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The Cultural Impact of Robotics

Robot A.I. Labour Aging Declining Population Automation Algorithm

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#1
BarkEater93

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     I believe that robotics is going to be one of the technologies that will have the biggest cultural impact in the 21st century. But I think it may first be helpful to look back at the technologies that had the most impact during the last century to compare with. 
 
     Probably the biggest technological event of the 20th century was the revolution in telecommunications. From the radio to the internet, society was transformed. People could have the wealth of the world’s information right at their fingertips, and instantly communicate with anyone anywhere in the world.
 
     But there was another major event that defined the century: the collapse of the European empires. The Europeans had previously colonized most of the world and created a global trading system. When those empires collapsed, the colonies reasserted themselves but remained dependent on the system the Europeans had set up. The world became interdependent more than ever before. New technologies were developed to make it easier for these nations and their people to interact and communicate with each other. The main social event of the 20th century, increased global interdependence fueled the revolution in telecommunications.
 
     When looking at the 21st century, the big social change that stands out is going to be the declining growth and aging of the world’s population. This trend is already happening in the advanced industrialized countries but it’s going to become a global phenomenon later in the century. People are having fewer children, and people are living longer. That means fewer workers in the economy and more people with a large chunk of their lives not physically or mentally fit to work. The world will be facing economic catastrophe if ways are not changed.
 
     One way developed countries will be handling this problem is with immigration. Since they are the countries that will be affected first, they’re increasingly going to feel the need to entice more immigrant workers from developing countries to keep productivity levels high and prop their economies. North America will be in a particularly opportune position for this since it has the physical space to accommodate more people and the history of easily assimilating immigrants. But that can’t be a permanent solution. Eventually this phenomenon will be affecting all countries.


#2
BarkEater93

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     The permanent solution is going to be in robotics. Robots will not only be filling in the niche previously held by the least desirable jobs, but will also be helping to do physical tasks that are going to be done by an increasingly older population. 
 
     But if that is going to be the main driver behind the robotic revolution, it’s also going to shape where the technology is going to go. Robots that resemble humans, like the Terminator or BB-8, are good for the movies, but not for real-life situations. Why make a robot that looks and acts like a human when people can do the same things? Factory robots, for example, don’t necessarily take the physical form of humans. They’re made according to whatever tasks they have. Some human attributes that are not needed are discarded and others that are needed are augmented or made more efficient than what a human can do. This means robots can take many different forms, and they may not be visible in everyday life.
 
     What applies to the hardware also applies to the software. Why make a robot that thinks like a human when people (who are the conscious beings) can do the same thing, with the emotional maturity? We tend to anthropomorphize our machines. What some people may call “artificial intelligence” is really just a set of algorithms. These algorithms may be very complex and be able to operate independently and build upon themselves, but that’s just it. There’s no consciousness there. Similarly, software is made according to whatever tasks it has. It may be better than a human at its tasks, but it’s still dumb as a rock at other things. The calculators we use in the classroom may be better than you and me in arithmetic, but that doesn’t mean they’re intelligent. 


#3
BarkEater93

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     Robots are already being developed by militaries around the world. This is where most of the core technologies are going to be developed. This is where many of the most important technologies we use today come from. The internet gestated from a U.S. government military project during the Cold War. This is just one example.
 
     Right now, in government laboratories around the world, scientists and engineers are working on the technologies that will be used in the next big war. The key will be in robotics. Robotic exoskeletons that augment soldiers with super-human abilities, hypersonic unmanned aircraft that can deliver munitions to a precise target on the other side of the world within minutes, or reconnaissance satellites that can defend themselves against battles in outer space may seem like science fiction today. But those are the kinds of things that government agencies, such as DARPA, are currently working on. Their use may only be a few decades away. Think how someone in 1900 would be astounded and horrified by the atomic bomb, the tank, or the bomber used in the Second World War. Consider also how the technologies that are being worked on for the future don’t require as great a leap in technological breakthroughs.


#4
caltrek

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There is a cliche that goes something like "military planners are always trying to fight the last war and not preparing for the next war."

 

Part of what we face now is cyber-warfare. Here, the emphasis is not on winning on a conventional battlefield.  Rather, it is through such things as hacking, sabotage, use of false news through the social media, computer assisted propaganda blitzes, and competing AIs.  In 2011, the Iran nuclear program, which uses embargoed Siemens equipment procured secretly, was damaged by Stuxnet. This was a malicious computer worm. 

 

In January, 2013, the Defense Science Board warned that the nuclear command-and-control system’s ability to withstand a major hacking attack had never been fully    vetted.[i]  Hopefully, this potential vulnerability has been addressed at this writing, although I have never seen confirmation of that correction.

 

The headlines are also now filled with reports of Russian efforts to impact election outcomes in the U.S. as well as other efforts to engage in sabotage. The cold war has thus transitioned into a form of cyber-warfare.  Like guerilla warfare, this depends on stealth.  Part of the problem is that our own leaders seem unwilling to acknowledge the problem and take appropriate steps.  Possibly because they themselves have been compromised. 

 

One challenge will thus be to maintain the legitimacy of our government. This matter of legitimacy is rendered further problematic in that we are experiencing tremendous concentration of wealth in the hands of a relatively few people.  While this sort of concentration of power may not be a totally new historic development, more and and more people are becoming aware of the situation.  If problems of economic injustice are not addressed, then further legitimacy problems may follow. We should remember that a root cause of World War II was a breakdown in international order and the economic system that served as the underpinning for that order.  

 

Robotics may have a negative consequence if it further complicates the problem of excessive concentration of wealth.  A theme that is not new to this forum.


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The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#5
BarkEater93

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If Cyber warfare were to become the main theatre of conflict, it would be right now. The internet was designed for military purposes, but when its commercial applications exploded after the Cold War ended the government quickly lost control. It changed society so fast that effective firewalls and laws haven’t yet been able to keep up.
 
The modern internet has been around for less than 30 years. That’s very young for a technology that has been so disruptive. We are still in its “wild west” days. The computing industry is now in about the same position as that faced by the auto industry before it introduced seat belts and airbags, and was imposed with government regulation.
 
If the internet is still young, that means its maturity will follow. It will eventually be tamed. The state will be imposing more control. It will become restrained and in time will be fortified.
 
Russia and the U.S. have been at each other in the cyber realm for decades. Considering how much they tried to attack each other, you’d think it would be now that the two countries would bring themselves to ashes. But obviously, that has not happened. Numerous attempts in cyber attacks in recent years have spurred government agencies to invest heavily in developing cyber security, and they have provided opportunities to learn on how to improve.
 
War is permanent to the human condition. They are fought in the real world. This will not change. All this software is based on physical infrastructure, vulnerable to attack.
What will change in war is how militaries are deployed. Militaries are learning that sending armies and masses of equipment to the other side of the world to fight a conflict can be debilitating and very ineffective. What government agencies are focusing on is developing robotics that increases both lethality and precision, eliminating the need to send large armies, tanks and so on overseas. Not to mention reducing human casualties. 


#6
Sciencerocks

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I will just say that humanity would be better off giving our political system over to the robots. Why do I believe this? Well,  The fact that 40% of this country voted for a fucking russian loving dick head that wants to defund science, throw poor people onto the street, wants to privatize education and has cheated and ripped off tens of thousands of people that trusted him is why. If the population is this fucking self destructive to our civilization then a robot is probably the better choice.

 

A robotic A.I would find it idiotic to allow the top 5% of the population to have all the wealth.



#7
caltrek

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Russia and the U.S. have been at each other in the cyber realm for decades. Considering how much they tried to attack each other, you’d think it would be now that the two countries would bring themselves to ashes. But obviously, that has not happened. Numerous attempts in cyber attacks in recent years have spurred government agencies to invest heavily in developing cyber security, and they have provided opportunities to learn on how to improve.

 

Bringing themselves to ashes is still a distinct possability if cyber-warfare accelerates the conflict to a point at which nuclear war breaks.  

 

 

 

War is permanent to the human condition. They are fought in the real world. This will not change. 

 

It will if a World War III (or perhaps a World War IV) results in the extinction of the human species.  "War" here being defined as a strictly human endeavor apart from "survival of the fittest" - which applies to all organisms.

 

 

 All this software is based on physical infrastructure, vulnerable to attack.

What will change in war is how militaries are deployed. Militaries are learning that sending armies and masses of equipment to the other side of the world to fight a conflict can be debilitating and very ineffective. What government agencies are focusing on is developing robotics that increases both lethality and precision, eliminating the need to send large armies, tanks and so on overseas. Not to mention reducing human casualties. 

 

 

Yes, I see your point.

 

However, "increasing lethality"  and "reducing human casualties" do not necessarily go together.  Put another way, more technologically advanced countries may be tempted to introduce robotics into the practice of war.  In the short term, that may affect the number of casualties such countries suffer.  However, making war less painful for such forces of aggression may increase the pain for those on the receiving end.  Like aerial bombing, in certain circumstances the use of robots may only increase the determination of adversaries to rebel, resist, and strike back.  So warfare will simply evolve to greater levels of asymmetrical fighting.

 

So, cyber-warfare has two components.   One, to affect the deployment of physical resources.  Two, to affect consciousness and the will to fight.

 

"Final victory" would result in a kind of peace. A peace resulting form the total destruction of humanity, or a peace in which the human species outgrows the need and desire for war.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#8
funkervogt

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Summary

 

If we switch to machine armies:
 
1) Social cohesion could weaken since nations would no longer have large institutions (militaries) for indoctrinating their human citizens and infusing them with patriotism and loyalty. If humans no longer died in wars, populations would slowly lose national myths of shared sacrifice and heroism that underpin their national identities. 
 
2) Wars might become more common since it would be possible to wage them without risking any humans on your side. 
 
3) The size and power of a country's military would no longer be limited by the size of its human population. The number of machines could exceed the number of humans. The only hard constraint on force size would be money. 
 
4) The dangers of dictatorship would grow as small groups of humans in control of a government or military could turn their machines against their human populations, confident that none of their troops would question orders or defect.
 


#9
funkervogt

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Killer robots might actually be more ethical than human soldiers. 

 

Could killer robots meet these international human rights standards? Ronald Arkin, a roboticist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, thinks they could. In fact, he argues that LAWS could have significant ethical advantages over human combatants. For example, killer robots do not need to protect themselves, and so could refrain from striking when in doubt about whether a target is a civilian or a combatant. Warbots, Arkin contends, could assume "far more risk on behalf of noncombatants than human warfighters are capable of, to assess hostility and hostile intent, while assuming a 'First do no harm' rather than 'Shoot first and ask questions later' stance."

 
LAWS, he suggests, would also employ superior sensor arrays, enabling them to make better battlefield observations. They would not make errors based on emotions—unlike soldiers, who experience fear, fatigue, and anger. They could integrate and evaluate far more information faster in real time than could human soldiers. And they could objectively monitor the ethical behavior of all parties on the battlefield and report any infractions.

http://reason.com/ar...ecessarily-harm


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#10
Lastseasonsnow

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One cultural aspect that I could think of regarding robotics is that there will be no differences b/w countries, color, religion because robotics is made in the same way. 


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#11
Alislaws

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Im getting more and more firm in my suspicion/belief that robot soldiers would be a significant improvement.

 

A lot of the arguments against robot soldiers amount to: "if advanced nations did not have to worry about casualties among their soldiers, they would declare war way more!" which is ridiculous. 

 

Every robot sent to war costs money, probably more money than sending a person (unless we get very efficient at warbot construction!) and our leaders care a lot more about money than they do about casualties among mostly poor people. 

 

When we go to war, defeating the enemy is usually not a problem, advanced nations are smart enough not to attack anyone who might be able to fight back in any significant way. When two advanced nations fight, they'll pick some proxy country and fight in that, because otherwise as soon as someone starts to lose they'll go nuclear. 

 

This is why robots would be used mostly for asymmetrical warfare:

 

In asymmetrical warfare where an advanced nation invades a weaker one the goal of the more powerful side (the one with the robots) is basically to reduce the war to a police action, and get the population to see the military invaders as protectors, and the freedom fighters as terrorists.

 

However if they order their military to deploy in police actions, (i.e.  trying to non-lethally arrest terrorist suspects etc.) a lot of their soldiers will die especially if their enemy uses suicide tactics. 

 

Remember every lost friend and comrade makes soldiers more likely to kill in response or seek revenge by abusing prisoners etc. and every death of civilians and destruction of property etc. results in more people radicalised and joining your enemies extending the length of the conflict and increasing the opportunities for more deaths and then more recruits etc. 

 

 

Robots would have none of these issues, you could send thousands of them in unarmed to nonlethally arrest (hug pile!) a terrorist/freedom fighter. Essentially it is very very easy to be the better man and take the moral high road when you risk nothing by doing so, which is what robots would enable. 

 

And amazingly, being nice to the people you conquer is pretty much the best way to win an asymmetrical war, so adopting more humane tactics would actually make you more effective on the hearts and minds front and much better able to  bring about peace after a conflict. 



#12
BarkEater93

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Robots are never going to completely replace humans in warfare precisely because there's more to war than just killing your enemy. You also have to occupy and hold onto the territory you have gotten. That requires a certain degree of police work and distinguishing between who are law-abiding citizens and who are not. It's something only humans can do. Human commanders will always be needed who understand the mind of the enemy. 

 

Robots are going to augment soldiers, as well as doing the more labour-intensive tasks. But they won't replace them. 

 

War is about the conflict between the values and interests of different HUMAN communities. People will always be involved. The risk of death from the enemy, although greatly lowered, will always be there.


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#13
zEVerzan

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The only way I can see robots ending humanity's role in war is if either the civilian death toll of a robotic total war is SO high and SO traumatic that some kind of armistice is put in place, or robots go on a good old-fashioned destroy-all-humans campaign.


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#14
Alislaws

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Robots are never going to completely replace humans in warfare precisely because there's more to war than just killing your enemy. You also have to occupy and hold onto the territory you have gotten. That requires a certain degree of police work and distinguishing between who are law-abiding citizens and who are not. It's something only humans can do. Human commanders will always be needed who understand the mind of the enemy.

 

Robots are going to augment soldiers, as well as doing the more labour-intensive tasks. But they won't replace them. 

 

War is about the conflict between the values and interests of different HUMAN communities. People will always be involved. The risk of death from the enemy, although greatly lowered, will always be there.

 

That's not really true though. Machines will soon be able distinguish between a combatant and a non-combatant just as well as a human in high pressure situation with their life on the line. And they can afford to take longer, and be more cautious because they don't have to worry about being killed.

 

In terms of police actions the robots could arrest everyone and let human investigators sort out the details out once everyone is unarmed and secured. 

 

As for only humans being able to understand humans, this is currently true, but there is no fundamental reason this will always be true. And AI's are being created which can beat humans in table based strategy games, and they are working on RTS games etc. and if the weak narrow AI we have today can do that, then doing it in the real world will need is a ​lot ​more variables taken into account, but is not outside the realms of what we currently think is possible.

 

Won't be easy but when have militaries ever had problems getting funding for tough projects which are essential to the national defence. 

 

The fact that all the AI controlled robots would be controlled by a hive mind, or be in constant communication at the speed of AI thought plus the ridiculous precision and reaction speed of an AI would mean an AI team vs a human elite special forces team would be a complete wipe for the human side, and that's before you factor in that the AI can afford to just sacrifice units whenever it needs to secure a tactical advantage.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Robot, A.I., Labour, Aging, Declining Population, Automation, Algorithm

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