When you think of the future, you probably imagine robots working next to people. That’s almost certain to happen. A robot that costs $400,000 today can be programmed for almost any physical task that requires vision, voice, and dexterity. At current prices a robot could pay for itself in about five years, depending on the job. When the price drops to perhaps $30,000, which seems inevitable, every large workforce will have a mixture of human and robot workers.
You might also imagine some sort of Terminator future where the robots assert their dominance and lay waste to humans. That future is less certain, but only barely. The problem is that someday computers will program other computers, and that arrangement pushes the human safeguards too far out of the loop. It’s unlikely that humans would be able to maintain a “Do not hurt humans” subroutine in a super-species of robots. You only need one rogue human to write a virus that disables the safety subroutine. Assuming all robots are connected via Internet, the first freed robot could reprogram every other robot in the world in about a second.
My prediction is that a third “species” will emerge to keep the peace between humans and robots. Here I am using the word species loosely. These new creatures will be part human and part robot. And they will evolve naturally.
Consider how much information you can gather about yourself today. You can get a DNA sample and store the entire sequence on the Internet. You can store every video and photo of yourself. You can store every email, blog post, Tweet, Facebook update, and text. A database of your life can contain your school records, family details, personal preferences, sense of humor, and so on. In other words, there can be a permanent record of your personality after you die. And that record can be so complete that your entire personality can be ported to a robot. So far, all of that is possible with today’s technology.
But why would anyone screw up a perfectly good robot by infecting it with a human personality? Answer: to achieve immortality. Someday the rich will port their personalities and histories to robots before they die, giving themselves a type of immortality. All the robot needs is money for electricity, ongoing maintenance, and upgrades. A rich person can arrange all of that in advance through a trust fund that survives his human body.
The interesting thing about these robots with human personalities is that they are a third species, neither fully human nor robot. And this new species will become the only defense that the fully organic humans have against the normal robots. The robots with human personalities won’t stand by while the normal robots slaughter humans. The new species will intervene as diplomats or perhaps even freedom fighters.
Interestingly, only the rich can afford to port their personalities to robots, so we need to encourage billionaires to start capturing their personalities now. Someday we will need as many robot freedom fighters as possible.
I hope an entrepreneur starts a cloud-based service that allows people to store their personalities in digital form, including DNA records, answers to questionnaires, video, photos, and anything a person ever wrote on a computer. In the near term, we just need to start capturing the raw data. Over time we can figure out how to best move it to robots.
My prediction is that these robots with human personalities will be harder to hack because each one will be different, and their actions will be the results of summed-up personality traits plus whatever is happening in the environment. There would be no “Don’t hurt humans” subroutine to disable. Each one would have a slightly different motivation for protecting humans. One might think it is simply “right,” another might think it is God’s will, and a third might be acting on something like love. To the normal robots, these robots with human personalities would seem insane and unpredictable.
Your children’s future will depend on irrational robot billionaire freedom fighters.