Hi, Robot: Work and Life in the Age of Automation, reads the Hamlet-inspired cover of the July, 2105 issue of Foreign Affairs. The clever cover highlights the issue’s main theme, artificial intelligence and robotics, - a set of technologies that some fear could one day threaten our very existence.
As its introductory article reminds us “new technologies have been revolutionizing the world for centuries, transforming life and labor and enabling an extraordinary flourishing of human development. Now some argue that advances in automation and artificial intelligence are causing us to take yet another world-historical leap into the unknown.”
Speculations about a future radically transformed by technology are nothing new. But, with AI and robots seemingly everywhere, the concerns surrounding their long term impact may well be in a class by themselves. Like no other technologies, AI and robots force us to explore the boundaries between machines and humans. Will they turn out like other major innovations, e.g., steam power, electricity, cars, - highly disruptive in the near term, but ultimately beneficial to society? Or, will we see a more dystopian future, as smart machines increasingly encroach on activities requiring intelligence and cognitive capabilities that not long ago were the exclusive domain of humans? Opinions abound, but in the end, we don’t really know.