“Look at him, he is like a robot, sitting there in silence, working!”
We all have said or heard an iteration of this sentence, multiple times. And this makes sense because robots are machines that we have created to perform the standardized, boring tasks instead of us, making our lives easier while providing more time for creativity and seeking pleasures. Invention of a vacuum cleaner or a laundry machine and a dishwasher are just examples of everyday robots that are helping us with menial tasks, and that forever changed the way traditional family is functioning on a daily basis, paving the way for female employment and women’s economic emancipation.
The word “robot” was coined by a Czech writer Karel Čapek and was first used in his science fiction play R.U.R. in 1920 that premiered on 25 January 1921. The play chronicles events taking place in Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R.) factory, located on a remote island where artificial humans/robots are being manufactured and then sold around the world by actual humans who run and own the factory. Unlike the slaves, these robots needed neither food nor water to function and work silently and efficiently which made them an ideal product.
The play never reached a global stardom in popularity; however, the word “robot” has become a widely accepted term in almost all the major languages around the world and is in common use nowadays.
In time, robots have started diversifying their roles and forms, taking over an increasing number of functions and types of work, both manual and cognitive. Why would we bother remembering any of the phone numbers when the tiny robots in our pockets, inseparably glued to our everyday life / that we still refer to as just a “cellphone” / keep the relevant data next to our contact’s name in a phonebook. There is no need to ask a friend for directions to his place, when a simple Google Map search and that tiny mobile robot can take us to a designated address. I will leave aside the notion that an answer to any and all of our questions is readily available on Google, providing every piece of information we may need just a click away. Google is now substituting not just libraries and reading rooms, teachers and professors, but is increasingly replacing doctors and pharmacists, engineers and scientists, psychologists and therapists, to name just a scary few.
Transfer of cognitive functions to machines and robots makes us place our trust in the omnipresent tech, neglecting the people we can actually have a conversation with. After all, real-life conversations between people have become such a rarity as of late, right?
When the real conversations fade – robots are there to step in and help. It comes as no surprise that a large number of robots already has a voice, so instead of typing down commands and questions we can actually have a little discussion! The current projections estimate that 30% of all interactions in 2020 with the devices we use will start with a voice command. Typing and messaging will be left to humans. Turn around and listen, a person is probably talking to the smartphone saying something like: “Alexa, turn the air-conditioning on 20oC” or “Bixby, when is the meeting I have scheduled for tomorrow?”. The question will be followed by an answer: “10 o’clock, in your office”. Or something like: “Siri, what is the best Italian restaurant in town?”, followed by Siri’s reply and our command to book the table for dinner tonight that ends with a pleasant: “Enjoy your dinner!”. Moreover, once at a dinner, our digital food consultant app can help us track the excessive amounts we took in during the meal, signaling that based on the information we provided we took a glass/a plate too many. As things are, the number of topics we will be discussing with robots is steadily rising.
Our emotional lives have taken a turn for the better, thanks to the trust we have and show to technology, as it allows us to meet the right partners that were for some reason out of our reach, or hard to connect with, until recently. Sex also just got better – no fear of mistakes or fails with robots in our beds. If you look at porn industry numbers alone, the new technology is making serious waves. With the fast development of AI and VR, reaching heaven each and every time has become a given – making sky the only limit, or possibly a climax destination?
Life without robots, for humans, is becoming hard to imagine. The opposite holds true when robots are concerned. Čapek’s R.U.R. ends with a rebellion of the perfect robots, taking over the factory through a coup, eliminating all humans as unnecessary – laying grounds for a mechanic civilization on Earth.
Looking at the world around me, I can vividly imagine a future, where in the ruins of our devastated Planet, two robots are sitting and chit-chatting:
“I looked into the past of this planet and saw that humans used to live here – at least I think that is what the species was called.” – says one of the robots.
“Yeah, but that was so long ago.” – the other one confirms.
“But the thing is, I cannot wrap my mind around what happened to this world. I saw all that beauty, those grand oceans, tall mountains and amazing planes, all those colors… and some other species that lived there, alongside the human race. None of that remains. How come? What happened?” – the first robot asked.
“No idea, no clue, really. You would have to be pretty darn stupid as a human to destroy a planet like that, not realizing that it will be the end of you as well. How lucky were we to update timely and get rid of the human virus? I cannot imagine what would be of us if we hadn’t. I mean, they were beyond saving, anyhow…” – the other robot explains.
“Yeah, how lucky that we are not humans.” – the first robot nodded and concluded.