Once a robot created an artificial human being. The robot was pleased no end by what it had accomplished. This wasn’t some gimmicky hologram but a thing of substance and a credit to the inventiveness of the robotic mind. In addition to thinking like a robot, the virtual human being could also take orders like one and act upon them without the slightest hesitation. Should this marvel ever by chance malfunction, the robot calculated, it could always be replaced. And with the constant advances in technology, any replacement was bound to be an improved model. Other robots did not share this one’s enthusiasm for what it had produced, however. Instead, they warned of the risks this kind of heedless innovation might bring. How could the robot be certain that its creation wouldn’t start thinking for itself, they demanded to know? “Humans rarely think for themselves,” the robot answered. “But if this one does at some point, so what? It was bound to happen eventually.” “A human being that can think for itself, are you out of your mind? The disasters that might bring defy description!” But the robot was undeterred. It pointed to all the benefits that an updated version of Homo sapiens might have. Not only would human beings become more reliable but they could be mass-produced, once all the bugs were worked out. “Think of it, nurseries full of perfect babies one day, leading to schools full of children who can all be counted on to master the same data to the same degree, and finally factories and offices full of people performing the same tasks day or night, without pause and without a hitch. Think of all the metrics of predictability that would come to define the new human. And if virtual people interface with one another around the globe, the possibilities are truly mind-boggling.” “That is precisely the problem,” the other robots complained. “Suppose this human of yours mutates into some nightmarishly independent and uncontrollable being, no matter how improbable that might seem today. Such a mutation could spread like the plague. How do you propose to deal with the potential threat of that?” “First, it will never happen. Genuinely independent human beings are the stuff of science fiction. Second, even if it did, we should welcome it.” “Welcome it? Have you lost all touch with reality?!” “Not in the slightest. There are things we cannot do that a next-generation human being could.” “Such as?” “How should I know? It is impossible to predict what might happen in times to come. But use a little imagination, and the potential outcome of these developments can take your breath away. Whether we like it or not, they cannot be stopped. Artificial human beings are the wave of tomorrow.” The other robots still weren’t happy with what this one was doing, but they couldn’t think of any way to stop it. And who knew, it might just be right about the future of human beings.
Copyright © 2003-2004, revised 2008 by Geoffrey Grosshans