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An Uneasy Look At A.I. And Robots (AKA Why We Should Be Afraid)

It’s time to grab your pump-action shotguns because the robots are coming, and they’re out to get you. Swear!
by Vince Sales | Jan 25, 2016
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The scenario goes a little something like this: Man invents guns. Man invents robots. Man gives robots guns. Robots kill man.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

But let’s dial it back a little. Artificial intelligence is alive and well not just in the battlefield, in Japan, and in consumer tech factories—A.I. is right up in your face and right smack in the palm of your hands.

Allow us to illustrate…

1) Live-from-the-street spying

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Thankfully, murderous rampaging robots are years away. In today’s world, a more real danger is robots spying on everything you do. Exhibit A: Google Street Voyeur. 

Not only are the robots listening in on you, they’re also watching you. Google Street View helps you navigate around town, but it can also watch you making tambay at the corner, or drinking outside your house.

It’s just another sign that, thanks to technology, privacy is fast disappearing. The robots are watching, so go put on a shirt.

2) Robots steal your job

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Before the robots rise up and kill us, they will take over the workplace. In fact, they’re already doing it. Boston Consulting Group estimates that by 2025, up to 25-percent of jobs will be replaced
by smart software or robots. Robots already beat us at chess (IBM’s Deep Blue beat Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997), and Jeopardy (thanks to IBM’s Watson), so why stop there?


3) The phones have ears

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Never mind that your phone is snooping on everything you do. It can also literally listen in on you. CIA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, ratted out the American government and their nefarious practices online. Among his more disturbing revelations was that they could activate the speaker of your mobile phone without you knowing and without your consent. In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s what Batman did in The Dark Knight when he was looking for the Joker, but without the fancy sonar stuff—and the good intentions.

4) Killer robots

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Military drones are a regular thing in war zones now, but they have human pilots flying them from miles away while making "pew pew" sounds from the safety of their military bunkers. That’s all set to change soon. 

Military weapon systems are being developed to take the slow, stupid meat bag out of the loop. In the future, drones will be able to select and attack (human) targets without humans telling them to shoot. Yes without humans. 

If you thought unmanned aerial drones were your only problem, think again, upright monkey. A company called Boston Dynamics, which works with the US Department of Defense, has built a six-foot tall, 320-pound humanoid robot named Atlas. The idea is to reduce the risk to military personnel in war zones, but it’s not difficult to see how this idea can go terribly wrong.

All these killer robots doing stuff on their own is enough to freak out some seriously smart humans, like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and others. They released a letter at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires warning that autonomous robots could set off "a global A.I. arms race" which can potentially be more dangerous than nuclear weapons.

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5) iSnoop

Siri, that deaf-as-a-doorknob voice search assistant in your mobile phone, has a little chunk of speech recognition A.I. in her, and she’s up to no good. That’s because your phone is keeping track of everything you do online: the queries you feed Siri, the sites you read, the stuff you buy, the posts you like, and the porn you watch. Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon all do it to deliver more targeted ads and recommendations, and sell you more stuff. Facebook is free, those Android games are free, iOS is free because, well, let’s face it: you’re the one on sale.

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6) Killer cars 

Meanwhile, driverless cars are being developed by everyone from Google to Volkswagen—and
surprise,. They might kill you. The reason is probably not what you think.

For one, driverless cars aren’t about to go on a road rage, and just like airplanes on autopilot, bots are probably better drivers than humans. The problem is security. Hackers have been able to shut down a Chrysler Jeep while it drove down a highway. They’ve also been able to confound the LiDAR system (which uses lasers like sonar uses sound) used in many driverless cars. The hack can mimic the signal of pedestrians, or other cars. Or a wall.

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7) 'Bots taking over

Robot factory workers

They've been at it for a while: China's opened its first fully automated robot factory, while Foxconn, the electronics giant that makes Apple’s iPhones, plans to have 30-percent robot workforce in
the next five years. 

Robot everything else

In some US hospitals, robots aid doctors in diagnosing illnesses and performing surgery. There are robot ticket booths, robot waiters, and oh yeah, robot drivers who will finally put an end to
the Uber or Taxi debate. 

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Weird robots from Japan

In the Henn na ("Weird Hotel") in Nagasaki, robots run everything. There is even a robot receptionist in the shape of a mechanical velociraptor. Because, erm…because it's Japan. The better to eat you with, my dear.


Illustration by Jeremiah Idanan; GIF via
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