5.21.2006

 

Robot surgeon performs world's first unassisted operation



Robot carries out operation by itself

Robot surgeon performs world's first unassisted operation

From the article:This is a perfect illustration of how the Robotic Nation will work. The robot gets better and better through practice. Also, the robot becomes able to do things that humans could never do (for example, a robot surgeon might have six hands). Eventually the robot completely eclipses human abilities. Once that happens, human surgeons are no longer needed and they become unemployed. Why would you want your surgery done by a fallible human when a much better robot is available to do the work? This same process will happen to any job category that involves manual skill: pilots, truck drivers, construction workers, etc. Then it will begin to spread to knowledge skills like lawyers, stock brokers, etc. As mentioned in Manna, mid-level management is an easy target.

The question is, as robots eclipse humans in so many different areas, what will humans do to earn a living? And what will happen to all of the people who are unemployed in the process? See Robotic Nation and Robotic Freedom for details.

Comments:
In response to "what will humans do to earn a living": I envision four scenarios.

1. Your "Robotic Freedom" welfare state for all the people.

2. "Robotic Freedom" for a much smaller percentage of humans, i.e. the "winners" or survivors of a epochal power struggle. The population is much smaller because the winners have no incentive to keep the losers around for their labor, as in ages past.

3. No humans: admittedly, this is a long term scenario, but so is capital "E" evolution.

4. Butlerian Jihad scenario: this is where humans win, or preempt, a existential battle with technology.

For me the preferable choice is the first one, perhaps because I am a populist at heart. I applaud your efforts to bring attention to this issue, and for your humane approach to millions and billions of displaced workers. It was fashionable for a while, I don't know if it still is, to advocate a kind of free-market ideology that is essentially pitiless to those who cannot compete.
 
i was reading Wired or Make and there was a unique take on Robot Evolution.

That machines and human would codevelop. As machines get to a certain level, they design better smarter humans. Imagine if the average human has an equivilent 400 IQ.

Imagine basic skills downloading. People have levels of knowledge downloaded before class to have technical mastery. Then school is about the wisdom and ethics of using the knowledge.

With controled evolution people can do things that were previously impossible or diffuicult.

So it isn't a conflict between man and machine. It is Man, Transhuman, Cyborg, AI conflicts. There is a spectrum of adaptations.

A four front war for culture assets and ideas. That will be an interesting age.
 
I have a question, why do you strongly believe in the 'replacement' part of human beings with robots? I have read your articles on Robotic Nation...

But i think you are jumping to conclusions i.e. For example pilots (as you mention them a lot, and as i'm an avid fan of flying), have the autopilot to complement them NOT replace. Even in planes today, you actually have two to three computers, for the autopilot, each constantly checking the validity of the other computers data (reliability), plus itself.

Second of all, these 'autopilots' are only for controlling the plane once 'airborne' not for taxiing. Never heard of auto-taxi before :)
 
the links in the post dont work :(
 
As "robots" become more advanced and complex, they will become more biological and physiological, rather than simply mechanical.
 
If I may respond to Braxton, above:

You're taking a pretty short view of the issue. I'm not slamming you for that: you're in pretty good company. It seems like every time I mention robotics and artificial intelligence, I get the same response from otherwise very intelligent, thoughtful people, which can be summarized with the sentence, "Machines will never be as smart as we are, let alone smarter, and as evidence I point to the fact that they aren't as smart as we are now."

Consider the state of computers when I got my first, nearly 30 years ago. Today, I own a computer that runs on batteries and fits in my pocket, and it's many, many thousands of times more powerful than that old Apple II. It's true that past performance does not guarantee future results, as the stock brokers like to say, but in the case of computer technology, performance has progressed so consistently that you could almost set your watch by it. There's no reason to think that the computers of 30 years from now won't be powerful enough to do some pretty amazing things, including operate airplanes from gate to gate, perform brain surgery, conduct high-energy physics research... They don't even have to be "as smart as we are," since even today specialized systems frequently outperform human experts.

Now, as to the question of why you would let a computer fly a plane all by itself without a human pilot in the cockpit, Mr. Brain has already addressed this several times in his various articles. But to sum up: for the same reason you don't put a propeller on a jetliner. If a human pilot and crew were unnecessary to the safe operation of the plane, why would you, as an airline, continue paying high salaries, benefits, vacation time, etc. to keep human pilots on staff? If you did, you'd quickly lose business to your competitors who were able to offer cheaper fares by dispensing with human operators altogether.
 
Oops, sorry, I misread the headers on the comments. That last response was to sidideas, not Braxton Perry.
 
Aside from the cost of operations, it will also become a liability issue. If robots reach a level where there are n/1001 accidents while humans error n/1000 regulation / insurance pricing will force companies to use robots. Also, as a passanger, you'd know you're safer flying with terminator behind the wheel than a human pilot.

It would even be possible it would become illegal for human driven commerical flight. If robots are the obvious better pilots, it would seem negligent to use a human pilot in commerical travel.
 
Thanxs "shig the umentionable" for your insights. However, despite all this technology, (and mind you, even today already, it is possible to have aircrafts fly themselves without human pilots) there is STILL the question of 'thinking' that a computer will never be able to do as a human being can.

The best a computer can do is execute tasks as stipulated by its instructions. You will argue that there are algorithms to make different choices, but even then, there are limited to the instruction set given by its programmers, be these instructions given to it by humans or machines (robots).

A good example is our present time. Look
at how far and powerful our machines have become today. They still have flaws, and are prone to outsiders interfering with the system. Sensitive fields holding the lives of people still require human supervision, and someone to be held accountable for! To have robotic machines perform surgery on us might be 99% safer, but this 'software' that guides the machine to do the surgery will NEVER be 100% bug-safe.

And finally, we have laws as required by the constitution to protect to a degree, levels of un-employment. To actively wipe out more than 50% of the workforce in the name of 'safety', 'cutting costs' and others is advocating mass destruction, as already anticipated from robotic nation....:)
 
sidideas, look at Evolutionary algorithms. Machines can (and do) create new ideas and programming.

In the future, it will be more sophisticated: The machines will hold a simulation of how the world works, and they will make up (randomly, or starting from a seed,) different ideas about how to fulfill a set of goals. They will simulate in their heads different plans, and keep reworking until they find something that wokrs. Then they will follow that plan.

They will even experiment with their ideas about how the world works, trying different things, to refine that model. When they try an experiment and it fails or leads to an unacceptable state, they will register "this approach had these effects." And so on.

That is, machines will one day be self-programming, we will merely limit how "creative" we permit them to be.

Now, as for your surgery, you rightly noted: They will never be 100% accurate.

However, what you miss is that they need merely be far more accurate than a human, to replace a human.

Humans are ALSO prone to manipulation from outsiders.

If humans are only 99% accurate, and machines are 99.99% accurate (that is, 100 times more accurate,) than people will use the machines.
 
sidideas

I hate to say it, but "thinking" is something that most people do not want to do. They want to watch TV, "party", drive an SUV and eat.

When is the last time you wanted something "different" than what you expected??? Think about that next time you order food, get fuel, go to a store or watch TV. How many people are "thinking" and how many people are "following procedure"? It is rare to have to do any thinking to get through the day, year or a even a lifetime.

When was the last time when you had some issue/problem that required thinking to solve?

Thinking is also not very important at work. It is not required or even desirable by 99.999% (Five 9's)of employers. They want you to follow the rules and go home after 8 hours. Somebody else will do the thinking for the employees if something needs to be changed. Talk to any manager: employees doing activities outside of procedure is the biggest problem and source of liability.

To answer your question directly: a very *small* amount of thinking persons is required to run the world. So you are correct, machines will not replace everybody, but the machines will replace almost everybody on Earth with the exception of maybe a couple of hundred people.

The idea that *somebody* has to be accountable is an interesting one and I don't think will stand the test of time. At some point companies will hand out such tasks to "private contractors" who have little to lose to be the flunky in charge of process X. So, yes, somebody is responsible, but what are you going to do them?? Liability is only important is there is something meaningful to take...

With globalization, I can easily see a Kazaa style corporate hierarchy where shell companies are sacrificed on a daily basis in the name of responsibility.

What is in the US Constitution that guarantees employment or a means of income?

Negative I know, but I find the extreme vast majority of people just act in terms of the lowest common denominator and immediate want. How else do you explain wide proliferation of: SUV's, 66% obesity, high paid professional sports, cheap plastic crap from China or having lots of (or any) children in areas that are stricken with poverty/insufficient resources?

Unlike Marshall, I think people will look forward to their foam wall apartments that include free food and TV.
 
Writers, Musicians and Artists. Can a robot be creative? can a robot have an imagination? can a robot feel emotional and physical pain in the same way that a human does, driving creavity?

I have a feeling that those jobs will be the last to be fully replaced.. and still they might never be.

In the end I have no doubts that a robot can be developed to do taxes, build houses, flip burgers, and any number of other tasks. But could they write Romeo and Juliet? or imagine the world of the Lord of the Rings? or Starwars? create the show Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm?

I was born in the year of 1984, and I doubt I will ever see that happen before I die.
 
I hope for our sakes, i'm right...the idea of some robot taking my job is not my 'cup of tea'

Time will tell....

Sidideas
 
Yes: Computers will very likely have imagination. Again, remember the evolutionary design algorithms.

When we are imagining solutions to a problem, we "try out" different ideas (inspired by past experience, morphing solutions to similar problems in other domains to the present problem, inspired by random guess, and so on) in our minds. That is, we run a "personal simulation." There's a lot of reasons to believe this is how it will happen in computers, too.

The computers will be creative. They will have emotions, and pain sensors as well- There's been a ton of fruitful research lately into the utility of emotional computing. If a computer has an "alert" state, it will operate by different rules. There are grades of alertness.

All of these things that are useful will be put in to the use.

It is unlikely that they will write Romeo & Juliet. But no human would write that today, either: This is because the times are always changing, and the important messages to communicate are always changing. There are always different messages to communicate, different things that we value, that inspire joy or thought.

The times keep on changing.
 
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