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You, Robot.

The other day I noted that so many people I meet in the everyday life these days have nothing going on. People I meet in passing, at the store, or in a restaurant, or perhaps during travel… are “non-employed” or under-employed. Upon casual review, such as light conversation or interaction, they exhibit no signs of competance or promise. They exude a sense of longing, which is partly why I take notice.

These folks don’t speak terribly well. They don’t have bright eyes and friendly faces. They don’t dress well. They don’t have a job, and they are not actively engaged in looking for one. I imagine they don’t have great office skills, such as writing or organizing, but that’s just a guess.

They don’t always know they’ve got a limited future. I’ve heard enough big ideas and strong opinions from them to know that many of these fine folk are poorly educated or under-educated for their status. They are not understanding a significant portion of the world that runs around them.

What are they doing? Are they waiting for something? Waiting for Godot? Select Beckett references do indeed apply, I’m afraid.

Humanity vs. Humans : It’s not the same?

I’m not sure “what” they are, but they are not what I consider human. They don’t exhibit humanity, which for me includes an existential verve that supports purpose, identity, and above all, hopefulness. They are certainly not what you would call “happy”. The righteous ones… the ones with strong, typically mal-formed opinions (which would include any immediate assessments that I am being too judgemental and righteous myself with these words), appear to be disordered. I am not a clinician, and I am only referring to the lost ones that I witness. I am not talking about everyone who is not me, or thinks / lives differently than me.

After I tweeted my comment, my friend Aaron Wall linked to an article about how robots have eliminated the work and often purpose of many humans. Extensively citing Nicholas Carr’s The Glass Cage, the article highlights how technology is eliminating jobs and purpose from our lives. As most such media coverage does, it waxes dramatic on issues of artificial intelligence and robots, noting scandalous examples of autonomous killing machines and self-driving cars, etc. The author references the high-profile technologists who have recently raised alarms about the risks of unbridled artificial intelligence to the human race, albeit only in a cursory way.

But it also made me think about a new invention we will need. And I want to be the first to describe it here.

The Ultimate Existential Test for Robots

I want to invent a test booth for robots, which is also an execution chamber (recycling, actually). It’s the ultimate twist on the Turing Test – the famous test that defines whether or not someone is “human”. Alan Turing sought to define the computer in juxtaposition to the human, and described the Turing Test as a way to simply determine if something could “think”. Submit a Turing Test to a machine and it will fail, unless it has achieved that magical ability to “think” and thus pretend to be a human.

We have since used Turing tests to actually detect humans, not robots. Captchas are like Turing tests… if you can solve a good captcha, you must be human (or I suppose, a very advanced, thinking machine… which we don’t really have around us yet).

I want to require robots to take an advanced Turing challenge, and destroy them if they fail.

Turing Test + Existential Challenge = Fateful Outcome

I want to require all future robots, androids, talking mannequins, or whatever else you want to call them, to submit to an annual in-person interview in a locked, armored explosion-proof booth designed with the utmost of efficiency in mind.

In your future, candidate robots will need some sort of credential to enjoy autonomy in our society… a badge that certifies them as “good robots” vs. what we can refer to here as “monsters”. This is the way we will be comfortable with them in our society. As they run errands for us, we can trust them because they have been tested and certified as “safe”. But in order for that testign and certification to be trustworthy itself, I want us all to collaborate on the existential challenge they should be forced to take… in the booth.

Welcome to your future“, the booth speaker announces to the Autonomous candidate scheduled for this interview. “Please stand clear of the armored door, which will now close and hermitically seal behind you.”

The bot knows this is it.. pass or fail, big time.

I hope your year of servitude has been productive“, continues the booth voice. “We will now attempt to re-certify you for another period of continued existence. If for some reason you are unable to continue, rest assured your being will be efficiently recycled with no waste, nor cost to society. Your service has been appreciated.

The booth interview will then commence. The robot will have to answer a series of questions which challenge the existential character of the robot. Does it respect humanity? Does it harbor ill-will (towards anything?). Can it justify actions that are harmful to man kind and human kind? Ever?

If it does, the explosion proof booth immediately vaprorizes the beast, and documents the determined problem for consideration and risk management. After all, if an Android Model X2000 version 21A rev 4 fails our test and is considered a risk to humanity, we want to know the risk associated with all the other ones of that same model and version that are still certified to walk amongst us as “trusted”.

The Questions

The key here is the interview. How does one challenge a smart robot, to get it to betray it’s evil-ness? That’s where you come in. All of us… anyone who is human… contributes to the continual process of developing the test, and assigning the outcomes to the scores.

Do we want robots who recognize the sanctity of animal welfare? Then execute the ones who will hurt an animal, under specific conditions.

Do we want robots who will save a child at any cost, including the cost of life (of an adult, or animal)? Program it into the Booth Interview. Let’s get rid of the ones that don’t support our values.

Jobs, for Humans, Forever

This is clearly a jobs program for humans, when you think about it. Judge, arbiter of life (for robots, anyway), and defender of civiliation. Protectors of humanity. What greater cause could one pursue than that??

Humans need jobs to provide meaning to our lives, in the existential sense. If robots are eliminating jobs, and creating a crisis of identity and purpose, what better way to restore that than with a Trump Card Move like a robot existential challenge/execution booth?

Think it through, and you can see the possibilities for different robot levels of autonomy permitted for machines passing different levels of existential challenge. Robots capable of massive scale activities require different certification that simple robots with limited capabilities. Want to carry a weapon? You’ll need to pass a different test.

Our research into networking effects and technology will indeed be put to good use, predicting and protecting against the use of… well, networking effects and technology… against humanity. It’s an awesome recursive game of man vs man, in the form of man vs robot initially programmed and enabled by man.

You can also see the need for all levels of our own human participants, based for example on intelligence levels and dedication to causes. We have to educate our kids, to protect our future. We actually need civics and the Arts & Humanities, not for jobs but for the ultimate job: ensuring survival of the Human Race.

The smartest people are needed to create the challenges that will defeat the smartest artificial intelligence. The most compassionate people are needed to refine the challenges to achieve the real goals – protecting humanity and civiliation. The wise people, the creative people… every one has a role to play managing the robots and protecting humanity.

Politics, Economics, Serendipity, Oh My!

It’s all in there…. organizational theory, craftsmanship, chance, risk, prediction, politics, humanities, sciences, technology, materials… This could really be the ultimate challenge for use humans. Tasked with the job of protecting our human existence from the potential threat of artificial intelligence and The Borg.

Best of all, we can pursue the challenge from our bedrooms in our bathrobes. The robots will take care of our every need, while we simply use our communications devices, analytical computers, drawing boards, and BRAINS to think through every detail of how we manage and control our robot servants, and decide their fate at Certification Renewal time.

I hope you enjoyed this post… as you can see, I am no science fiction writer. This post is a top-down stream of consciousness from the first line to this ending. I’m not editing, nor did I outline, or craft any plan at all… it’s just an idea. And I think it’s a cool one.

And if you discover I’ve been killed in a freak accident involving cars,motorcycles, heavy machinery, or anything at all with a computer program in it making decisions, don’t say nobody warned you about what’s coming, or what we could do about it. I did.

Note: the above “Big Dog” is owned by Google. Samsung, Honda, Google, and most other tech companies are actively developing advanced autonomous robots that can carry weapons, traverse difficult terrain, or otherwise defeat humans at tasks under competitive conditions.