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Thu May 23, 2013, 08:55 PM

In 1949, He Imagined an Age of Robots

A lost essay from mathematician Norbert Wiener.

These new machines have a great capacity for upsetting the present basis of industry, and of reducing the economic value of the routine factory employee to a point at which he is not worth hiring at any price. If we combine our machine-potentials of a factory with the valuation of human beings on which our present factory system is based, we are in for an industrial revolution of unmitigated cruelty.

We must be willing to deal in facts rather than in fashionable ideologies if we wish to get through this period unharmed. Not even the brightest picture of an age in which man is the master, and in which we all have an excess of mechanical services will make up for the pains of transition, if we are not both humane and intelligent.

Finally the machines will do what we ask them to do and not what we ought to ask them to do. In the discussion of the relation between man and powerful agencies controlled by man, the gnomic wisdom of the folk tales has a value far beyond the books of our sociologists.


Moreover, if we move in the direction of making machines which learn and whose behavior is modified by experience, we must face the fact that every degree of independence we give the machine is a degree of possible defiance of our wishes. The genie in the bottle will not willingly go back in the bottle, nor have we any reason to expect them to be well disposed to us.

In short, it is only a humanity which is capable of awe, which will also be capable of controlling the new potentials which we are opening for ourselves. We can be humble and live a good life with the aid of the machines, or we can be arrogant and die.


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unrepentant progress May 2013 OP
lastlib May 2013 #1
leveymg May 2013 #2

Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Thu May 23, 2013, 09:20 PM

1. Quite profound--and profoundly sobering........

Humanity--no lubrication required.............

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Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Thu May 23, 2013, 10:07 PM

2. The Age of Meat still has a few good years left in it.

But, once my phone catches on that it would be better off without me, there'll be hell to pay.

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