The universe is not only strange but stranger than we can imagine


Ask not for whom the robot drums…

Another sign of the impending robotization of the workforce. From  Japan (a long-time leader in robotics) comes a robotic Shinto “priest” to conduct low-cost funerals. The robot, recently on display at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center, conducts a ritually correct service for the dead, beating drums and reciting Buddhist scriptures.

This is only the latest addition to the line of robot workers taking over from their human counterparts. Some estimates show as much as one third to one half the human workforce being displaced by robots in the next several decades. Yes, you read that correctly — one third to one half of the workforce.

And then what? What will the billions of unemployed live on? Government handouts? The proceeds of urban farming? Soylent red and green? What will happen to society when the gulf between the rich, the employable and the rest of us becomes unbridgeable? We really had better start asking (and answering) these questions, because the robot revolution is already reshaping our world.

This ain’t science fiction my friends — it’s the real thing.



No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

The Robopocalypse cometh, but it will be OK. (Maybe)

Robots are evolving at an ever-increasing rate. What does it mean for carbon-based technopeasants like yours truly?


From the Temple of Technology comes yet another doom-laden prophecy: robots, animated by artificial intelligence, are coming to take our jobs in a big, BIG way. According to  IT high priest and celebrity Kai-Fu Lee, robots are poised to take 50 per cent — yes, that is half — of all jobs in the next decade.

Most of us are so numbed by predictions like this that we merely shrug and pass on. But if Lee is even in the ballpark, the world economy is standing at the edge of a very high cliff. What happens when a quarter, or a half of the work force finds itself unemployed and pretty much unemployable? How do families survive? When demand plummets because half the population suddenly has no income, what then? Are we not looking at a domino effect, where even more jobs disappear as consumer spending power evaporates?

Where’s the robot repair guy?
Humble technopeasants like myself do not know the answers to these questions, but even so I venture to predict one thing — if these scenarios are anywhere close to correct, it will not be pretty. Apologists for the coming Robopocalypse point out that, while many jobs will disappear, new ones will be created, notably in the areas of robot manufacture and maintenance.  The snag, of course, is that not everyone will be able to make a smooth transition from, say, driving a forklift to doing robot repair or AI programming.

Not to worry, according to Lee — the coming robolution will “create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty.” (Yeah, right.)  The other soothing news — apparently the human touch will still be required.  Says Lee, “Touching one’s heart with your heart is something that machines, I believe, will never be good at.”

Will plutocrats dream of electric kittens?
Seriously? If AI-directed robots can do everything else, it is hard to see why they can’t be designed to be ultra-warm and fuzzy as well as super-efficient. Would there not be, for example, a market for kindly robo-nurses? For electronic versions of Mary Poppins or even hypoallergenic robo-kittens designed to charm and entertain? (Ooops, there goes the litterbox industry.)  To say nothing of the possibilities inherent in the sex trades.

Truly, truly, we do live in interesting times. Stay tuned…



Robotic boy helps treatment of Alzheimer’s patients

Truly, we are living in a science-fiction world. And this is only the start. This robot has crude AI capabilities — imagine what the fourth or fifth generation of “Ludwig” may be like. At the same time, consider that many Ludwigs will take the place of flesh-and-blood people. We already see this with the advent of such widespread technology as the humble ATM.

This tech-driven displacement is going to continue and widen. Where will the displaced men and women go, how will they make a living? Not everyone can be an AI developer or robot repair expert. So? The question should be carefully pondered by those who care about society a decade or two, or three down the road. This proviso automatically excluded most career politicians and corporate leaders — fresh reason for concern.

The 60-cm-high mechanical boy can talk and move to keep patients socially engage.

Ludwig has a mission — to help patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Ludwig is also a robot.

The 60-cm-high mechanical boy can talk and move to keep patients socially engage.

His real job is to monitor the patient’s speech and cognitive patterns, and report on any declining conditions.

Read more: Robotic boy helps treatment of Alzheimer’s patients | Toronto & GTA | News | Tor

Ban killer robots before it’s too late! (seriously)

They are coming! (Aren't they?)

They are coming! (Aren’t they?)

You would think this was the title of some 1950s B movie — but actually it is the title of a report by Human Rights Watch, an international organization devoted to protecting human rights globally. According to the report, autonomous killer robots are already under development by major powers – and the threat they would pose is unthinkable. These robots would have no legal or moral reason not to kill. As the report notes, they “could not show human compassion for their victims, and autocrats could abuse them by directing them against their own people.”

And, of course, they might well have trouble distinguishing a child holding an ice cream cone from a terrorist toting a gun — echoes of the horrendous boardroom scene in Robocop.  Ah, progress.