Robot Revolution

We’ve all watched those movies where the robots came out on top. We saw it in movies like iRobot, Terminator, The Matrix Trilogy and its Animatrix. Even Wall-E, our little robot friend, gave us a glimpse into a dark future. A future where we’ve become the “mindless” robots we sought to create.

Our world is taking a new direction, similar to when the industrial age brought new inventions and discoveries. People were replaced then, and they are going to be replaced in the new digital (or robot) age

As the needs and wants of humans reach unsustainable heights, it’s only natural we look  for ways to satiate our deadly appetites. We are proponents for advancing technology, and it’s hard to imagine our lives without these advancements. However one thing remains certain: We cannot sacrifice human development at the cost of our own humanity, emotions and identity.

There was one thing common in all those movies. Droids, robots and machines had personalities; they became advanced and eventually conquered humans. Robots thought for themselves and started to feel and understand us. Will this really happen? Or is it something we can simply brush off as writers’ imagination or scientist babble, something far from a plausible reality?

Whatever you want to make of it, the robot age is coming, and it remains to be seen whether the creators or creations will prevail.

The Robot is the new toy

Let’s take a simple example of how we are already controlled by machines.

Our smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. It wakes us up, shows us what traffic is like on the way to work, and helps us stay connected. With the current processing power and more of it to come in the future, smartphones have established themselves as one of the most significant devices of the 21st century.

There are other technologies that we rarely see and probably don’t understand that also indirectly control our lives. For example, servers that work behind the scenes, gathering massive amounts of data to give us the information we need at lightning speeds. If Instagram’s server goes down, people become devastated and rush to other social media channels to complain. Isn’t this an indication of our powerlessness to machines?

Now, imagine these technologies combined into one “being”. A mechanical mesh of wires and circuits, that does more than just walk around with blinking lights, repeating the same sentence over and over. A robot that is better at doing what we do, and how we do it. A robot who helps you out of bed, does your chores and goes to work for you. A robot that will understand how you feel and respond with a calculated answer. Make no mistake, this robot will be making computations to ensure the best possible outcome in any situation, be it logical or emotional.

Making the next best robot is also becoming the new craze in Silicon Valley. With processing power becoming readily available and easily purchased, many people have, or will have access to all the tools required to make their first robot. The time for robot testing has ended and the time for developing useful companions has begun. It’s a nascent market and everyone’s invited. Scientists, entrepreneurs, sci-fi enthusiasts and even students are checking in to develop the world’s robots. If the Internet and computers were the hot topics of the last twenty years, robots will become the focus for the next twenty.

Robot’s the new guy at work

Many robots today are already making their way into our daily lives. You’ve probably heard about Amazon’s drones, or that robots might soon replace humans in performing basic jobs such as waiting tables all the way through to medical treatment. These developments link to an article on LinkedIn about a jobless future for humans. The author, Vivek Wadhwa, suggests that we cannot do much to prepare for what is about to come. He says that we cannot escape the inevitable “robot revolution” and the rise of the machine. We should be aware of the disruptive nature robots will bring to our daily lives.

However, there are a lot of positives Mr. Wadhwa mentions in the article. With these advancements, humans can focus on preventing diseases rather than curing them. Analyzing the infinite amounts of data will no longer be our headache, and robots will perform all the tasks that you never wanted to do. In Mr. Wadhwa’s future, we can expect a shorter work week, allowing us to spend most of our time (hopefully) on our own enlightenment. All we have to do is check that all these robots are well-oiled for their endless labor-life.

That being said, imagine that such a labor force exists. A labor force that doesn’t complain. A labor force that doesn’t need wages. A labor force that obeys every order. Won’t that be the ideal situation? The highest cost to a business is employee salaries and benefits. Removing that from the income statement changes the equation. As an entrepreneur, wouldn’t it be more convenient for you to simply maintain these robotic minions? Would that be better than dealing with human beings, developing their careers and satisfying their needs?

While the fear of a jobless environment for humans is imminent, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions just yet. As Mr. Wadhwa mentioned, job requirements overall might change. Getting the menial and dirty jobs replaced means more people have time to educate themselves on jobs that can never be replaced by humans.

One thing is certain, if we do enter the robotic age where doctors, lawyers, engineers and even school teachers are machines, it’s pretty obvious our lives will change dramatically. However, what isn’t as obvious is how this change is going to take place. Slowly but surely, we will wake up one day and wonder how the Robot replaced the dog as man’s best friend.

At that point, there could be two paths laid out before us. The majority might succumb to laziness similar to what happened in Wall-E, or we can use these machines to continually advance civilization. We just have to make the right choice.

Or maybe our embedded RFID chips will choose for us…

*Images courtesy of Sylvian Latouche, Scott Lynch, and mary on Flickr.

**This post was written in collaboration with the mighty Rami Traboulsi– he already has a robot love interest.