You may be aware of “Sofia,” the human-like robot that guest-starred on the Jimmy Fallon show. She held basic conversations with Fallon and even displayed emotional reactions to what he was saying. Sure, the technology behind her intelligence and mimicry of human behavior is awe-inspiring, but is this something that we should worry about? If robotic engineers stop producing replicas of Sofia, then no, there will be no problem. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening.
Many are skeptical of the production of humanoid robots. Sixty-one percent of people are uncomfortable with robots according to Brookings Surveys. Yet society is still seeing a continued and increasing prevalence of automation and artificial intelligence. Abigail Adams from People Magazine reported on how Elon Musk revealed his newest humanoid robot called “Optimus” on Tesla’s 2022 AI Day. The robot only walked, waved and danced in front of its audience, but Musk promises that this robot will be produced en masse and replace “hard, dangerous, and repetitive” jobs.
“Optimus” and similar robots could force people out of their jobs. Since robots require no salary, no vacation and no healthcare, this seems like a better option for large corporations when compared with human labor. Yet for the general population who need their job to feed themselves and their families, they may be at risk of homelessness, hunger and a constant battle to survive. Even self-checkouts that are automated but not humanoid AI – increasingly seen in stores all over the United States – pose a major issue since they eliminate the need for human cashiers.
I believe that human intelligence will always be far superior to that of artificial intelligence. Humans are emotional, rational and are natural thinkers. Even the simple action of checking out groceries and sometimes making small-talk with the cashier is nice – a quick greeting, a friendly smile. If something is not functioning at the register, the cashier or someone else will get it sorted out quickly, whereas if something malfunctions with the self-checkout, it will freeze and call human assistance. This adds extra steps, more annoyance and is much less ethical for those that make a living as cashiers.
Further, if these types of machines could replace human labor, imagine what robots resembling humans might do. Not only could cashiers lose their jobs, but so could military personnel, couriers, customer service executives, security guards, receptionists and even doctors. Imagine if something goes wrong in a medical procedure, who will take responsibility? What will that robot say to its patient’s loved ones? What about robots in the military? Humans are sensitive and empathetic; they can find ways to resolve conflict. Robots, however, might just follow orders. If the robots suddenly stop processing those orders, conflict could escalate and there may be disastrous consequences.
CEOs are extreme capitalists and robots work for big corporations tirelessly, with no needed breaks, no safety regulations and no pay required. If something needs to get mass produced quickly, robots are seen as the solution. Nevertheless, humans provide new ideas to our constantly changing world, we collaborate with each other and understand what we need. We are not apathetic machines that only do as we are told. If there is an issue in a product, somebody will speak up. Humans evaluate each other’s work and provide feedback to ensure quality. If Amazon for example fired all human workers and functioned solely on robots, I believe the company would crumble. For instance, if robots deliver packages to incorrect addresses, they are not capable of sorting that out on their own. They will continue to deliver the packages but people will become aggravated, annoyed, demand refunds, and probably stop purchasing from Amazon if packages continue to be misdelivered. Now, that is only one aspect, imagine if robots follow orders to make a defective product, and produce it in large quantities. No one would buy it, and if they did, the company would experience refunds, complaints, and even lawsuits. Humans on the other hand would notice it, say something to their supervisor, and correct the issue immediately. Robots alone are not capable of that. Large corporations will actually benefit and profit more from human labor because even though we need breaks, salaries, vacations and healthcare, we know each other. We know what we think, want and need.
I believe robots are too unpredictable. The entertainment industry is basically predicting what could happen in the future with movies like “The Terminator.” I agree that automation alleviates the little stresses of humans, such as iRoomba for vacuuming, or Alexa to answer questions. But by no means should there be a line of robots that replace human labor, nor should we encourage the production of robots that resemble humans.