In the Global Village we will continue to see excitement build about the mind-machine interface but we dare not ignore the mind-machine collision. The fear-driven false self, ego to some of you, will tend to see robots as a threat rather than a problem solving adjunct to its daily life. Whether a proliferation of robotic technology will have us heading toward heaven or hell is not that hard to predict if we only had a better understanding of the underlying structure of human consciousness.
Remember, we cannot use our technology to express a more rational behavior than we ourselves are capable of. So, are we seeing robots as the 7th Cavalry coming to our rescue or as a shuffling mob of ravenous zombies? Perhaps, a bit of both.
“A hitchhiking robot was beheaded in Philadelphia. A security robot was punched to the ground in Silicon Valley. Another security bot, in San Francisco, was covered in a tarp and smeared with barbecue sauce.” (p. 1) The more a robot resembles a human the more likely it will be violently attacked. Why are bots seen as a threat by some of us?
Agnieszka Wykowska, a cognitive neuroscientist and editor in chief of the International Journal of Social Robotics, sees some members of our species manifesting tribal behaviors. They are “anthropomorphizing” robots attributing human characteristics to them and then treating them as the Other. “Ms. Wykowska said that cruelty that results from this anthropomorphizing might reflect ‘Frankenstein syndrome,’ because ‘we are afraid of this thing that we don’t really fully understand, because it’s a little bit similar to us, but not quite enough.” (p. 8)
Our fellow human beings are not “a little bit similar to us,” they are in all fundamental respects exactly like us. Until we come to internalize that aspect of reality we will continue to create a hell on earth where violence among our various tribes will be exacerbated with violence directed toward the robotic other. Our scientists would do well to focus on creating strategies to help our species distinguish reality from illusion before they create technologies that trigger more reactions in an already disintegrating human community.
Insight # 81: Right now, a lot of our A.I. systems make decisions in ways that people don’t really understand. – Mark Zuckerberg
- “Robots, Welcome to Hell,” essay found in Science and Philosophy (2015), by Roy Charles Henry, pages 37-39.
- Bromwich, Jonah Engel. “Maybe We Are Wired To Beat Up Machines.” The New York Times. January 20, 2019, pages 1 and 8.