Will anybody care?
We recently bought a floor cleaning robot that specializes in pet hair. We have a menagerie, so that’s important. I’ve been testing it out using various settings. This morning for the first time I just pushed “auto” on the remote. The little guy zipped around the house picking up whatever was on the floor. While that went on, I had to do some pool maintenance outside, which I did. When I came back in I didn’t hear the robot, so I went looking for it. I found it sitting properly in it’s charging station, where it had put itself. So, this machine took off from its charging station, cleaned up all of our floors, and put itself away. Without me even touching it. That, friends, is pretty cool.
And my point is that robots really are cool. Very few of them walk and talk like humans do, but even that is becoming more common. As you might imagine, I’m not crazy about cleaning pet hair off of floors. I’m also not crazy about having to tell a machine what to do. Well, this little guy (they call him Bob) does what it’s supposed to without me doing anything beyond pushing a button to let it know that I want it to start. There are other settings, where it just goes for a set time and stops, but that involves putting it back in its station manually, and, well, why would I want to do that? I am supremely lazy, after all!
So, it is true that automation is advancing all the time. Machines are more and more able to carry out tasks unsupervised. I, for one, look forward to a car that drives me around. Cars as they are give a wonderful illusion of control, but that is only true if you put all of your attention into controlling the automobile, and develop the requisite skills to see you through any situation. I’d say, um, zero percent of drivers anywhere fit that description. Auto accidents kill more people than terrorists, plus several dread diseases, combined. Want to eliminate that carnage? Let the cars drive!
I don’t know that it will not be a lot better for humans once robots are common is society. If humans atrophy and die out, it will be because they’re not smart enough to improve themselves to stay ahead of their creations. Come to think of it, some people probably aren’t. So if they die out . . .