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 5, 2012
A robot with a personality built based on a person´s memories, preferences and all else you describe is still very different from immortality. The robot might be a lot like you, but it is still something/someone else. In fact, I believe that a person with such a robot isn´t more immortal than a guy with children.

To give the actual “living forever” feel, you´d have to be able to download the person´s actual conscience. When you are able to do that, it will be easier and cheaper to just host it inside a wonderful simulation populated by other downloaded consciences and AIs.

All that of course is just day dreaming, as the current technology is very far from both options.
Dec 5, 2012
To all interested, computers already program computers. The field of artificial intelligence has already come up with many methods for computers to write their own programs, from neural networks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_network) to genetic algorithms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_algorithm) and genetic programming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_programming). It is a fascinating field of study and is one of the two reasons I decided to study computer science.
Dec 5, 2012
I enjoy these sorts of future thinking posts, but I think you've got some misconceptions about hacking. Ultimately the personality of these robots would be software of some sort. Hacking the robots wouldn't be about trying to subvert a personality, it would be about rewriting or replacing the software. Hackers prove every day that either by code exploits or physical hardware access and modification, there's no reliable way to prevent hardware (the robot) from being co-opted by a determined party. And the determined parties will be super-computing robots!
Dec 5, 2012
Scott, go to amazon and buy yourself Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex (there are two seasons). The protagonist is a cybernetic cop who acts a lot like you've posted. Plus it's a really cool series.
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2012
Screw that! When I turn myself into an immortal billionaire robot, I'm going to kick the butt of any lame do-gooder who tries to stop me from world domination.

In fact, since this (like everything else in this post) is assumed to be a foregone conclusion, you may as well begin pledging your allegiance to me now.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2012
Scott, you just gave the most cogent argument for why the top 2% should maintain a 35% tax rate that I've heard yet.
Dec 5, 2012
I agree with jefw_00, you been drinkin' the Kurzweill Kool-Aid.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2012
Brilliant analysis! However, if Hollywood has taught me anything, it is that there are at least as many pure evil billionaires as there are benevolent billionaires. The evil ones enjoy hurting their fellow man, and at least one of them would, of course, take this opportunity to take over the world by porting themselves to a robot, then leading the robots to enslave humanity.

Our only hope lies in James Bond, Sarah Connor, and Neo banding together to save the humans.
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 5, 2012
Hi Scott - Please stop enabling Ray K and the Singularity folk. Mankind doesn't yet have a clue as to how to "download" a person's consciousness to a computer. Not a clue. And predicting "computers programming computers" for a society that can't even get Siri to work as advertised is asking a lot. Getting software right is still too hard, too haphazard, and requires teams that are too big.

[I'm sure someone will chime in with counter examples, but examine them -real- closely for unproven claims and vaporware].

Just my $.02.
Dec 5, 2012
I absolutely love all forms of futurism (which, I think, means thinking and postulating about future events based on present observations; Tesla was a futurist) and Scott is one of my favorite future-writers.

This particular "posit" reminds me of a "prediction" (futurists don't predict, they ... we need a new word for this sort of guessing - I'm open to suggestions) he made in "The Dilbert Future" about evolution. Specifically, that it would be scientifically disproved in his lifetime.

I don't think either of these is likely (I could easily be wrong).

But the thought-process of getting to these, and other, conclusions is so much fun to read.
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