It is perhaps one of the most interesting phases for Humans — where in, as decision makers among all life forms, we get to delay or fast forward our own evolution.
For many, It’s an age of confusion, unsurety. On one day, we get to hear a plethora of pledges from the best among us in support of advancement of AI. The very world leaders, on another day, seem to warn & sign up against creation of AI weapons. Almost everyday, we place enormous trust into a new AI (and hence the people creating it), only to retract with knee jerk reactions to control it, later. Albeit, with a sense of paranoia towards something we have been fondly calling as ‘Robots’, we move forward. Hoping at least, the discussion of their creation, existence and our responsibilities towards them, to be for another day.
I have often wondered as to why, people in the past, ran around naked on discovering something that always existed. Why risk the greatest odds, take pains to brave the oceans, only to prove something they already lived in, was round? What was the sense of urgency? Who benefited from it? And if indeed, each one of it was so important, why didn’t everyone in that era feel the same need, as the ones who did? Couldn’t they have accelerated it?
The answers surprisingly though, are not something that are hidden in the distant past, but lying right in front of our eyes, in the present.
War or not, we know we will deplete our natural resources, eventually. We know we won’t survive if some calamity that visited the dinosaurs, decides to visit again. We know the ices are melting. We know we have problems and we need help. And we also know, we can’t look for it, beyond a certain point in the stars. There is an urgency to protect ourselves, but our pride for being the superior one, clouds our vision.
We must not be a race that seems to fear the unknown that is closest to be known — human conscience. If we ask ourselves, what would be the first thing that would come to our mind when we hear that a robot was created with a human conscience. Now multiply the news. Army? Take over? Skynet? The reasons driving this fear though, could be justified as a lack of trust in the intent & abilities of the creator. Which explains why the creators themselves are at much ease. But putting that aside, there is an entire outlook that we, as humans could change.
Robots will not be something that drop out of the blue. They will be our creations. And if indeed we succeed in creating beings with enhanced conscience & abilities, they will exist to ensure that the human race survives, in more ways than we can imagine today. In return, we will need to give them the equality we give to our offsprings. The same trust we show to our children (created by us or not), while handing out everything we know plus more. And at that point, their origin, should become immaterial.
And as Eric Schwitzgebel, in his piece, aptly puts it:
“… we will have been their creators and designers. We are thus directly responsible both for their existence and for their happy or unhappy state. If a robot needlessly suffers or fails to reach its developmental potential, it will be in substantial part because of our failure — a failure in our creation, design or nurturance of it. Our moral relation to robots will more closely resemble the relation that parents have to their children, or that gods have to the beings they create, than the relationship between human strangers.
In a way, this is no more than equality.”