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May 29

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Upgrading Our Mythology: Or, Why Robots Won’t Attack…

Friends?  Or Foes?

 

Friends?  Or Foes?
This article is why I surf the net. 
 

Every now and then, I find a blog post like this one. And I'm reminded that there are at least a few people on this planet that share my unique perspective on life.

To me, this guy gets it.  The story will always matter…whether you're watching a movie, or just living your life. I believe that mythology is an essential component to have a fulfilling and meaningful existence on our planet. Just like our bodies need vitamins and minerals to function; myths give our souls and psyche the fuel they need to stay healthy.

But, what is mythology?

Most people think it's a just a bunch of quaint stories that the Romans and Greeks told to each other to while away the hours.  Surprise: there's a little more to it than that.  A lot more. Every human culture, every civilization, every society in human history has a mythology. Even our own "modern" age.  A mythology is a framework of beliefs, values, and explanations of natural phenomenon that describes our shared reality, and our place as human beings in it.

Collectively it provides a lens of shared cultural identity that helps give us our individual world view.  In a world that advances at warp ten when it comes to hard science and technology–it's frightening to see our emotional parts getting left so far behind.  We have long ago ceased being complete beings.

Our society, culture, and beliefs have become fractured; and our children are destined to suffer from a species-wide epidemic of schizophrenia.  You can't stand on a foundation of the old, while reaching out for the new…Our fall will be inevitable, and very painful.

We either have to stop reaching, and retreat back into our past; or we need to move forward–with both feet. Humanity needs a new mythology if it's going to successfully reach the next stage in its development.

And I'm honored to be riding on the crest of this nascent mythology.  I've been writing stories about these self-same issues for the last decade (and soon hopefully, they'll be published). Yes, we are a small, scared, and suspicious species–but we're human. And if robots WERE humans, yeah, they might attack us… 

But they aren't human.  And they won't be human. Ever.  No matter how much we may want, or fear they will become so.

They may speak, and answer questions on Jeopardy; they might even have humanoid bodies, and be visually indistinguishable from us. And at some point with the help of nanotechnology, they might even be able to reproduce, and eventually resemble "organic" life–but they still won't be human.

We may treat a pet like a member of our family…but that doesn't magically transform them into human beings. Does it? Not that there isn't anything wrong with treating animals like people. Anthropomorphism has followed us all the way from the cat and dog headed gods of ancient Egypt, to the talking penguins and donkeys of present day.

Just like painting a human with green skin, or giving them pointy ears makes them a poor reference to prepare our species for what "real" sentient extraterrestrial life will look like; mechanical human doppelgangers and "terminators" are a more aptly just fully realized mock-ups of our subconscious fears. Not a reliable template for a new kind of life.

Why do we automatically assume Artificial Intelligence will be hostile to us? Because we use technology and machines as tools? Because we will treat them like property?

Naturally, we feel that machines will take umbrage at being treated as slaves. After all, that's how we'd feel.  But we're human, and they're not.  Machines are programed.

But then again, so are people. Mythology is our operating system, and it's in desperate need of an upgrade.  Our old myths have become stale and unpalatable.  It's time to cook up something new. Yes, when you play with fire, there is always a chance you'll get burned.  But you might also make a delicious new meal.

You shouldn't be so scared of robots.  After all, how many have you met?  You might just like them…

Excuse me, but the future is still unwritten–and I've got to get back to the kitchen, before my imagination boils over.

 

 

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Permanent link to this article: http://peterusagi.com/2011/05/29/upgrading-our-mythology-or-why-robots-wont-attack/

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