When the killer robots come…

“I read that one company is importing all of Wikipedia into it’s artificial-intelligence projects. This means when the killer robots come, you’ll have me to thank. At least they’ll have a fine knowledge of Elizabethan poetry.”

-Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia.

Sonzai-kan.

Three quotes from “The Man Who Made A Copy Of Himself,” an article about Hiroshi Ishiguro, a Japanese roboticist who’s made a robot double of himself. The article starts like this:

Hiroshi Ishiguro, a roboticist at Osaka University, in Japan, has, as you might expect, built many robots. But his latest aren’t run-of-the-mill automatons. Ishiguro’s recent creations look like normal people. One is an android version of a middle-aged family man—himself.

And then:

By building humanlike robots Ishiguro hopes to decipher what the Japanese call sonzaikan—the feeling of being in the presence of a human being. Where does the sense of humanness come from? And can you convey those qualities with a robot?

from here.

And then:

Hiroshi Ishiguro stomps on the accelerator. The black Mazda RX-8 roars onto the highway, the heavy-metal Scorpions blasting from the speakers. We’re driving to Osaka University’s Toyonaka Campus. Ishiguro is wearing aviator sunglasses, black polyester pants, a black vest on top of a black shirt, along with a black belt, socks, and shoes.

“Give me question,” he says, his eyes fixed on the road.

I ask whether he always dresses in black.

“Why do you change your clothes?” he says. “Do you change your name? So why do you change your clothes? Name is identity. Face is identity. But the majority of your [appearance] comes from your clothes. You should not change your clothes. Do you agree?”

I meekly suggest that all-black attire might get a bit hot in the summer.

“We have air conditioners,” he says. “Next question.”

Photo by Makota Ishida.

Mad linkage:

Who killed more people in the bible, God or Satan?

The 5 creepiest unsolved mysteries that nobody can explain.

Social robots and Mechanical Love.

RIP Malcolm McLaren.

If Peanut links to it, it must be true: Smart women are bigger drinkers.

Conan O’Brien on the internet.

Ray Kurzweil, Caprica, and the upcoming Singularity.

First animals to live without oxygen discovered.

The grand unified theory of artificial intelligence.

Megan Fox protests school budget cuts with comedy.

Humans being.

So, it started like any other conversation between Marco and Lollipop, who sometimes operates under her real name, Maria Diaz, with Marco asking Lollipop for advice about something – since she frequently acts in the capacity of an Oracle – and then her telling him about a new writing gig she’s got coming up, something that will have her getting down and dirty, rubbing elbows up close with celebrities. She mentions a slight nervousness about it and Marco, being Marco, suggests, “You could always achieve worldwide internet notoriety by throwing red paint on Megan Fox or something, right?”

Maria Diaz: Noooooo. Not what I want to do. She terrifies me. Especially since she’s completely man-made.

Marco Sparks: Yeah, she looks like she was put out by the same company that releases those Todd McFarlane action figures.

MD: Someone somewhere on the internet dug up some photos from before she got all that plastic surgery. It was remarkable.

Marco: How significant were the changes?

MD: See for yourself. Plastic surgery is so insidious. All the doctors get taught the same techniques, so everyone comes out looking the same. But I can see how it could get addictive.

Marco: Yeah, there’s always a disorder in which you need more physical alterations to your appearance.

MD: Until you turn into a CAT LADY!

Marco: Like on Nip/Tuck?

MD: Yes. But really… there is something neat about getting to say, FUCK YOU, NATURE!

Marco: I believe in the swarthy, unbridled power of the human intellect,

for the better or the worse, that we can rise above what we are given and change that which we don’t like or that which could hurt us. I mean, there’s a reason that the life expectancy is like 60 years longer now than it was for people our age, what… 100 years ago? Of course, with that comes new disorders and syndromes that can be very harmful.

But I’ve been reading more and more lately about augmented reality, AI, and sentient/spiritual machines (a la Ray Kurzweil) and probably within 200 or so years, the new plastic surgery won’t be changing your face, your body, etc. It’ll be about making yourself more machine-like.

MD: I think that’s so far off, though. Substantially far off. We won’t ever see it.

Marco: No, we won’t, certainly. Like I said, easily 200 or so years.

Benjamin Light and I were just talking about Terminator 2 earlier, and how the vision of… 2019, I think it was, from back in 1997, was homicide bots with working mobile laser cannons and hover attack drones and the future there, while so grim, was so futuristic-y! But realistically? No, not so soon.

But we’ll start to see the slow advances of it. Within 15 years there’s a good chance that for under a $1000 you could be able to own a computer that has at least the computing powers and space of the human brain.

MD: You really think it’ll be that accessible?

I always hesitate to make these kinds of statements because I think they’re American-centric and specific to people with a certain amount of education and/or money. It’s going to take a long time till everyone is up to speed and these kinds of futuristic robot-people become the norm. Even Real Dolls are still out of most people’s price ranges and I think that’s certainly an indication of how future factory jobs/cleaning jobs will turn to. Kind of like the ending of Shaun of the Dead.

Marco: You’re right about the financial aspect of it, but then again, it really becomes a matter of time and manufacturing costs and, of course, the basis for American business language: supply/demand.

But I think it’s coming. Though I can’t put a serious guess on how fast or over the course of what timeline. I can only guess.

That’s one of the things I like about these highly celebrated futurists, and the game of the future in general, that you’re not so much an oracle as just half making educated predictions, and half selling fables of the far off tomorrow that only have to sound a little credible. You go read an article in Wired about the amazing new things that nanotechnology can do each day and then you come back to me and I tell you that within six months, all plastic surgery will be nanosurgery and for just a moment, a scary moment, it sounds half way possible.

MD: Oh, totally.  It’s like a few years ago when the tech came out for identifying things via a thumb-print that would have your ATM pin, and all of your info on it and all the “sky is falling” press that came out of that. You start to get spooked and think it is all entirely possible.

Marco: And, while jumping over body modification a little here, we don’t talk nearly enough about the good things that could be coming, with science and medical breakthroughs and what have you. Maybe partly because it’s so locked down, like stem cell research. Or maybe because all people want is cures of AIDS and cancer, the regrowth of lost limbs, and the Higgs-Boson. Or cold fusion!

MD: Cold fusion! That’s a pop culture reference I’m forgetting.

There’s lots of good things that come out of this, like robots performing surgery. I think there is one called the Da Vinci arm? They can do surgery in a much more precise way than a doctor who maybe had too much coffee or gets distracted for a milisecond and one tiny move can mess the whole thing up. Or robots who dispense medication. Those are a complete trip to see, but again, save lives and do a lot of good since they remove a lot of the error. Of course, it all depends on humans who program these things.

Marco: Until the robots start programming the humans who program the robots. And, of course, I’ll take the low road and speak for every man who just read that someday a robot might be performing surgery on him: Where’s the robot that can jack me off too?

There’s actually a joke on the new Patton Oswalt album about robots that can deliver babies better than human doctors, except for that rare 1 in 100 times glitch in which the robot skins the baby and turns it into an ipod case. “Murder spasms,” I think he called it.

Be honest: How shocked would you be if tomorrow it was revealed that Megan Fox was actually a project the Japanese started ten years ago in crafting the ultimate pop starletbot?

MD: The answer to any and all questions is always the Real Doll. Do you reallly want a robot giving you a handjob? Let’s be real, here.

And to answer your question: I would not shocked at all.

Marco: Would I really want a handjob from a robot? Well, a handjob is a lot different from other kinds of sex, which is a bullshit kind of kind that I could intellectualize to death for no real good. No, I probably don’t want to fuck a robot. Not in a way that I could imagine right now. Though I have a very unique, very special, very disturbingly fun imagination, so ask me again later. But then again, by the time we all get oral pleasure bots, we may be living in a very different type of world, morals-wise.

Megan Fox being a robot created by the Japanese to star in a Michael Bay movie about fighting giant super Robots that can turn into cars and shit would be a fascinating movie all of it’s own. Didn’t Al Pacino star in some movie years ago about a computer generated starlet?

MD: You can’t say something like that and then not follow up, son. “Not in a way you could imagine right now…” Then what way? Would sex with robots be more akin to masturbation? Would it just be novelty? Would it replace human interaction entirely? I’m sure for some people, it would.

Yes, Pacino was in such a movie. It was called Simone and it sucked.

Marco: As I was typing out that paragraph, I was remember the future episode of Newsradio where they talk about how sex with robots is so much better than sex with humans. You have to remember that I’m an old school sci fi geek so, on this subject, my brain is a mash up of Asimov’s three laws and the Jane/Sex bot counterpart to Jude Law’s Gigolo Joe from Spielberg/Kubrick’s A.I.

Would sex with robots become masturbation 8.0 or a new novelty or just replace human interaction entirely? Yes. And for some people, that may be a good thing. We’ve all seen that documentary on the Real Dolls, right? As much as we snicker at guys like Davecat, I can’t help but think where he and that old British man would be if they didn’t have those real dolls in their lives, you know? I clearly remember the British man taking his real dolls on holiday, a nice drive out into the country, but before he goes, he puts a sign on the doll saying, “I AM A DOLL,” so should he get into an accident or something, no one will risk their life trying to safe her. Because she’s not a real human being. A bit off subject, but that fascinated me. The man lived on that very blurry edge of fantasy and reality, but he knew which was which. And he made a happy little home for himself there.

Part of the real I say it’s hard to answer the question now about sex with robots in a future point is look at our ever evolving hang ups about sex. We’re so quiet and insecure about so much, yet even that changes bit by bit. Years ago a man probably wouldn’t have openly admitted to masturbation (and especially not a woman)(and I’m thinking of Betty Draper on that washing machine as I say that), but now it can be dinner party talk for a bunch of yuppies between discussing the latest gossip of what’s going on down at the tennis club and how socialist they think Obama’s health care plan is. “Ha ha, so Janet and the in-laws walks in on me jacking off to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue…”

Now just replace that same dinner party with one 50 years from now. “Ha ha, so Edmund walks in on me on all fours getting a spanking from LX-9000…”

MD: You know, when I saw that real doll documentary, I always thought that if Davecat had just hung out in the right chat rooms or gone to a small, liberal arts college where nerds get laid, he never would have needed that real doll. It doesn’t seem happy to me at all, it just seems sad. Especially that other guy who was so clearly completely paralyzed by the death of his mother.  They did bring them some joy as he took her out on drives and such, but so much of that was just projection. They’re just setting themselves up for failure, they will never be able to relate to a woman who talks back. I could see sex robots becoming the new sex worker in that way, you know?

Marco: Yeah, exactly. But imagine in this bright new future where we have sex robots aiding us in our carnal needs, these robots actually get respect. As much as a robot can. Now, I know it’s a sad thought that a robot as a sex worker would get more respect than a human as a sex worker, but isn’t that just how humans work?

MD: I see it going the opposite, that the robot would get treated much worse. Since you know, it’s just a robot and would be seen as even more property (if that’s possible) than a human.

Marco: That’s true. And part of me hopes it stays that way, not from a sex with machines perspective, but from a relation between robots and humans kind of way. I don’t want to get into the idea of the human soul or spark or noumenon too much, but hopefully in the future, when they make the robots… they’ll leave that out…

Of course, that would suck for WALL-E, wouldn’t it?

But then again, if they ever build robots with programming advanced enough to satisfying us sexually – which, granted, I know isn’t that complex since bored and curious guys have been getting the same thrill from the hose on the vacuum cleaner – who knows where AI and sentience in machines will be. To take it back to the language of pop culture nerdery: Data from Star Trek: TNG. Ever evolving, creating himself as an existing being, and fully functional sexual and “programmed in a variety of methods.”

MD: Well…for it to really work, it would have to beyond that base level of just getting you off. If that’s all that mattered, then women would just stick with vibrators, which, let’s be honest, are usually better/more efficient at getting the job done than any man. And I’d reckon that a vacuum cleaner probably gives a more proficient blowjob than any girl/guy. HOWEVER, if they could program the robot with human touches, that would change the game. Do you know what I mean?

Marco: Exactly. Like I said, it wouldn’t be about getting you off. It’d be about being a lover.

I love how we’ve gone from talking the future and robotics to… fuck machines.

Maybe that’s how the machines will eventually kill us. They’ll give us what we seem to all secretly want: to have sex with a machine. They’ll learn how to plug themselves into the wall and then they’ll jackhammer us right out of existence. Death by Kiwi, people.

MD: Speak for yourself!  I can think of nothing less appealing. Well, I can think of a few things, but that’s pretty high on the list.

Ultimately, I think that’s the thing here.. we think we want robots to automate everything, but it’s not easier. It just creates a new set of problems.

Marco: And that’s how we work, right? Today, tomorrow, yesterday. We like to make things simpler. And then we make them more complex!

MD: To use the words of Sean Combs… mo money, mo problems. Or … mo robots, mo problems?

Marco: Jesus, look at us. From Megan Fox to plastic surgery to robots to robot sex to Diddy. That makes sense, I think. Right?

MD: From two crazy people, yes.