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Harriet Berkal

 
“I’m Kvelling About My New Robot Rachel” - Freedom From the Mundane?

by Harriet Berkal, February 12, 2018

 

How cool would it have been to have fled Egypt in cars that drive themselves - equipped with GPS and likely carrying drones to take out the enemy closing in on foot. Huh? The parting of the sea might not have appeared so miraculous by comparison. Nonetheless our departure from slavery was an amazing feat. Ah, freedom!

 

In my youth I took autonomy fairly for granted and wondered at the many simple things that life brought to us such as a TV with antennas that delivered all of two stations, homemade ham radios kits, roller skate drive-ins, etc. As time went by, who ever thought we’d witness the tsunami of inventions which has afforded us further indulgence in life? Did you ever envision you’d sit at a dinner table and everyone would have a phone they’d be interacting with versus having interpersonal conversations without distractions? Who would have ever predicted such novelties as microwaves, apps, sexting, swiping to the right or left to find companionship, GPS to guide you around in foreign cities, birth control pills, cordless tools, smoke detectors, personal computers, MRI’s, DNA fingerprinting, digital music, insulin pumps, in-vitro fertilization, etc.?

 

We are so techno savvy these days – who can keep up, especially if you are over 50? I was the first person to graduate with a Labor Studies degree at the University of Manitoba, where I studied about the Luddites – those who broke machines in the Industrial Revolution in fear of losing their jobs. So once again we face a new uprising in this massive societal shift where robots are going to alter our lifestyles in a major way, whether we like it or not.  Will it all be positive? Well, that depends as with all new discoveries, as to whose hands it gets into. And of course, the ability to do both good and harm will be inevitable. We are already seeing evidence of that. (Did Russian hackers interfere with getting Donald elected?) Putin has said he views artificial intelligence as “the future, not only for Russians but for all humankind.” https://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2018/01/30/ai_is_the_weapon_of_the_next_cold_war_110534.html   

 

It’s all about perspective. It’s the age-old dichotomy between good and evil. Where will we be in 7 years or so? Will fully functional robots (Humanoids) be in every household at an affordable price?

 

In 2017, “A number of experts see robotic assistants in our future, including Rob Coneybeer, co-founder of the venture capital firm Shasta Ventures. He believes that this kind of technology will likely be developed to make our lives easier.

 

“Eventually, you are going to see the humanoid-type of robot, like in Isaac Asimov’s book, I, Robot. That’s definitely going to happen,”Coneybeer said in an interview with Fortune. “It’s still 20 or 25 years out, but I think that type of robot will fit into the framework of what we think of as our traditional living environments.” https://futurism.com/when-will-humanoid-robots-enter-our-homes-and-transform-our-lives/

 

Look what’s already happened: “Humanoid robot called Sophia has been made a citizen of Saudi Arabia – giving her more rights than local woman.” https://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/humanoid-robot-sophia-now-citizen-11441500

 

However not everyone is that excited about artificial intelligence and in fact many fear it’s integration in common day society. Numerous surveys have been conducted with varying results, but it seems a natural progression to the trajectory we are set on at this time.

 

“The vast majority of respondents to the 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing anticipate that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics, customer service, and home maintenance. But even as they are largely consistent in their predictions for the evolution of technology itself, they are deeply divided on how advances in AI and robotics will impact the economic and employment picture over the next decade.

 

The countries that are winners in the coming technological revolution will be those that help their citizens organize themselves to take advantage of the new technologies. Countries that try to “protect” jobs or certain groups will find themselves falling behind. This report highlights some of the areas where not just the US but other countries are failing. Especially in education, where we still use an 18th-century education model developed to produce factory workers for the British industrialists, putting students into rows and columns and expecting them to learn facts that will somehow help them cope with a technological revolution.” http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-robots-could-change-the-world-by-2025-2014-8

 

I for one, see huge advantages to the development of these humanoids. How many seniors are desperate for social engagement to stimulate their minds? The advantage of programming robots specifically to interact with the elderly, reciting vintage songs from their youth, comforting and/or distracting them when they are lonely or distraught, might be just the thing the doctor ordered versus anti-psychotic medication. I recently watched a you tube video of seniors in Japan laughing and smiling around a table as they interacted with cyber dogs. It was unlike anything I had ever seen.  

 

The applications are endless! Your AA sponsor who might not always be available to stop you from falling off the wagon, could be substituted with “David” your never ending supportive robot whose unwavering care never ends. Let’s take humanoid “Maria” along with us to Greece this summer, as she is fluent in Greek and knows her way around. “Irene” is a sure fill in during a winter blizzard to play mahjong with when your ladies can’t make it and she never cheats. Honestly, the sky is the limit.

 

Will jobs be displaced? Undoubtedly, but they will likely be positions that no one really wanted in the first place, and someone must build these humanoids-so work will be created therein. 

 

If in 2039 they are in every household, at age 80 god willing, I could put on a deluxe sedar without lifting a finger. Robot Rachel would make better charoset than me any day and setting a festive table is her specialty. Of course, she’s the one opening the door for Elijah as who wants to get a chill? Rachel could technically lead the sedar with holographic haggadahs.

 

And why stop at Jewish robots? Intermarriage is on the rise and so you could program your humanoid to incorporate both cultures. This could help preserve some sense of Yiddish kite to an ever-assimilating population.  Once our generation is gone, will our kids carry on all the traditions sacred to us?  Maybe they will, but technology could play a major role in cultural continuity.

 

Perhaps robots are a modern-day extension of Golem, which have been written about throughout Jewish history? 

 

It’s understandable how many of us are afraid of artificial Intelligence (AI). I think the morale of the story is very simple. If we treat humanoids the way in which we are supposed to treat each other with love, respect and honesty, then perhaps our fears of them taking over the world comes from the dark side of mankind. Eliminate hatred, promote tolerance and implement kindness and all that humanity is supposed to have been created for and I’d say we’d be welcoming Robot Rachel into our homes and into our hearts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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