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With a bang, Elon Musk announced recently that Tesla will start manufacturing humanoid robots – but what does that really mean for the future and for the human race? Our CEO Judy Shalom is giving us her thoughts in her latest op-ed.
The sentiment — and, for that matter, the entire nature of the announcement — may come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Musk’s long-standing public views on AI-powered robots.
As early as 1818, the author Mary Shelley wrote the short story, Frankenstein, about a human-machine, created by a man without humanity giving us all a word of fear and dread. Isaac Asimov named this fear in 1947 “The Frankenstein Complex”, a fear that continues even today, and perhaps the subject has never been more relevant.
More than 200 years after Frankenstein was written, in August 2021, Elon Musk presented his “Tesla Bot”, which will be a finished prototype during 2022. A humanoid that will use the same ai system used in their cars. The robot is estimated to be just over 1.7 meters long, weigh 55 kg and be able to lift 68 kg. The face should have a screen that presents information, and the so-called neural network in the robot should mimic the functions of a human brain. Musk said the following words during his presentation:
“Our cars are semi-sentient robots on wheels… it kind of makes sense to put that onto a humanoid form… to automate dangerous, repetitive, or boring tasks. You can run away from it, and most likely overpower it. Hopefully, that does not ever happen, but you never know.”
The end of the statement definitely has a shaky vote of confidence. At the moment, all this is really a publicity stunt, keep that in mind. Those familiar with the subject know that Tesla will never be able to deliver these types of humanoid robots in the coming years. But Musk, being the PR genius as he is, knows that spectacles like this increase the curiosity of the outside world for Tesla and all their other projects as well. And above it all, it increases the attraction value around his company. Something which is needed to create more buzz around their brand and at the same time be able to compete to find and recruit some of the sharpest minds in the world. Those that will actually develop and deliver all Musk’s crazy visions. Because, even though this is a spectacle, with more or less hidden motives, I don’t doubt for a second that Musk has real ambitions for this project in the future.
More people may also begin to realize that Tesla is not, and never has been a car company. As little as SpaceX is a rocket company. Admittedly, they currently manufacture cars and rockets, but in the long run, I think, purely speculatively, that it is about much greater ambitions and goals than that.
Why Musk and Bezos Are Working on Space Projects
That Musk and Bezos are working on space projects is not because they are bored multi-billionaires with too much free time on their hands, but rather it is about megalomania on a level that humanity may have never seen before. If I may make a qualitative guess, there are several, purely capitalistic reasons for all this.
First, the earth’s population is growing like never before, and with it the demand for all sorts of conceivable material things. Then of course industries and manufacturing are vital for this. But all the environmental problems that it entails are a big and a very real threat for the entire humanity today, so why not create an industry with robots that manufacture what we need, on other planets?
Furthermore, there are a number of advantages of robots as a workforce, compared to hiring people. Especially in high-risk environments with great physical strain. And when it comes to working outside the Earth’s atmosphere, they do not require oxygen or sanitation.
However, there is another reason, in addition to the environmental problem that makes space attractive for establishments. Within a reasonable range of the earth, a variety of asteroids containing unusual metals, minerals, and gas worth thousands of trillions of dollars are moving in today’s money value.
Solving access to this is literally like digging for gold in space. If you combine what Musk does with Tesla and SpaceX, then those lines of thought may not be so speculative anymore, but rather it all becomes crystal clear. We are simply facing real colonization of space, where humanoid robots will be our main workforce.
Computer scientist and professor Vernor Vinge, who popularized the concept of singularity, wrote the following in 1993: “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will end. ” Admittedly, there are just over 2 years left before the end of 2023, but that Vinge’s prediction would have time to come true still seems very unlikely.
But the dystopia surrounding the downfall of humanity through robots has been in our consciousness since the 1950s. Maybe it’s an early beginning of the end we now see – who knows? But that generation after us will see realizations of fictions such as Transcendence or I, Robot I think is far from possible. It wouldn’t in itself be the first time that humanity’s constant pursuit of constantly wanting and doing more would be on the verge of putting us all in a threatened and perhaps vulnerable situation.
So whether Elon Musk’s PR stunt is a first step towards the downfall of humanity or not is still left for us to see. What we can know for sure, however, is that all these plans for robotic labor and space exploitation are fundamentally driven by pure capitalism.
Just like so much else in our world, it’s usually just about following the money.
Judy Shalom is CEO of Advedro, Author, Entrepreneur, Public Speaker, and most of all she is a strong businesswoman of shared learning, transparent communication, and visionary leadership. She lectures and attends various types of digital marketing conferences where she excels at explaining different types of online marketing concepts and what type of AI-driven technology is being used today in the digital world.
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