Should We Worry About Robots?

Posted 22 Jan 2013 at 19:34 UTC by steve Share This

Every year Edge asks one question of the world's smartest people; people like Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, Rodney Brooks, Roger Schank, and dozens of others; scientists, philosophers, artists. Every year robots and AI are recurring topics throughout the answers. This year's question is "What *should* we be worried about?" From the introduction, here's the full question:

We worry because we are built to anticipate the future. Nothing can stop us from worrying, but science can teach us how to worry better, and when to stop worrying. WHAT SHOULD WE BE WORRIED ABOUT? Tell us something that worries you (for scientific reasons), but doesn't seem to be on the popular radar yet—and why it should be. Or tell us something that you have stopped worrying about, even if others do, and why it should be taken off the radar.

And here are the responses. Kevin Kelly thinks we should worry about the "underpopulation bomb" - the first time in human history to experience a diminishing number of young people combined with an increasing number of robots. Gregory Benford warns that our life on Earth is beginning to resemble rats in a spherical trap and that we need to get off this rock before it's too late; a project that calls for robots, nuclear rockets, asteroid mining, and more robots. David Berreby worries that "global greying" will result in increasingly elderly, xenophobic populations who choose to boost their workforces with robots rather than immigrants. Paul Saffo worries about a coming fight between two extreme classes he calls "engineers" and "druids", basically optimists and pessimists respectively who either want to use technology or ban technology. "Druids fear that robot cars are unsafe; Engineers wonder why humans are allowed to drive at all." Andy Clark says we don't need to worry about Super-AIs ruling the world, unless they get culture first. That's just a sampling of the many references to robots, robotics, and machine intelligence. As it has been in past years, the full set of responses is well worth a read for anyone with an interest in the future of the world.

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