Friday, May 24, 2013

Brilliant MIT Mathematician Norbert Weiner on the Robopocalypse

Our readers probably know Weiner for his work in cognitive science and for pretty much creating the field of  cybernetics.
From Motherboard:
For decades we humans have been certain that in the future, robots would either bring about a utopian society wherein machines do all the work and we cool our heels (Kevin Drum’s provocative Mother Jones article predicted this robot paradise will arrive as soon as 2040), or rise up against us, a la countless science fiction stories.

In fact, The New York Times pointed out that “even in 1920, when the playwright Karel Capek gave English speakers the Czech word "robot" (laborer) in his play "R.U.R.," the androids at Rossum's Universal Robots were bent on wiping out the human race.” And according to Motherboard's Ben Richmond, who recently saw "R.U.R." performed, the machine future may not be too far off.

Back in 1949—around the time the industrial age was giving way to a high tech era—the legendary MIT mathematician Norbert Wiener theorized that the direction the scale would tip would ultimately depend on how stupid or not stupid humans behaved during the rise of intelligent machines. He should know; Wiener was the founder of cybernetics, the scientific study of the relationship between humans and machines, which heavily influenced robotic engineers.

A half century ago Wiener famously wrote "The world of the future will not be a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.” This week The New York Times dug up an earlier essay titled “The Machine Age” in which he elaborates on this warning....MORE