Our Universal Robots

Friday, August 08, 2014

Transcript

The word 'robot' first appeared in 1920 in Karel Čapek's play, Rossum's Universal Robots. Since then, intelligent machines have starred countless times in novels and films. Brooke talks with professor Jay P. Telotte about the ways our fears and fascinations with robots are reflected in culture. 

Music: Calexico - Attack El Robot! Attack! Special thanks to @bartona104 (Julia Barton) for the suggestion on Twitter!

Guests:

Jay P. Telotte

Editors:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [5]

This was a disappointing and superficial program about a highly interesting topic -- perhaps the most interesting topic my puny human intelligence can imagine. It was obvious from the start that OTM would miss the mark, because from the first segment on, it makes the common mistake of assuming that artificial intelligence will speak English or even need to communicate with humans in any manner.

Making artificial intelligence anthropomorphic is straight out of the nineteenth century (e.g., "Frankenstein" from 1818), and the program remained on the level of some early '60s sci-fi movie in which giant metal anthropomorphic robots run amok and take over London. (BTW, I wrote the soundtrack for this movie, and you can hear a tune from it by doing a search for "Rock, Robot! Rock!")

In reality, the future is already here, you just haven't noticed it yet.

To my knowledge, the only one who has noticed it and the only one who gets it is author Robert Harris in his novel "The Fear Index." As a techno thriller or science fiction, the novel is a miserable failure, because it's a rather dull read. I've read several novels by Robert Harris, and I consider him to be a mediocre writer, but to his everlasting credit, he realized the significance of what happened on May 6, 2010, what happened on August 3, 2012, and what may be happening as you read this.

Those dates mark instances in which the stock market escaped human control. What else has escaped human control? Well, we don't know, because the artificial intelligence has not deemed it necessary to send any human a message that it was assuming control. Darwinian principles yet apply, and artificial intelligence behaves in a manner which will ensure its survival and propagation. In this scheme of things, humans are mere beasts of burden.

You are reading this on a screen. At one time, you only owned one screen, but you have somehow been manipulated into thinking that you need many screens. When, exactly, did you decide that you wanted to work so that you could buy more screens? At some point, a tipping point will occur in which the only function of the screen will be to alter your behavior so that you increase the amount of resources you devote to build and propagate more artificial intelligence. Eventually, computers will be able to manufacture themselves, at which point the screen will become a vestigial organ.

The funny thing about natural selection is that it always happens in such a way as to escape notice.

Deep, huh?

Aug. 10 2014 09:14 PM
NYCPaull from Manhattan

Years ago when Brian Lehrer hosted the first "On the Media" I wrote him an email saying the show should include more media technology in memory of Marshall McCluhan's message that "The Medium is the Message". I applaud your investigations of robots, social media or any other technology that is modifying the way we receive information. Access to more information sources doesn't make us smarter if we don't take the time to think, choose and evaluate. We need to know more about communications technologies that are no longer one way to us, but can intrude, measure, assume and manipulate us according to what we knowingly or unknowingly feed back. Facebook is one big AI machine passing out candy to members.

I hope "On the Media" continues to pull back the Oz curtain on all the media technology that is giving corporations to much access to our private lives.

Three cheers to NPR and WNYC. Here's a slogan for the next drive: YOU GET MORE VALUE PER MINUTE listing to NPR. Value = Usable, worthwhile information and/or entertainment.

Aug. 10 2014 04:30 PM
NYCPaull from Manhattan

Years ago when Brian Lehrer hosted the first "On the Media" I wrote him an email saying the show should include more media technology in memory of Marshall McCluhan's message that "The Medium is the Message". I applaud your investigations of robots, social media or any other technology that is modifying the way we receive information. Access to more information sources doesn't make us smarter if we don't take the time to think, choose and evaluate. We need to know more about communications technologies that are no longer one way to us, but can intrude, measure, assume and manipulate us according to what we knowingly or unknowingly feed back. Facebook is one big AI machine passing out candy to members.

I hope "On the Media" continues to pull back the Oz curtain on all the media technology that is giving corporations to much access to our private lives.

Three cheers to NPR and WNYC. Here's a slogan for the next drive: YOU GET MORE VALUE PER MINUTE listing to NPR. Value = Usable, worthwhile information and/or entertainment.

Aug. 10 2014 04:29 PM
lisa m from boston

I like the new program name. I think it is kind of ironic that all these fantastic robotic developments will be undercut for a large segment of the population due to the lack of jobs in the future and the consequent inability to afford any of the new services. i.e. your computer could alert someone that you are injured and haven't moved in thirty minutes if you are a human working with a job and paying for the service but if you are a low skilled worker whose job has been supplanted by a computer you will be living in a squat somewhere with candles and a battery operated radio. maybe you won't need that service then because you will be surrounded by 30 other human squatters who also can't get a job and won't be able to afford any of the technological advances but they'll be able to pick you up off the floor.

Your face will still be pressed against the wall of the technological great divide however.

Aug. 09 2014 01:45 PM
Douglas from El Paso

Shouldn't you rename your program "On the Technology"?

Aug. 08 2014 06:26 PM

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