How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy (t3knomanser) wrote,
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy
t3knomanser

The Future is Last Week (You thought this was dead, didn't you?)

For today's installment of "The Future is Last Week", I'm going to rip right from the pages of... well, a lot of shit. Let's just say, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner for those that don't read).

At the NEDO expo in Japan, they have a greeter android known as the actroid. As the poster over in cyberpunk said, "I don't know whether to be scared, or to want one of my own". The 'droid is made creepy through it's realism, and the lack therof.

Now, with these humanoid robots, I always end up shrugging. There's a cool factor to it, certainly, but there's also a "so what?" Why the effort in making a humanoid robot when a well designed computer interface can do the same job, or a robot designed for a specific task can generally do a better job than a human.

But the thing is, we like people. We're used to interacting with people- and most of us deal with more "face-time" than we spend on the phone or at the computer. And we generally prefer people to electrons. So it is natural to try and create automatons that can do some of the work of social interaction, and when we design one, it's natural to design it on the pattern that we prefer- people.

A luddite might fear what comes of this. "Oh noes!!!11!!! We're going to replace people!" That's the idea. There's no reason for people to _have_ to work. I'm no communist, but I think the goal of any society should be to reduce the work a person has to do in order to survive. In fact, I think you can consider the number of hours devoted to survival a good gauge of a society's advancement, both technologically and sociologically. So, any automation of tasks done for survival purposes is a good thing, because it frees people up to do _other_, more interesting things.

This isn't to say that there's no risk to replacing people with machines until we become completely dependant on them. Which is why I think cybernetics and genetic engineering are very important areas of research. By moving into a post-human state, we can take the liesure time that automation gives us and make ourselves more powerful and more valuable. Imagine, instead of replacing all greeters with robots, we hotlink a GreetController, a cybernetically enhanced human, into a dozen greeterbots, extending the person's reach and increasing their value.
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