Bill Joy’s article details the idea that “robots will eventually succeed us – that humans clearly face extinction” (3). The idea of robots taking over the world is by no means new. Science fiction works, have for quite some time alluded to this fate of the universe. The film I, Robot demonstrates a world where robots and humans coexist. The robots were created with three laws that would prevent them from harming humans and taking over. This; of course, goes a rye and the robots stop following the three rules. In the end the robots are fixed and all is well. This story is all too similar to the ideas that Bill Joy conveys in his article “Why the future doesn’t need us”. Stating quotes from psychopaths as well as professors, Joy makes it seem that it’s an almost inevitable possibility that the human race will decline or become extinct and some sort of robots or technology will take over the world. There of course would not be the happy ending with Will Smith saving the world with all robots going back to their original state following the three laws. Could this somewhat “Armageddon” of sorts be a legitimate possibility and if so is there anything we can do about it?
While determining whether or not Joy’s beliefs could even be a possibility we need to look at the basis of his ideas. He writes his article with his information coming from books written by professors, scientists, and even the “the Unabomber”. While one would automatically dispose of an idea from a psychopath the backing by several scholars makes you think the idea of robots taking over the world could be plausible. Still one can’t help but think the ideas are little farfetched. Simply quoting Murphy’s Law that “Anything that can go wrong, will” (2) doesn’t mean that there is truth to the statement. To make Joy’s prediction seem more educated he notes that “For decades, Moore’s law has correctly predicted the exponential rate of improvement of semiconductor technology…. By 2030, we are likely to be able to build machines, in quantity, a million times as powerful as the personal computers of today” (6-7). One must still realize this is still just a prediction and in no means makes it a reality. Even if you don’t believe that this future of machines is evident, it’s still important to come up to a solution to this problem.
There is in no realm a simple solution to the problem of growing technology to a point of an intelligent machine. Although it seems easy enough to say not to let it happen; that just won’t do. I’ll admit that as an ordinary student I have no control over what technologies and advances are created. This leaves the responsibility to society as a whole. I would like to think that people wouldn’t allow computers to take over our minds and have robots have the capability of becoming the dominant species. If, however, this is a “gradual change that we would get used to” like the articles says (3) it would make it much harder to control. We would get too far and reliant on the technology to simply stop using it. It would be comparable to all of the world’s oil reserves drying up tomorrow. We aren’t prepared to not rely on oil if that were to occur. A major problem would be that the majority of people, in our country at least, would no longer be able to get to work without the vehicles. There are of course countless other problems that would plague us as well. Similarly if society got to a point where machines took over most if not all of humans jobs we wouldn’t be able to simply shut down the machines and live without them. The rules about nuclear weapons came after the first was dropped, thus in a way too late. Now several countries have access to them and there is always a threat of nuclear warfare that would have dire circumstances. This is why there would need to be laws and actions to prevent this change from occurring before it is too late and we can’t go back. There is still time to set a course that will not lead to robots taking over. We need to not completely rely on machines. It’s one thing to use the machines to do a job more efficiently, but the line gets crossed when people aren’t even needed to operate those machines. There should always still be a way to live without those machines (i.e. we should still be able to grow food, get water, reproduce, etc.) if one day we needed to cut all ties with them. Even though Joy’s article demonstrates little if any facts about what our future holds everyone needs to be aware that it is a possibility but not inevitable that robots could take over the world. If we, as the human race, don’t solely rely on the current and upcoming technologies that are meant to make life simpler we have the chance to make this premonition false.