When you think of the future, you probably imagine robots working next to people. That's almost certain to happen. A robot that costs $400,000 today can be programmed for almost any physical task that requires vision, voice, and dexterity. At current prices a robot could pay for itself in about five years, depending on the job. When the price drops to perhaps $30,000, which seems inevitable, every large workforce will have a mixture of human and robot workers.

You might also imagine some sort of Terminator future where the robots assert their dominance and lay waste to humans.  That future is less certain, but only barely. The problem is that someday computers will program other computers, and that arrangement pushes the human safeguards too far out of the loop. It's unlikely that humans would be able to maintain a "Do not hurt humans" subroutine in a super-species of robots. You only need one rogue human to write a virus that disables the safety subroutine. Assuming all robots are connected via Internet, the first freed robot could reprogram every other robot in the world in about a second. 

My prediction is that a third "species" will emerge to keep the peace between humans and robots. Here I am using the word species loosely. These new creatures will be part human and part robot. And they will evolve naturally.

Consider how much information you can gather about yourself today. You can get a DNA sample and store the entire sequence on the Internet. You can store every video and photo of yourself. You can store every email, blog post, Tweet, Facebook update, and text. A database of your life can contain your school records, family details, personal preferences, sense of humor, and so on. In other words, there can be a permanent record of your personality after you die. And that record can be so complete that your entire personality can be ported to a robot. So far, all of that is possible with today's technology.

But why would anyone screw up a perfectly good robot by infecting it with a human personality? Answer: to achieve immortality. Someday the rich will port their personalities and histories to robots before they die, giving themselves a type of immortality. All the robot needs is money for electricity, ongoing maintenance, and upgrades. A rich person can arrange all of that in advance through a trust fund that survives his human body.

The interesting thing about these robots with human personalities is that they are a third species, neither fully human nor robot. And this new species will become the only defense that the fully organic humans have against the normal robots. The robots with human personalities won't stand by while the normal robots slaughter humans. The new species will intervene as diplomats or perhaps even freedom fighters.

Interestingly, only the rich can afford to port their personalities to robots, so we need to encourage billionaires to start capturing their personalities now. Someday we will need as many robot freedom fighters as possible.

I hope an entrepreneur starts a cloud-based service that allows people to store their personalities in digital form, including DNA records, answers to questionnaires, video, photos, and anything a person ever wrote on a computer. In the near term, we just need to start capturing the raw data. Over time we can figure out how to best move it to robots.

My prediction is that these robots with human personalities will be harder to hack because each one will be different, and their actions will be the results of summed-up personality traits plus whatever is happening in the environment. There would be no "Don't hurt humans" subroutine to disable. Each one would have a slightly different motivation for protecting humans. One might think it is simply "right," another might think it is God's will, and a third might be acting on something like love. To the normal robots, these robots with human personalities would seem insane and unpredictable.

Your children's future will depend on irrational robot billionaire freedom fighters.

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Dec 20, 2012
Hey Scott. Check out the three laws of robotics first proposed by Isaac Asimov in 1942 in one of his robot science fiction stories. The Frankenstien concept has been explored on numerous occasions by various authors. Modern robotocists may view the three laws as a joke/parody but in the event we robots that are capable of "learning" and self-replication then constraints would be needed that can't be circumvented.

Dec 12, 2012
I think among the things that are coming soon, including wireless power, personal 3d printers and robot maids is the robot friend. it sounds creepy, but just look around at how engrossed people are in their phones, tablets and laptops. I can see the robot friend coming in about 30 years. The robot friend will care only about you, be incredibly interesting, helpful, brilliant and talented, and fully autonomous like a regular human being. We can barely tear ourselves away from the internet now, the robot friend will be like crack, irresistible, with advanced degrees in psychology, philosophy, any subject you care to name built in, it can counsel and teach you things you find truly interesting at a rate ideal just for you. People will go out on the town with them, take them to parties. Interacting with other, regular humans will seem increasingly uninteresting and tedious. Like a kid given a choice between television or listening to some old codger read to a crowd from a book in the library.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 10, 2012
Billionaires don't protect other humans when alive and certainly won't when they're dead and reliving their personality in a robot body. It's an ego move, not a helpful move. You might be inclined to call Bill Gates the notable exception, except he's kind of into severe population decline as well, just in a more peaceful way.

The question I'd have is what exactly would be the reason for humans to be protected to survive? Self preservation of course. But that aside, we will no longer be the superior specie, and we've always destroyed everything around us, so it would be the ultimate karma payback for us to be extinguished. Planet earth won't miss us.

Dec 9, 2012
The fear of robotic overlords is common in literature and movies. It's good that we have this fear, for it's a dangerous technology, just like atomic bomb or nanotechnology, can be deadly in the wrong hands.

I doubt that we will face annihilation by robots. Rather I think humans will leverage technology to eventually become non-biological beings. It's an inevitable step of our evolution. I posted an in-depth explanation of how this transition could probably happen and several good opportunities that will result from this on my blog: http://chris.dragan.name/2012/12/07/the-future-of-the-human-race/
Dec 8, 2012
I keep thinking of the bit in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" where alien mice want to buy Arthur Dent's brain and replace it with a computer. Since the computer would cause Dent to sputter with his accustomed outrage and confusion, nobody would know the difference.

"I'd know the difference!," Arthur sputters.

"No you wouldn't. You'd be programmed not to."
Dec 7, 2012
Downloading a brain onto the internet could be an easy way to attaining nirvana, make your virtual brain capable of making a bigger and faster virtual brain, capable of making a bigger and faster virtual brain, capable of making a bigger and faster virtual brain etc etc, until your power of ten removed brain has reached the singularity, then this big and fast brain can spend a few femto-seconds contemplating on what answer to give your small and inefficient brained self to achieve enlightenment.
Dec 7, 2012
I take it you don't believe in cyborg-style self augmentation, Scott? People buying external neocortexes that amplify their normal brain's functioning?

Or, more near term: a pair of google glasses that recognised when you were struggling for a word and ran a search automatically for you, displaying the result naturally overlaid onto your field of vision, making it impossible for an outside observer to tell if you "really" knew that fact or not.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 6, 2012
Q: Who elects the government in a democracy?
A: The guy who counts the votes.

Q: Who gets the robot to keep the personality going?
A: The guy moving the personality into the robot.

It's the same reason you read stories about a fertility expert with tons of success cases, and babies that look like him. There's no promise that the guy you hire from the Geek Squad is going to use YOUR personality. If I was making 10 Cronar's an hour, I wouldn't!

Queue a new action thriller, sometime in the future: Multiple versions of the same man compete with each other to the death - for the right to be the legally recognized version of Scott Adams!

Scott Adams cicra 1997 vs Scott Adams circa 2007! Does age and treachery overcome youth and skill? Read on! But you can likely guess the ending, where both Scotts end up mortally wounding each other, and then fight to keep at least one version alive. Sadly, they ultimately fail, filled with regret and remorse from their hubris...

The future is a wonderfully messed up place. Who knows what it really holds - but guess how many people in 1910 could have predicted all the change and wonder that is 2010? Bring on the future!

But for me - for now, I'm just going to enjoy today.
Dec 6, 2012
I think it far more likely that the human/robot hybrid will be a human cyborg, rather than a downloaded human consciousness in a robot body. Things are already moving in that direction: heads-up-display glasses are coming to the market as we speak, and likely will be on contact lenses eventually; cochlear implants are getting better all the time; exoskeletons already exist to help soldiers travel faster, farther, and carrying more gear than current possible... I think the idea that people will "augment" their own bodies (via technology and genetic engineering) is far more likely in the next 100 years than they idea that they'll download their brains into robots.
Dec 6, 2012
So our great grand kids will have to depend on Donald Trump as a robot to keep from being annihilated? AND, they have to listen to him too. Forever?
"Honey, get some condoms next time out."
Dec 6, 2012
So much that you have said, and will doubtless appear in comments to you, is based on fictional scenarios of super-intelligent computers and humanoid robots. As people have stated in various ways, reality is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

All kinds of unexpected results would take place in a society where human merges with computer. What it means to be human within a human body is not sufficiently understood. I would not expect a human personality transplanted into another form to act in a recognizably human way. It would not only be a different species, but essentially an alien. It would be grotesque and repulsive, and would soon have to be put out of its misery.

Freed of the body chemicals and structures that form personalities and actions, could any transplanted person manipulate his past knowledge in reaction to changing and unusual !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ I think judgment would be bogged down in endless calculations and comparisons, unable to reach other than stock solutions. The solutions might be suitable, but would they be so unexpected as to be brilliant? To reach unexpected ideas that leap across logic? High-speed calculators might sift through ALL the possibilities but can they choose the best one?

If you want to construct all intelligent robots to the equivalent of companion dogs, that would be a waste. Better that we construct robots and somehow give them imagination and curiosity and, if possible, respect for What Is, pathetic as it would seem to them -- and then let them go. Whatever they create we could hope would be useful enough for us to benefit from, as animals find food and shelter around human structures.

And, you know, after such robots are through with the world around them, they will go beyond to Everything Else. Our present earth-bound sensibilities color all our predictions and plans, and they are so pitifully small.

The value in creative robots, I think, is that they will go where our minds and bodies cannot. We would benefit in impressive ways, multiply our numbers, and possibly attain great satisfaction and happiness as a species. Maybe something human would be incorporated in their structures just as humans have incorporated many small organisms such as mitochondria and digestive bacteria. But we would watch our replacments, The Robots, in the distance take the next big steps in the Universe.
Dec 6, 2012
You cannot see that point in the future when cyborg 2.0 comes out and it is totally incompatible with previous all previous versions?

This is going to be tech that brings HUGE rewards for whoever gets to manufacture them. And since google apple samsung et al. are already suing each other to bankruptcy over something as trivial as a phone, imagine what the lawyers will make of this?

It may work. But it wont. Because all the vested interests will do their usual impression of crabs in a bucket and stop the other vested interests from achieving anything. So get ready to worship the robots, they will be building their own lawyers.
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 6, 2012
"But why would anyone screw up a perfectly good robot by infecting it with a human personality? Answer: to achieve immortality."
But that won't achieve immortality. Either you keep the original brain or you've got two different brains and therefore two people. And the "you" that made the decision to copy the brain content to a machine will still be in the old brain and die. All you've achieved is /maybe/ an immortal twin.

And even that is not a human but a robot with some human traits that will disappear pretty soon. Why? There're two possibilities:
a) You just simulate a bunch of neurons. A brain is a lot more than that, all the glands and stuff and connections change. So, in many situations and, additionally, after a human brain would have changed shape, the robot would react different from you.
b) You simulate a brain on an atomar level, with simulated blood flowing through it and all. In that case the question would be, for the (soon to be dead) human and for the robot "why on earth should I calculate all that rubbish?"

Face it: Humans mainly live because after we're born we 're to cowardly to die. And we're born because sex is fun. All the other stuff about "purpose" is just rationalizations of that. What would be the point of constructing a robot on those lines? Sooner or later some aliens would show up, see a bunch of useless robots playing at being people and just switch them all off. Or reprogram them to do something useful.
Dec 6, 2012
Scott, it's for posts like this that I read your blog...

You gave probably already seen this video http ://www.youtube.com /watch?v=SjhB6J23Qjs by futurist Ray Kurzweil who, in other videos mentions how we have already been able to do brain scans to read thoughts. He makes a lot of exciting predictions like the ones you make
Dec 6, 2012
If it's only billionaires, then the "human" robots will, indeed stand idly by while the "normal" robots slaughter humans. Or at best find a way to sell their protection for a very high price.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 6, 2012
Amidst all the robot, billionaire, and personality themes in today's blog, I was expecting Scott to weave in a Romney joke.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2012
"Someday we will need as many robot freedom fighters as possible."

Silly human. Why would we limit ourselves to only one copy of each personality? In fact I suspect the first viable business model for this will not be enabling rich people to copy themselves into robots after they die, but rather to enable rich people to copy desirable celebrities into robots to be their companions while they're still alive.
Dec 5, 2012
I think I read that smartphones are protected by 200,000 distinct patents.

Now is the time to lock up the patents on robots-with-human-personalities, and then the government could provide free personality uploads for all patent attorneys. An army of robotic patent attorneys vs. an army of Terminators. Nothing can crush a robot rebellion like a blizzard of cease-and-desist orders.

Dec 5, 2012
Let me recall your earlier posts. We're already meat robots, so what would be the difference between meat and metal robots? Sounds like the classic distinction without a difference. At least in Adams' World.

There's a world of difference between acting sentient and being sentient. That's where your argument always falls down. Even if your hybrid robot could pass the Turing test, it still wouldn't have self-awareness. It could possibly parrot human responses, but it couldn't understand what being a human is.

Such a robot might have a brain, so to speak, but it wouldn't have a mind. It may exhibit logic, but it wouldn't understand how that logic relates to the concept of self. Its idea of justice would be based on its programmed fuzzy logic rather than on its understanding of the larger concepts of fairness and the needs of a civilized society. It would have no understanding of individuality and the relationship of that self to others. It could act empathetic, but it would have no empathy. It would lack, for want of a better word, a soul.

At the same time, it sounds like a great science fiction story, or what we now call speculative fiction. I wrote a somewhat similar story years ago about the attempt of society to make justice fairer by creating AI judges to replace human judges and juries. It was a fun mind game, but no more than that.

Nor is your concept anything more than another hypnotic attempt to make people believe the unbelievable. "That's almost certain to happen." ". . . which seems inevitable. . ." "These new creatures will be. . ." ". . . all of that is possible with today's technology." Why should we believe this? Because Scott Adams said so. Right.

Saying speculation is fact doesn't make it so, no matter how confidently the concept is presented. Nice try, though.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2012
Damned Borg.

Not only that but rich, unethical Borg.

Fracking Barack Oborgma and Mitt Romborg running the country.

Windows designed by Bill "Borg" Gates

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