Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Module 12

            As I read this, I couldn’t help but laugh because my 11th module was about the movie iRobot, which addresses these same things.  I could basically copy and paste that module here.  It addresses the potential problems of having highly-intelligent robots in our society.  I felt like I was watching that movie again as I read this article. 
GNR is an acronym for genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics.  Genetics refers to altering genetics so that the entire physical world can be redesigned.  What was once the evolutionary process of nature will now become a power in the hands of men and machines.  This could, in theory, be a wonderful thing, but the potential for harm is extraordinary.
Nanotechnology is technology dealing with the manipulation of atoms and molecules.  Like genetics, this technology has so much potential for good.  It will allow us to build basically anything at a very small cost, and it will solve all our physical problems.  On the other hand, the potential for destruction is also great.  Our entire biosphere could be destroyed by nanotechnology.
Robotics refers to a number of things, but the most interesting of them is that through robotics, we can achieve near-immortality.  It’s amazing to think that through robotics, we can become a hybrid robot/biological species.  But I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising, since we are already seeing this today.  Mechanical devices that provide life-sustaining activities are implanted into people daily.  Again, there are many positive consequences, but the possibility of danger (creating a robotic species that will overpower us) is undeniable.
My reaction to Joy’s fears is total and complete agreement.  The most profound line in this article, in my opinion, is “These technologies are too powerful to be shielded against in the time frame of interest.”  This is so true!  We can’t wait until there is a robotic race that threatens our entire existence before we start thinking of solutions.  We have to start taking preventative actions now.  If we don’t, it will be too late.  This isn’t a movie.  This is our real world, and Will Smith isn’t going to swoop down and save us in the last hour like he did in iRobot (I hate to keep using iRobot references, but it is a perfect comparison to what could happen)!
            This needs to be stopped soon.  The potential risks far outweigh the potential benefits.  If a manmade robotic race takes over the world, humankind will, at best, become an enslaved species, subject to the mercy of the robotic creatures.  But this won’t be the type of slavery where revolution is possible.  It will be a permanent state with no escape. 
I’m not sure, now that I think about it, that anything can be done to stop this progression of technology.  Like the story mentioned, this isn’t like a weapon of mass destruction, where access to materials and information is limited and protected.  A small group, or even an individual person, can unleash knowledge-enabled mass destruction.   Another reason it is unstoppable is that our government doesn’t really take preventative action.  They always wait until there is a major crisis before they make major decisions.  Trying to get the government to stop artificial intelligence from progressing is futile.  It would be political suicide for a politician to propose that the advancement of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics be stopped.  Think about it.  All that someone would have to do is say “My mother has cancer, and you want scientists to stop exploring possible cures?  You’re a murderer!”  It’s politically untouchable.  As a result, we will just have to sit back and observe our decline into self-destruction.  Maybe robots will one day read Joy’s article in a human-absent world and think, “Too bad they didn’t listen to this guy.  If they did, they would still be alive.”


  1. I also am inclined to think that there is no way to stop the progression of GNR technologies and I find this frightening because I fear that humanity is not mature enough to handle such technologies safely. Ooo

  2. I believe the intent of this article was just that. To maybe soften the blow for those who hadn't realized already that these technologies will more than likely not be stopped. The only real solution to the possible dire outcomes these technologies could deploy would be, mass economic turmoil where society as we know it ends, or CME, coronal mass ejections from the sun unlike anything we have ever seen or realized possible, that would wipe out all electronic devices on earth. The latter would more than likely just delay these predictions for a few hundred years, but undoubtedly they would still come to exist.