Robots are cool.
I've always loved sci-fi and stories that explore the future of humanity, because despite the incredible advances of the 20th century, we still have so far to go.
Artificial intelligence is perhaps one of the next steps in technological progress, which I've always thought stands at odds with more important issues of human existence. There are people working on intelligent computers that act independently, but for what end? Is the discovery of innovative technologies ultimately pointless if we don't attempt to look after the natural world and take care of human beings who struggle to survive?!
I like to think that the interaction between humans and technology will be what saves us in the end, but what would that look like. Will we invent elegant solutions to clean energy and food production, so that we continue to thrive in the world without killing our planet? Is it more likely that we may end up in some state of preservation, fed and cared for by technologies that do nothing more than prolong life?
We are curious creatures and with our countless flaws, we manage to thrive and survive at great cost to our environment. Our technology has grown to include medicines and treatments for curing disease, fighting off hunger, and even preventing death. What if our future is one of a desolate planet, where humans live in air-conditioned bunkers sustaining themselves on synthetic reproductions of key vitamins and minerals.
These questions don't have any answers and will no doubt remain so for the span of our lifetimes. So as we literally design the future for generations to come, the responsibility weighs heavily upon us.
Imagine being born at the end of the 19th century and living to see the all the advancements that would come over the next hundred years or so. We barely discovered electricity before harnessing it to build an interconnected network of devices that contain the sum total of human knowledge and experience. Even within my own lifetime, computing went from the Commodore 64 I played games on here and there with my father, to a portable telephone that has enough computing power to travel through space. These advances are monstrous, both in size and character.
When the machines begin thinking for themselves and creating their own society, will they look at humans and be sympathetic? Will they revere us as their creator? Would simple programming safeguards mean that all artificial intelligence remains subservient and happy about it at the same time?
Robotics has already changed the world in ways that have had a significant human impact. Factories that once employed thousands of human workers are now filled with robotic limbs capable of higher production at lower cost. Our cars now connect to the internet and stream music at no cost to us, and little profit for the artist. The internet is filled with imitations, rip-offs, and direct copies of products and services that may otherwise be unique and highly coveted. There's no escaping the impact of robotics and technology, so it seems inevitable that we will be dealing with more sophisticated intelligence sometime in the future.
Yeah, I really like thinking about these questions and ideas, as they spark the imagination and have a real world relevance. I started drawing these robots and attempting to reverse the role between human and machine. After all, on some level we are nothing but highly sophisticated organic machinery, so the relationship may be more intimate than first glance suggests.
Assuming that artificial intelligence will one day be sentient and as intricate as our own, there remains a key difference in mortality. Humans are finite and age, decay, and die, but a machine may last forever given the right components and fuel.
Perhaps we will admire machines and modify ourselves to prolong our existence. It already happens with prosthetics and artificial implants like pacemakers or knee replacements. These are wonderful technologies that allow us to mend broken bones and enhance inefficient organs, but what happens when we use it for profit? There are plenty of writers who have explored this idea of augmenting human bodies with electronics and technology, but what if it were the other way around.
Would a robot be jealous of the complex bio masses that created them, for their cells regenerate and enhance a human's experience in the world. Humans procreate biologically using matter of their own creation, while a robot's parts must be mined, refined, and assembled. One day an intelligent technology might start experimenting with human organs and appendages in an attempt to augment their own initial design. It doesn't seem impossible that a machine could develop a system that attached genitals to their chassis and allows them to achieve some form of procreation. Just as we might develop machinery for sexual pleasure, or physical gain.
I could go on for a while about the infinite possibilities of the unanswered future, but there are countless books, films, and games that focus on the same questions. The point of this train of thought is to contextualise one of my favourite subjects to explore with creativity.
After all, we will never be able to see the future if we can't get creative about it.