We’re obsessed. We want to build machines that can think, feel, judge, improvise and do everything just as well as we can. It’s an exciting and perilous thing, this quest to create human robots. But instead of worrying about the consequences of such an achievement, perhaps we should be more worried about creating robot humans.
Whenever we get to talking about A.I., automation and the role of humans in a world dominated by robots, there’s always anger. There’s always fear. It’s not because the ‘bots will take our jobs and leave the majority with an inability to contribute to the economy, and thus make a living. No. It’s deeper, and simpler, than that.
For many, work is life. It is the glue that holds together the various parts of their existence. Take that unifying force away, what happens? Degeneration. There’s a reason Tim Ferriss has a section in The 4-Hour Work Week called “Filling the Void”. We humans are not equipped to handle a life of pleasure and ease and comfort. Sure, when you ask someone what they’d do if they didn’t have to work, the inevitable comes up: holidays, hobbies, experiences, et cetera, et cetera. But after all that? After we’ve seen the wonders of the world and after we’ve got sick of adrenaline, fine wine and every other conceivable novelty? There has to be something. Because if there isn’t, we lose ourselves.
Without some higher cause to devote ourselves to—be it local or global—we flounder. We become shells who do nothing but wake up, eat, piss, shit, walk and fall asleep. Without some overarching purpose, we become a machine whose objective is to persist through existence at a steady, unyielding pace.
That’s what people are really scared of when they talk about the creation of intelligent, conscious machines. They’re terrified that the conception of human robots will be the beginning of their transformation into robot humans.