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USELESS HUMANS

By Marisa Faiz
  

1Humans have always aspired to be like God. We have an innate sense to create things. With the rapid advancement of technology, this could one day lead to human extinction. Even though we are populating the earth faster than we ever have, we have more than 6 billion people on the planet, but our way of life is soon to be on the decline. We are heading towards a biological mass extinction, not just for animals and plants, but for ourselves. This is illustrated by Bill Joy, who wrote an article for Wired magazine, the title is "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us?(Joy 238).

Some people would scoff at Bill Joy and say he was a mad scientist, but Bill Joy is anything but a mad scientist, he is the chief director of science for Sun Microsystems. The future that Bill Joy predicts, is estimated to come to life in the next thirty years, and by some calculations, it might be sooner than predicted. He discusses why he believes that technology will advance to the point were robots will eventually rule the world. He foresees that the robots will eventually eradicate us (Joy 238). By creating this grim picture, Bill Joy takes a step in the direction of science fiction, but he seems might not be far from the truth. Technology is advancing ten times faster than it has in human history. We live in a society where scientific discoveries happen all the time. It is very likely that one-day robots could take over the world.

In western civilization, we have become very dependent on technology. We like the convenience of picking up the phone and calling a friend and checking our e-mail, while shopping for the best prices on line. We do all this from the convenience of our own home. We have become accustomed to these modern conveniences. These new robots will provide many new services to modern society to which humans will become accustomed. We might become dependent to the point that we will not be able to survive without them, and then it will not be easy to pull the plug on the robots when matters exceed our control.

It is predicted by Hans Moravec that by the fourth generation of intelligent computers, they will be able to reason better than we do today as well as having human perception and movability. They will be able to process thought, compute thousands of times faster than a human and be able to come up with the best possible answers in a matter of minutes. They will be able to compute all statistical probabilities in a matter of seconds with more accuracy than we could in a lifetime. He thinks that they will be able to operate and run our society better than we ever could. He imagines that the robots?superiority will surpass ours to the degree that the robots will not want to bother with human society or the planet any more. Therefore they will ascend to space, leaving the planet again to humans (Moravec). He does not obviously think of the consequences to this. If the computers can run our society without us, what will they do with the human population. Will they pity the humans and give us mediocre jobs or will they not find a 'rational?use for humans and then proceed to kill us. Moravec's optimistic approach to situation is that the government would regulate the programming of the robots, requiring that they only programmed to be nice, and then give us all pension funds invested into technology stocks. We would get rich off of stocks while the robots worked for us in the market place (Moravec 124-126).

Many scientists are optimistic about the biotech revolution. At the same time a lot of scientists agree with Bill Joy's theorem. As early as the 1950's scientist had started to develop theorems to create artificial intelligence, computers that will think and act like humans (Dyson). Many scientists believe that one day a computer will be able to be programmed to go beyond our mental capacity (Moravec 20). Even though Carl Sagan was for the advancement of the technological revolution, he said before he died.This is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself-as well as vast numbers of others?(Sagan). With the nuclear technology we have today, we could destroy most of our population as well as the ecosystem of the planet. In the next fifty years we have a fifty percent chance of causing the extinction of ourselves. This is considered to be a hopeful estimate. The extinction can come from ourselves (nuclear weapons or something of the sort) or from some kind of artificial intelligence that we will create (Joy 254).

Bill Joy points out that it is arrogant of us to create a robot that might one day house our essence or as he says, 'replacement species for ourselves because we can hardly understand ourselves. If we make one mistake in the program of one of these cybernetic beings, then something could go awry. Scientists suggest that we program them to be nice. But, what if there is a glitch and started to have basic human emotions. With its vast intelligence and programmed human emotions, who knows what it will do if it were to get mad. Then it might get lonely and then it would reproduce itself and create more like it.

Another alternative is that the robots could be more efficient than us and drive us out of the economic market place. We would not be able to compete with there superiority in quick production. We would be forced to starve or they could kill us or drive us out into the wilderness to start again as farmers and small communities while the robots lived in the cities (Joy 256).

We are entering an era of mass potential. In the history of earth, there has never been so many ideas flowing all at once. As a society, we do not know the future can possibly hold. Bill Joy made the statement, "If open access to and unlimited development of knowledge henceforth puts us all in clear danger of extinction ? (Joy 254). We are starting to open the legendary Pandora's box. As Bill Joy points out, but society is hardly noticing. Humans are more interested in their everyday lives than they are with what is going on in the scientific world around them. We are entering a new cognitive era were revelations are inevitable. As a society we have to come together and decide what is right and what is wrong because once these ideas and thoughts come to the worlds attention, we cannot just put them back were they came from. They will forever have a place in our history, someone could take that idea and make it into reality. That is why fully expanding in the direction science wants to go might have grave consequences to the future of human kind (Joy 254).

We should be psychologically preparing ourselves to get ready for the future, because of the lack of acknowledgement; people seem to still be debating topics from 50 to 100 years ago instead of working on ways to visualize what may happen in the future. This dilemma causes us not to have a technical direction to head in, as a culture, this could be one of the worst things we can do (Joy 256). The way technology is advancing; we are at the brink of discovering something very big in the artificial intelligence field. We are rapidly approaching the point of no return; the discoveries in the next couple years could shape our entire future. We have not reached this point yet. There are ways we can stop this future from occurring. First thing we have to do is bring the experimentation into light, we have to educate people as to what is going on in the world, not just their neighborhoods. The second thing we must do as a society is avoid killing this new technology altogether with morality. If we can elude banning new technology altogether, then the countries of the world have to come together and create an agreed upon standard that allows scientist to move forward with experimentation under certain strict limits.

The technology that is coming now is not anything like what we have seen before. Modern western culture does not seem to want to embrace technology like they have in the past. As a society, we have lost the drive to have new experimental technology. There are many ways that the wave of the future might be killed. The most likely is that the moral right could protest and petition the residing government until it is outlawed. Then, there will still be scientists that will go petition other countries to run the same experiments; these will be less democratic countries that only look for the advancement of their peoples and do not think of themselves as part of the globalized world. This is being proven today, when a company is told to stop polluting in the United States, it moves to a third world country that has no environmental standards. The citizens do not care that the company is hurting their health or the environment because they need the jobs. These scientists will remain unwatched until something terrible happens and by that point, it could be to late. Or they could do the bidding of less democratic countries, creating something that we could only dream of to try and take over the world. Thus, leading to the extinction of modern man. If we did not allow these scientists to experiment on limited forms of robotics, we might loose the opportunity to fight cancer or fight something that could be unforeseen.

The future holds and infinite amount of possibilities. I think some of them are far fetched and scientific predictions do not always work. There have been many predictions that have been wrong. The BT technologies, in 1999, predicted that we would have fire-fighting robots by the year 2000. It is almost the completion of the year 2000, and no such technical advances have come. The BT technologies thinks that the Robot revolution will come sooner than we thing. They say by 2005, we should have robot pets. By 2007 we should have fully automated factories. By 2008 we should have fully automated robots with environmental awareness sensors and house working robots that will clean, take out the trash, etc. By 2020 it should be common for people to be genetically programmed to live until the age of 130. For my generation, this probably will not be possible because our bodies will still be programmed to start the degeneration process, but it will be possible to download our brains into something like the internet until they have perfected cybernetic bodies (http://www.bt.com/bttj/vol18no1/tomorrow.htm).

I find this new technology to be worthless. As human beings, why do we feel the need to have so many possessions? Why do we feel the need to live longer? Death is a natural part of life. We started off as living from the earth. Then man evolved to farming and the population kept growing. Man was forced into the work he does today. If we worked less and enjoyed life more, maybe we would not need these gadgets to satisfy some emptiness. I can find some ethical answer to this question. People might be trying to fill some type of void with their new toys, not thinking of the consequences of the new technology and where will it lead. If we do accomplish artificial intelligence, how do we know it will think like us. There is something that makes the humans species special; it is the soul. Can we program that into a robot or will it be downloaded from a human.

We have a choice between economic growth through technology and science or we can choose to back off and enjoy ourselves. Bill Joy points out that economic growth really has not made us happy (Joy 262). Some technology is good, I believe in the advancement of medical technology. I think one day some type robotic technology might be finding ways to cure cancer, but to use them for our own everyday choirs in almost immoral. We should, as a society we have a responsibility to pick a direction for our future, one that will not harm us. If we allow this to continue we will have to face many ethical questions about the robots existence. We have to take responsibility to what we give birth too.

Work Cited

Dyson, George B. Darwin Among The Machines. Helix Books, Reading, Massachusetts: 1997.

Joy, Bill. "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us.?Wired. Conde Nast: San Francisco CA: April 2000, 238-262.

Moravec, Hans. Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind. Oxford University Press, New York: 1999.

Pearson, Ian. "Towards Life in 2020.BT Journal. http://www.bt.com/bttj/vol18no1/tomorrow.htm.

Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Ballantine Books: Portland Oregon, September 1994.


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