Stephen Hawking is scared of Robot Bees – This week in the #RoboApoc

This is a semi-weekly feature that scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet

Stevie H says - CYA human, robots are coming and they don't need you.
Stevie H says – CYA human, robots are coming and they don’t need you.

1. HOLY SHIT! Stephen “Big Brain” Hawking is scared the machines will destroy us! The guy who shook up theoretical physics, the guy who knows so much more than you could ever want to know is worried about the #RoboApoc! From his May 1, 2014 Independent Column (co-written with these nerds: Stuart RussellMax TegmarkFrank Wilczek):

Whereas the short-term impact of AI [artificial intelligence] depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.

More terrifying than this, Hawking  advocates for us to start taking action to deal with the coming #RoboApoc. He points out that there are only a scant few think tanks doing this:  The Cambridge Center for the Study of Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity Institute. If organizations with these names already exist I think we’re screwed.

#RoboApoc Rating – Skynet  When the captain of the ship says “I’m not so sure about that iceberg…” you should start putting on your water wings.

 

We don't need no stinking bees.
We don’t need no stinking bees.

2. Who needs nature? Maybe you’ve heard about Colony Collapse Disorder, the mysterious disappearance of over 1/3 of honey bee colonies in the United States. Disappearance doesn’t mean they all die and the ground is littered with little bee bodies, they are just gone (like in The Leftovers). This is bad news, like #BeeApoc bad. Bees are prime pollinators in our eco-system playing a crucial role in commercial food production. Without bees you don’t eat! It is so bad President Obama started a first ever pollinator task force to find out what the hell is going on and fix it.

RoboBee
At least they don’t sting.

Researchers at Harvard aren’t waiting around for the slow wheels of government bureaucracy to solve this problem, they’ve invented RoboBees. While the tiny flying robots are ten years off from being useful in the natural world (they are still tethered to power supplies and can’t communicate to each other as bees should), the advance’s in small robots is eyebrow raising.  This also highlights a tech utopia/capitalist approach to dealing with ecological crisis – build robots to fix it (as opposed to stop doing what we are doing wrong).

#RoboApoc Rating – 8 We have ten years before the RoboBees can talk to each other and swarm cities to enslave humans.

3. It’s Detroit. Remember how RoboCop that movie that defines the terrifying future of cyborg justice and the loss of humanity. Remember the future dystopia it takes place in? Detroit! Well Detroit started turning off water for the people who are late on their bills, and Detroiters (and many across the country) are pissed – rightfully so.

While mismanagement and corruption at the Detroit Water and Sewer Department may be to blamed for what is going on right now (not to mention favoritism for some really big delinquent bill payers), so is the #RoboApoc. Really.

Think about it, Detroit’s economy was heavily based on the production of cars. The workers in Detroit have been destroyed by automation, and the shift of production to very unfriendly to worker places. The city itself has suffered. What happened in Detroit is not inevitable, it is the result of very intentional moves by bosses and corporate bigwigs to increase already outrageous profits at the expense of not only workers but an entire city.

#RoboApoc Rating – 3  Robots are one of many problems facing Detroit, and as Steven Hawking said above it isn’t just about the robots, it is about who controls them. 

One thought on “Stephen Hawking is scared of Robot Bees – This week in the #RoboApoc

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