Robots are not taking over any time soon, enough with that.
The humanoid robot industry, which aims to build robots that can interact with humans and use made-for-human tools, is rapidly growing. It is astonishing and perplexing that developing humanoid robots can change how we see ourselves and the world.
Recent developments in artificial intelligence and robotics include robots that can play table tennis and violin, bring and serve drinks, run as fast as nine kilometers per hour and interact with humans by speech. The way robots are increasingly becoming human looks promising. So the first question is: How human can they get? The goal of artificial intelligence also brings up various philosophical and ethical questions.
Initial questions in this field include: What makes us human? Or, if robots have intelligence rivaling man’s sapience, what makes them less human? If — or when — artificial intelligence is achieved, will robots be able to have a conscience? Will they feel? We are scientifically called “homo sapiens” — knowing man — and there are recent theses that propose we have become “homo empathicus” — empathizing man. Our uniqueness is derived from gaining and advancing knowledge, having feelings and being able to empathize with fellow humans. If science grants robots the same abilities we have, in what way are the robots to be discriminated?
For the sake of the argument, consider that man was created in the image of God. In the same parallel, scientists build robots in the image of humans. They want robots to be bipedal, have human gestures, be able to integrate into a human environment and, most importantly, have a mind similar to humans.
While I do not want to offend anyone, this logic leads to the question: What was God’s initial need to create humans? What’s more, should we become masters and expect robots to be our perpetual servants? Even though robots are of our own making, how can we deny equality to an entity that has a mind, feelings and a sense of self-determination?
At this point, scientists are working on humanoid robot technologies for the sake of science and they are reaching cornerstone advancements in a quicker fashion than they should be. The utmost goal is artificial intelligence. However, critical existential questions are overlooked. What will be the social role of robots? How will robots be defined in the social sphere? With task-completing mechanisms and instant Internet usage that would make them as knowledgeable as one can get, will robots not question man’s superiority? In addition, homo sapiens will have an identity crisis since the sacred definition of our uniqueness would be matched.
Of course, all these questions are based on ideas that are mere elements of fiction today. I find questions about how we see our connection and relation to God, how we give ourselves a role in the world and how we can raise the bar of being a human very constructive.
It is also important to note that technological advancements come with setbacks like spending too much time in front of the TV or becoming addicted to computer games. These problems are addressed by the government, but lawmakers came up with solutions to problems after these problems had already caused serious damage to individuals. Humanoid robot technology is still in its early days, and we have the chance to take preemptive measures. However, this should never be done in a way that would curb or limit scientific curiosity. Rather, the philosophical and ethical dilemmas that artificial intelligence brings should be debated more frequently.
Throughout history, science led us to redefine humanity in a better and more comprehensive way. The integration of humanoid robots into social life will surely be a part of this perpetual redefinition. This is unique in the way that humans are developing something that is similar to us and something that has the potential to challenge the notion of being a human. Hence, developing robots will be essential in answering the question of what it is to be human.
Kaan Avdan is an LSA freshman.