About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Ground the drones now!

Warnings from Modern Prophets (SciFi Writers)
    In 1920 the Czech writer and playwright Karel Čapek coined the word ROBOT in a very early science fiction play called R.U.R. (Rozum’s Universal Robots) - here is an English translation. In this play, human engineers created artificial biological beings; today we would called them “androids”. Čapek called them Robots, deriving their name from an old Slavic word for servitude. In his dystopian vision Robots were ever more severely exploited and finally used to fight human wars until they rebelled, and turned against their creators and eliminated the human race. Only in the very last sentences of the play, in the epilogue, is there a glimmer of hope, when a couple of the most human-like robots with procreation ability are sent out to start a new human-like race.
    A great number of science fiction writers were always weary of the human propensity for doing evil and the ability of their technological creations to reflect and even amplify this destructive ability. That was the reason why famous American Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov formulated, as early as in 1942, three basic laws of robotics:
  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
In theoretic and fictional ways writers and thinkers explored and further perfected these laws. In thought experiments it became obvious that the absence of these or very similar laws has dire consequences for human culture and even existence.
    Why do I write about it? Because such dystopian development is becoming a very current possibility. The American military (and even the C.I.A.) have been operating for years drones equipped with weapons. They have killed thousands of people (often civilian women and children bystanders) in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and who knows where else. As morally problematic (even corrupt) as this form of warfare might be, until recently these drones were remotely operated by humans - officers working in shifts. But the military has a serious problem, even “well trained” (understand patriotically brainwashed) officers are not completely immune to human feelings. The human element, even if kept safe and isolated in distant rural military bases, turned to be the weakest element of this murderous strategy. It is a chronically under reported fact that the units of drone operators have serious burnout and drop-off problems (some of the original drone pilots or gunners even becoming difficult vocal opponents). And thus, lately it has been reported that the military and its DARPA (Scientific defense agency) started to play with an idea of eliminating the human factor all together. There is a real danger that soon we will have true killing machines independently calling shots unburdened with such “useless” complications as conscience and moral feelings. And of course they will be unhindered by any such thing as the Basic Laws of Robotics in any of their forms. You do not need to be a fan of Science Fiction to see where it can take us!
    I am getting increasingly worried. It is time to start listening to biblical as well as modern prophets. Biblical prophets warn us against human evil, greed, aggression, militarism and imperialism. Modern prophets (SciFi writers) explicate how human moral flaws can be expanded and multiplied by technology. We should take their conjoined warnings seriously and insist on having the three basic laws of robotics integrated into every artificially intelligent machine.

Isaac Asimov 1920-1992

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