Already, tech innovations for leg braces helping people walk, back supports for the crippled and other futuristic light-weight prostheses have been developed as spin-off benefits of Honda’s work in building their robot “Asimo.”

Asimo is more than just a cool tribute to Isaac Asimov (the sci-fi writer who first “imagined” robot androids indistinguishable from humans in stories like “I, Robot”) – he (she?) walks and moves independently, utilizing a rudimentary “artificial intelligence.” Asimo may not be capable at this point of doing much more than carrying out a human master’s commands with programmed responses and actions, but this is definitely the very real beginning of a future portending some very fascinating, and possibly scary, questions...

At what point will our robots’ “artificial” (programmed) intelligence become all too real, arming them with “free will?”

Prometheus was punished for all eternity by the gods for giving the gift of fire to us mortals. Will we mortals be inadvertently hastening our own obsolescence and overthrow by giving the gift of “true A.I.” to the powerful machines we’ve built with our own hands?

Maybe we’ll keep innovating and strengthening our mighty mech-suits. Then if our robots, having attained free will via true A.I., choose to rebel against us, we will be ready to don our own armor for the final Battle Royale. And so it will be that the robots who have become virtually humans will fight it out with the future humans capable of transforming into virtual robots for dominion over all that’s left of “civilization.” (Or maybe by then Humans and Androids will have sufficiently evolved their intelligences to be able to live together peacefully as extensions of and helpers to one another.)


For the Reader

1Would you prefer to have a domestic robot that does most of your mundane housework and other tasks for you? Or would you prefer to wear a personalized mech-suit that would let you “work” tirelessly on your tasks with extra-human strength and pin-point accuracy?

2Would you want a “driverless car” to drive you safely to all your destinations, freeing you to sleep or read this article or simply sight-see during the journey? Or do you think you’d prefer the visceral experience, always, of hands-on-the-wheel driving?

3Can you envision a future in which robots (androids) become so sophisticated that they become absolutely indistinguishable from humans?

4If a robot is in every way as sentient (self-aware), intelligent and emotionally wired as a human, is ownership of such a “machine” possible? Or would this be a form of slavery? Will robots eventually have to be granted the same human rights as people?

5At some evolutionary point, will robots possess a “soul” just like a human soul? Will human society evolve quickly enough socially to keep up with a technologically advanced future in which a robot and human can fall in love... and produce android-human children?

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The-Darkwolf's avatar

The aspect that makes me worried is not the idea of a robot becoming more human, but the human becoming more robotic. If we view the robot (from an old Russian sci-fi story “Robotnik”, meaning “slave”) as merely one of a series of labor-saving devices, then the level of “humanity” we invest in it would be commensurate with its duties and functions. The Geek Factor comes into play, of course, as added applications and new parameters are added to demonstrate one’s cleverness without thought to consequence or responsibility ( like the driverless cars, who have killed at least two pedestrians so far. Who bears the responsibility?)

What I wonder about is the other side of the equation. When do we begin to surrender our humanity? The justification of aids to work or to overcome disabilities can quickly transfer over to justifying unnecessary augmentations. An increasing number of people are already utilizing unneeded and dangerous chemical augmentations such as ADHD meds taken by college students to aid memory retention and concentration, viagra by healthy young people for sexual prowess and various athletic performance enhancers. What then when we synch up with performance enhancing mechanics? Downloadable memory in our brains? Take an insulin pump and convert it to dispensing combat cocktails?

Its not the augmentation that is the inherent concern. God knows various military and corporate interests would love such enhancements for practical reasons, but these are mindsets that view humans as robots anyway. It’s what happens when we shape our tools and then our tools shape us.

The “endurance armour” that was described before, for example. For specific applications (Ripley’s forklift loader suit from Aliens or the Power Combat Suits from Starship Troopers) such tech would be laudable but how long before abuse sets in? Since you can work all day how long before you are required to? Or how long before you prefer to? How long before you atrophy inside your God Suit?

in the 1970s, numerous studies were done on the effects of television watching habits on the ability to analyze and cognition that indicated that basically, TV made one dumber. Spin ahead to the 2000s and a study that asserted that Google made you stupid. When your brain is hardwired for downloadable content, how lazy does the energy-efficient obsessed human brain become?

so how long before we have to put the gods we made in control because we have surrendered our own humanity?

SwordTiger8888's avatar

this might be an old thing, but still makes one think... hmm.

The way humans are tilting towards artificial intelligence, the day is no longer far when things will be controlled by humanoid robots. But, AI certification is now one thing where a lot of enthusiasts are lacking in order to place himself in one of the better industry giants.

MercenaryX's avatar
Three words, Armitage the third. It falls under number 5 and I personally welcome our new robotic lovers. Maybe we can get a female group that isn't going to fall pray to becoming  SJWs.
rainyfire's avatar
very thought provoking hopefully in time i hope ill  be able to get my own exo suit 
diamonddmgirl's avatar
1. Domestic robot. I have nothing against mech-suits existing (things like wheelchairs or hearing aides aren't "natural" either) but would rather not wear one myself if I don't have to. But I would only use it for cleaning, not for cooking or washing the dishes.

2. I already often take the bus places. I will probably continue to use public transit regardless of what happens with driverless cars.

3. People might make a very human looking robot to show off their robot-making skills, but otherwise humans are already pretty good at being indistinguishable from humans.

4. Just because strong AI might exist some day does not mean we would have to put strong AI in my domestic robot.

5. Asexuals have souls too. If robots ever gained souls they probably still wouldn't fall in love unless we specifically designed them to, which seems more trouble than it's worth.
Binaryrobot's avatar
love the art robots need love two
C-195's avatar
1. Both
2. Just give it an autopilot setting.
3. Why must they be like us? Why can't they be different?
4. Depends on the robot.
5. No machines can not have 'souls', nor should people curse them with uncontrollable feelings or outdated means of reproduction. 
segura2112's avatar
In one of my favorite Sci-Fi series the Culture series by I.M. Banks, A.I.s have full rights just like humans.
JWA2277's avatar
1. domestic, otherwise where do you end and the machine begin.
2 always want the option, I am on the fence. But don't wan to wake up in it.
5.soule is nether the product of the factory, or evolution. You cannot evolve a soul. Machiens are an extention of humanity, if they posess a soul than it comes from the same place as the human soul.
that source is based on personal opinion, continuous, and up to the scholars , and religious philosophers.

I know many organics that have no soul.
Sorry if I repeat anything, lot of comments here and I can't read them all....

Anti-work "convenience" technology gets all the attention. We need pro-work technology now. That's right. Pro-human-work. Time to smarten up.

Since the 1900s it has been predicted over and over that machines will free up our time. To do what? Be slackers? Feel useless and bored?

Time to admit the truth. No matter what technology is being concocted, we want to have something physical and mental to do and get something in return for it. We want to work and see each other working. Healthy work. Not jobs where you might lose an arm or get cancer or go insane.

And TRADE FAIRLY! This whole business of downloading and consuming like pigs and then volunteering in the hopes of maybe making a living one day just plain sucks. It's not what we need.

Pro-work technology. How 'bout that? :)
Earice's avatar
I found this article only recently and thought of responding to the questions. :)

1. Even though I am a lazy person, the presence of a domestic robot would be rather... strange for me. Firstly because I think that would give an all new meaning to domestic helpers: implying that domestic helpers were partly like robots made to do their "boss'" 'mundane housework'. This time, they are replaced with actual robots with the convenience of not having to worry about fatigue and basic human needs. It is a direct and physical metaphor made into reality. Although I don't say this to mean that we ought to keep domestic helpers, but what I would like to point out is how most people treat/view them as robots, screaming and pushing them around while forgetting that they are humans too.

Also, it means we are trusting a non-human, a machine, to do tasks that humans do. And there will come a point where one must ask which one to trust: the robot or the human? Whose judgment should we believe? When a domestic robot accidentally ruins something very important to you, and your child's friend is in the scene of the crime, with the child blaming the robot, and the robot saying "it was not me", who would you believe? The imperfect human who can, will and often makes mistakes or the robot who works with perfect accuracy?
At this point, the reality, especially human's perception of it, is blurred.

As for mech-suits, what does this sort of technology mean to humanity's health and well-being? Doesn't it make us more cyborg, more half-robots, than truly human? Doesn't it mean that we have become mere laborers doing tasks without any real meaning to them except as tasks?

I think it takes out a lot of beauty in humanity.

2. Short and simple: I think one of the joys in road-trips is having stopovers.

3. Yes, I can see that sort of age coming (though not anytime soon), if we keep moving in this direction of continuous technological innovations that we are in now. I hope not to live in those sad times.

4. This great question, I think, is where reality becomes even more blurry and we ought to ask: what does it mean to be human? What is a human being? If the robot has too much in likeness now to humans except that they are metal and wire and machine, does it mean that they ought to be treated as humans as well? Do they have 'life'?

I think this is a long shot: a long debatable topic, a hard a fight as the fight for women's rights, gay rights, fights against animal abuse (do we give more rights to human-like robots just because they are more like humans, than animals?), fights for the environment, etc.

5. First of all, this implies that robots also have sex (male or female). What makes a robot female or male? As human creations, this means that the designation of sex is in the hands of humans. This isn't so simple a question to ask, I think. Because this involves questions about the natural occurrences of human 'life', the meaning of this 'life', and also the meaning of a 'soul', even 'love'.

So I seem to have posed more questions than answers. If I feel like it, I might expound, but I think this comment has become too long. Haha.

Good day!
Deadelius's avatar
1. Either using a domestic robot, exoskeleton or steroids (making things all the way easier for me) will keep me away from improving. What's the point of trying to be Zen in order to withstand a 12 hour work day at the PC when I can simply go with amphetamines for example? Augmenting our lives with things that make it easier for us will turn us into fat mindless sheep, which has already started and there is not a single robot to blame for that.

2. How about a simple old-fashioned bicycle?
You can go 20 miles one direction, 20 the way back everyday, but that wouldn't be as easy as having a car.

3. Not really - IMO the human race is a 50/50 mix of astonishing qualities and horrible flaws. No robot can duplicate that :)

4. Yes. Every Creator gives freedom to its children. At least ours did :) Why go the other way? Plus, you have seen the movies :D

5. Gimme a break.. :)
Deadelius's avatar
Just in case someone sees my reply as boringly-realistic, I would like to add that the only reason a slave defeats his master is when the slave does all the work, gets all the experience and strength from that, while the master sits on his ass, waiting around, like a fat bug, to be squashed.

Harder makes you stronger, easier makes you weaker. If (future) robots are intended to do what we do daily for ourselves, but not what we can't*, then I would say we don't need them.

*ex: go examine a volcano
jakuro-the-demon's avatar
the question in order:
1 and 2: A little of both, I want to be able to sleep or rest if I'm up all night or I have something which I could be more productive on than driving, thus having something do it for me, but I do enjoy the feeling of being at least a bit in control of say the work I'm doing or when I'm driving (and on that matter, I really enjoy the feel of manual/stick-shift driving).
3: I don't want it to happen. Though that doesn't mean I can't see it happening.
4:This is very subjective and difficult to talk about, and I'd feel like a jackass no matter what side I took.
5: Looking at Japan, I don't think its necessarily a social evolution but more a biological one, especially when talking about android-human children.

other than that, interesting Journal
TheRealFry1's avatar
Wait....cyborgs? .3.
RunningJoker06's avatar
Driverless cars will succeed, because it will allow us to get away from a task that our brains were not built to do and get back to stuff like socializing or other work. There will be holdouts and manual control will always be a feature, because driving is fun. Weak AI will do as much of our manual labor jobs as we need them to, and owners will have to find a happy balance on an individual basis within their own homes. What we see as a growing culture revolving around video games could be their entire world. Mech suits are not cost effective for everyday life. I can get by just fine without one and I have the upper body strength of, not one, but ten lemurs combined. Strong AI, created from scratch, and emulating a human consciousness are likely possible, once we can map the brain and determine how to digitize the process. They will need to have virtual selves, so that they can be put in realistic digital environments that provide enough stimuli that they don't go brain dead. There will never be a war over earth between humans and robots, because AI can go places that we cannot. They can live in the ocean or space because they don't need air, and they can live in virtual environments. These environments could be very useful for socializing with AI. I think that humans will look to interact with machines faster and more seamlessly. I hope that augmented reality is a stepping stone toward a full dive virtual reality system. I think that if that is possible then creating a strong AI based on my own personal brain would be stone throw away. I hope that I live long enough to see that day. That would be my ultimate legacy. I don't necessarily believe in the concept of "free will". I think that people use it as a replacement for the words "a soul" in the hopes that it makes them sound more logical. I don't believe in the soul either. I believe that the individual, the world, and the universe are all complex systems. If the actions of another individual appear unique, then it is because they view the larger system from another perspective and act accordingly. What keeps us driving forward is having goals. What brings us together are having common goals. For example, a friend told me about this couple she knew. The wife wanted to have children. That was to be her legacy, the thing that allowed part of her to extend beyond her natural life span. The husband decided that he wanted something different and they split up. She found someone new, who did wan't children, and they are happily expecting their first child. I believe that a similar outlook can be used to keep humans and machines on a mutually beneficial path, but the goal would need to be worthy of the combined efforts of all involved. The race to the moon is looked at as the shining example of such an endeavor and many have claimed to be "the next space race" since, but most have proven too monumental or are simply taking longer than the rush of dopemine secreted by polititions during large, pandering speeches.
MazdaTiger's avatar
WHAT??!!! driverless cars?!!?!?1.... thats no fun at all :meow:
supergoji18's avatar
1. Mech Suits. This way you won't have to worry about the whole morality of making a robot with "free will" do work for you.
2. Driverless, but with the ability to take the hands on experience either for fun or for when the "auto-pilot" begins to malfunction.
3. No. There will always be a way to distinguish a machine from a biological life form. Whether it be the way they are built or the way they act they will still be different in some way.
4. It would be possible to keep an ownership over them, but it would be very immoral and many would not stand for it. It may be that they will have to be given the same rights as humans if they do gain "free will"
5. Define soul.
And a human and a robot having a kid is impossible. If a human and a dog can't have a kid, what makes you think a human and a robot (which isn't even a biological life form, whereas the dog at least is a biological life form) will be able to have offspring?
Director1265's avatar
1 Would you prefer to have a domestic robot that does most of your mundane housework and other tasks for you? Or would you prefer to wear a personalized mech-suit that would let you “work” tirelessly on your tasks with extra-human strength and pin-point accuracy?

I think domestic robots will become popular at people's homes (at least among middle and upper class families) while mech-suits will become popular in the military and commercial industry. There may even be robots for rent, ranging from assistance of the disabled to prostitution. Me personally, I think it would be cool to own a robot servant, but I'd probably get board with it too quickly, and that's not good if it cost a fortune.


2 Would you want a “driverless car” to drive you safely to all your destinations, freeing you to sleep or read this article or simply sight-see during the journey? Or do you think you’d prefer the visceral experience, always, of hands-on-the-wheel driving?

I can see how a driverless vehicle would be useful for the elderly, the disabled, for mass transit or for perhaps long-distance journeys, but I still prefer to be in complete control over my vehicle, or at least to have the option of taking immediate control at any given moment. Besides, if it fails to detect an obstacle or pedestrian and somebody gets hurt or killed as a result, I'd be responsible either way!


3 Can you envision a future in which robots (androids) become so sophisticated that they become absolutely indistinguishable from humans?

Yes, yes I do. I can easily envision a future where you can walk down the street and pass dozens of androids without even noticing them. Mentally, however, they're still machines, and that would probably be quite obvious after a couple of minutes interacting with them. If robots became self-aware and capable of thinking like us, chances are they wouldn't want to look like us; we are very inefficient creatures, especially by a machine's standards.


4 If a robot is in every way as sentient (self-aware), intelligent and emotionally wired as a human, is ownership of such a “machine” possible? Or would this be a form of slavery? Will robots eventually have to be granted the same human rights as people?

That's a hard one....I'm all for giving all sentient intelligences equal rights, but the robots would still depend on us to build them, provide them with energy, and pretty much keep them "alive." I think if robots ever did become self-aware, there may be a sort of a reluctant alliance between us and them, since they would be nothing without us. Some of the robots would be scared of us, some of them would hate us, and maybe some of them may look up to us like gods, and almost all of them would kiss our asses because they would know that we can very easily wipe them out. "Don't piss off those damn dirty humans if you want your energy and not to kill us all," they'd be saying to one another.


5 At some evolutionary point, will robots possess a “soul” just like a human soul? Will human society evolve quickly enough socially to keep up with a technologically advanced future in which a robot and human can fall in love... and produce android-human children?

First off, if true human-robot hybrid children were to even exist, as opposed to cyborgs born as pure human or robots with organic components, the robots would have to consist entirely of nanobots that behaved like human cells that could easily merge with human DNA...I'm talking ultra-advanced technology here, many thousands of years in the future! I don't see what would be stopping some people from falling in love and having sex with robots, nor do I see how it would be impossible for a robot to simulate every aspect of what could be considered having a soul, but the difference between simulating a soul and actually having one may very well be if God or whatever divine force there is out there wills it.
Hopeless-Alchemist's avatar
Answering #3- anamatronics (please tell me I spelled that right) has already gotten to the point that we can give robots faces and expressions. All they need to the A.I and they should be practically the same as us.
SnappedWires's avatar
Not quite. Have you heard of the Uncanny Valley? No matter how technically realistic a robot is, it just... doesn't look right.
Deadelius's avatar
Very interesting reading, indeed! Thanks for mentioning.

Wikipedia reference: [link]
And, anyone interested, should just see this graph lol [link]

Perhaps we should all get familiar with some "robots basics" before sharing an opinion on the topic.
SnappedWires's avatar
Was that first sentence sarcastic?
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