The Rise of the Next Human

How can we reduce fear of personified Robotics and AI?

Thesis by Sepus Noordmans, January 2015
Royal Academy of Art, The Hague


Our society is in the Digital Age, a time in which we grow to live in a symbiosis with technology. Modern society is continuously driven by technological inventions. We work daily on our computers and spend spare-time on smartphones. Digital machines that can process big amounts of information in a blink, stronger robotics that take over labor in the industrial sector, global-economy that is controlled by algorithmic computing – and all of it is improving in more complicated technology.

This thesis is about the development of robotics and AI. A technology that will allow mechanical entities to move as humans and create computer systems that can think like humans, but better. Today, most of the digital systems contain a weak AI –intelligent systems–  to make our lives easier and/or faster. Some we might be unaware of, such as autocorrect, speech-recognition or a digital personal assistant like Siri. All these complicated programs have the computational ability to solve specific problems within a short amount of time. Next to weak AI, there is also a development in strong AI, a digital copy of our human brain. A computer that feels emotions, questions it and can act accordingly. These systems are extremely intelligent, they can process enormous amounts of data and information as no human could. They easily outsmart us – an ability that mankind fears. In combination with the development of robotics, we are attempting to recreate our own species into upgraded, mechanical forms. Machines that can do everything and more, than a human could. There are many people that dread this development, yet there are suggestions to anticipate on our dread to reduce societal anxiety that is influenced by popular culture; the sci-fi stories we read and films we see. Films tend to visualize robotics and AI based on human aesthetics, creating technological replicas. When they closely resemble a human it leaves a negative effect on us, when they become more like us, we fear them, they become “uncanny”. However, the development itself attempts to duplicate humans, which leaves the current state of this technology in a paradox. Recently, films have shifted from a negative view on the topic towards a positive view, how can these visualizations, assist in reality? 

The development of robotics and strong AI is inevitable and it will change our future society dramatically. It will blur the border between man and machine when we attempt to create technological duplicates of mankind, a development to improve our own species. Our world is on the verge of jumping into a highly technological era, sci-fi is not a vision anymore, we as collective mankind have to re-evaluate in what world we want to live in. Is this development another step in human evolution? If so, how can we reduce the current fear of personified robotics and AI? How should we design these entities for us to accept them in our future society?

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