Introduction

My beliefs are constantly being challenged and in many cases I have had to drop a belief or change it completely.

Technology is a massive instigator of this.

Every time I think I know something, a new piece of technology comes along that radically redefines things.

I’ve always believed that there would never come a time when robots and Artificial Intelligence would rise up and threaten humanity.

A new recent article has compelled me to drop that belief.

No Pain No Gain

I used to believe the there would never be a Man versus Machine war because machines lacked one important factor – the ability to have emotion.

If you have emotions like love, gratitude and camaraderie, then things are great – everything is all good.

But if you have emotions like hate, anger and frustration, then watch out because a lot of bad things are about to happen.

Simple negative emotions like anger can be ignited by something simple like banging your head against a door. Usually as people we will let this go, but sometimes we might try to hit the door back – ridiculous as that is, sometimes we do it. That is emotion for you.

A simple minor physical injury can led to anger which can led to retaliation.

I always felt that we would never have a Man versus Machine war because machines don’t feel pain, so there’s nothing for machines to react to.

As a coder I know that machines are just processing tools, nothing more – but all that has changed.

Scientists Invent Artificial Skin That Can Feel Pain

Read this article.

In it they talk about how scientists have created artificial skin that can feel pain.
The artificial skin has been designed to help people with prosthesis experience physical sensations ie it helps them feel.

This artificial skin mimics the nerve pathways that connect the receptors in the skin to the brain. This replicates the human body’s extremely fast feedback response.

Being a sci-fi geek, I can see lots of applications for this.

Clearly someone is going to try and incorporate this into a robot so that it can be more autonomous. This makes sense because you want a robot to be able to make some decisions for itself, and a pain response is a great mechanism for keeping it out of harms way.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if someone puts the artificial skin on a sex doll. Technology and sex have always been strange bed fellows.

The point is this – some robot is going to get the ability to feel sensation including pain.

Robots can Feel, Robots can React

The minute some stupid human decides to kick one of these machines that feel – you can consider humanity screwed.

Particularly when the robots scour the web doing big data analysis and they come across this below.

A robot with an Artificial Brain and the ability to feel might decide that it’s logical to retaliate out of self preservation if harmed.

But what really scares me is this.

We kill 74 billion animals a year for food, that is more than 10 times the amount of people on the planet. The blatant victimization of sentient beings has led to global warming, oceanic acidification, agricultural runoff and ecotoxicity of the water and soil.

The harm we cause to all species including the earth is completely out of control.

Should an Artificial Intelligence develop empathy (a much more complex emotion), then it won’t take nano second for the artificial sentience to decide to wipe out humanity to preserve all other life.

Conclusion

I love science a lot. I think it’s fascinating discipline that has given us so much.

But it has a problem in that it is incremental by nature. It lacks the ability to see the long term ramifications of what it produces.

Plastics were considered a scientific marvel back in the 60s – now we have a island of garbage that is a quarter the size of Texas floating in the pacific ocean. We rejoiced that social media would bring us closer – now we realize that we’ve lost privacy and sovereignty. GMOs were thought to be the solution to world hunger – now we despise it because it has monopolized our crop production.

Artificial Skin is one scientific development that should give us pause.

There is a confluence of technologies taking place that threatens to be our demise, and I think this particular technology will be the linchpin.

Yes it hold great promise, but its’ darker side has consequences that could be catastrophic for humanity.

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash