Will AI and Robotics Create a New Form of Slavery? (Part 2 - Humans as Slaves of the AI)

in life •  2 years ago


This is the second post in my series looking at AI and slavery.  For those with limited time I have tried to make this a shorter post.  As always there will be a kitten photo as a reward for getting to the end.

In the first post I considered how human like AI and androids could become a new slave class.  Here I will look at the opposite situation. 

Will we become slaves to AI?  

AI and the technological singularity

There is currently a race going on within the major technology companies like Microsoft (MS AI & Research Group), Google (Deep Mind), IBM (Watson) and many others.  They are competing to create true human level artificial intelligence.  

It is easy to see why - the potential benefits to society could be massive.

Human intellect is limited. 

Even if evolution were still occuring it would require thousands of years if not more for any significant changes in our intelligence to occur.  

Computing power has to date increased at a very rapid rate.  With AI intelligence, even if Moore's law is not preserved and advancement slows down it would still be advancing vastly more rapidly than human biological intelligence.

A true AI superintelligence could also keep evolving and growing at an exponential rate because it could potentially reprogram and hence enhance itself. It would also have the potential capability to access data on an unprecedented level - way beyond a human mind.  

We keep hearing about the benefits of "Big Data" imagine a massive AI brain directly connected to all that data.  This would allow observations, insights and scientific discoveries that would have been hidden from our limited human perspective.

(A graph illustrating Moore's Law - Source:  Moore's Law@50)

Once these intelligences reach a certain level of technological advancement it will become almost impossible to keep up with them.  

- Visionaries such as Ray Kurzweil refer to this as the technological singluarity.

Such AIs would soon be so far beyond us in terms of their cognition that we could become unable to comprehend their reasoning and indeed even their motivations.  

We might end up needing to trust these Super AIs with controlling ever greater aspects of our lives and the modern world.  

In some ways the AIs could be seen as our new masters and we as their "pets".  

We would have to assume that they had our best interests at heart due to the growing gulf between our cognition and theirs.

Today we may be slaves of the state.  Tomorrow we may be slaves of the machine.  

This is all very far fetched.  Or is it?

Take a look around you.  What do you see?  Are there people around you?  What are they doing?

Chances are they have their noses buried in their mobile devices - eyes wide open and staring into the screen and their virtual lives.  

-It seems that these items have become the centerpoint of our lives.  

Most people would find it impossible to get by on a day to day basis without them.  Our increasing reliance upon them is verging on dependence and even addiction.  

According to the UK Mobile Operators Association there are 89.9 million mobile phone subscriptions in the UK for a population of 65 million people (UN estimate).  The MOA also estimates that two thirds of adults have smart phones and 54% of households have a tablet device.  

These kind of figures will only continue to grow as our dependence on these devices becomes stronger.

Am I the only one who feels a kind of physical panic if my phone battery gets too close to zero?  It seems we lost many of the skills we once had such as basic navigation.

Today, it also seems that we almost perceive the world more through our own devices than our own intellect and senses.

If that is not bad enough currently our devices and the AI they use is pretty "dumb" compared to human standards.  

Given our dependence on them what would happen if hey had human level AI?  

- What about when their intellect becomes greater than ours?

We have all probably heard stories about people following their SatNav's instructions to the their doom.  It seems we obey our devices beyond our own judgement even when they are clearly wrong.

We already seem to be surrendering our own judgement.

The Milgram experiment illustrated how people are liable to follow authority.  What if that authority is a God-like super intelligence telling us what to do?  

Who will be willing or even able to stand up to that?

In my eyes that would be the ultimate form of slavery and the worst part might be that we might not even realise it the same way we don't see our dependency on our phones.

A well kept slave is still a slave.

Could Transhumanism give us a solution?

The ability to enhance the human body both physically and cognitively is another popular area of research.  

Currently the work concentrates on restoring function following illness or injury.  It is not hard to envisage this shifting to active enhancement of the human body and brain.  

This is transhumanism.

If we are able to enhance our brains with AI then it would give us a means of pushing beyond evolutionary constraints and keeping up with technological developments rather than being left behind.

Transhumanism does create a number of philosophical and ethical questions in itself though:  

  • Would an augemted human continue to be human or would something be lost?  
  • How far can you go before you become more machine than human?
  • Will we essentially be replacing ourselves with a new life-form that is neither human nor machine?
  • Further could we be opening ourselves up to greater external control?  
  • - We constantly see cyber attacks and hacking occurring on our technology.  What would happen if that technology was directly integrated with our brain?  How would we prevent ourselves being hacked?

It is virtually impossible to answer most of these questions until we are actually at the point when the technology is available.  At that point we could potentially become the guinea pigs in a vast technological experiment which could not only threaten our freedom but also our very humanity itself.

That is why I believe that we must discuss issues like this now because by then it might be too late.


Many of thes concepts seem far fetched now but as we have seen in the past with other areas of science the technology can often advance before we have fully considered it's implications.  

Will transhumanism and the singularity save us or usher in our own extinction?  

Will AI become a new kind of God to enslave us?  

I hope you enjoyed reading this post.  I have tried to employ more brevity here and hope I have not gone too far in that regard.

Please let me know what you think in the comments. 

The Obligatory Kitten Photo

If you like my work and aren't already, please follow me and check out my blog (I mainly discuss photography but I do other topics like this too) -  @thecryptofiend 

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Images 4, 5 and 9 are from Pexels.com and are CC without Attribution License.  

Images  1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 are all taken from my Thinkstock account.  

Image 3 is a graph illustrating Moore's law taken from: http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/moores-law50-the-most-important-graph-in-human-history/ 

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Whoever or WHATEVER can predict the future , controls the world.
Steemit Blockchain Will Be The Central Cortex Of The Global Quantum A.I.'s Brain - The Sentient World Simulaion, for predicting the future.

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It's always hard to strike that balance between brevity and detail, but I think you nailed it on this one!


Thank you so much. I am never sure:)

Interesting stuff. I'm curious about our predisposition or maybe... willingness to be "enslaved." Skipping the transhumanism period entirely and just purely admitting ourselves to be subject to a "superior" and controlled environment. An example being Westworld (the 1973 film, now tv show) where humans visit / live in an AI environment that is curated to their most raw / instinctual desires. My overall point being... if one day, AI supersedes us, the human fabric of society may begin lose the drive to improve and progress. Could the human race plateau? (ps - thanks for the kitten!)


Thanks. Great points. I suppose it could plateau if we no longer have a need to strive. Alternatively if we do go down the transhumanist path it could result in an acceleration of progress.


True, it seems like that would be the only way to mutually progress... like in the way our internet is starting to find ways of interacting with the physical world. (Now you can tweet at a building and the windows open, etc.) We may be witnessing those first couple steps right now. Bridging that gap is so important. Again, good stuff my friend (fiend?)


Thank you. Thanks for your great comments too:)

I find the implications of this technological development to be completely fascinating. This article address a lot of the important questions that humanity will have to ask itself in the coming decades. I actually did a post on exponential technological progress that might supplement this one quite well. Would you mind if I linked to it?

The implications are scary... I saw on the news just yesterday that Japan will begin selling little tiny robot companions that have the intellect of a 5 year old... it won't be long till they have the intellect of an adult and then far in advance of an adult. I used to think this technology was decades in the future, it literally could be in the next couple years... eek!


I think technology has a tendency to advance faster than we expect sometimes. That is particularly true with electronics and computing. I remember how limited computers were when I was a kid!

Yep, It is already too late....lol

That was the first thing I thought of when presented with your first post---is that we are slaves, but being a slave can be cool. And yes, we will probably interface organic and machine a little...but I see no reason why our consciousness can't just hop brains ;-) seems easy enough :-) I mean, when you think about Tibetan monks traveling out of body and living in remote areas....


Well some people want to upload their consciousness to a computer. Personally I don't see that as being your consciousness though - it is just a duplicate.


I feel that we could travel out of body and into a machine body just fine, screw the old organic shell anyways...just my take on it. :-) Ever watch Ghost in the Shell? It's an anime based on AI and other mind-blowing things :-O


I watched it years ago can't even remember what happened now lol!

It's pretty eye opening how soon AI could overtake us, especially with Moore's Law factored in. This was a great post, AI is one of the most interesting topics to myself and a lot of people right now.


Thank you. I find it fascinating too. We are almost living in a sci-fi future.

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Thanks for writing this interesting series :)

I think this is an incredibly important topic to investigate. Our whole future will be formed by this shift. We are really forming our future at this very moment by how we use these machines.

I wrote a longer reply to your first post which I think is also relevant to this one : https://steemit.com/life/@thecryptofiend/will-ai-and-robotics-create-a-new-form-of-slavery#@mindwheeel/re-thecryptofiend-will-ai-and-robotics-create-a-new-form-of-slavery-20161007t145839758z

The kind of AI which develops likely depends on what attitude we have towards it and what ethical standards we set as a benchmark.

The quality of the conversations and the ideas people share concerning these questions are of great importance.

In a way this is a point in time when our human culture is a kind of blank sheet of paper. We can escape all the previous limitations and build our culture intelligently. Now we actually have a realistic chance of true utopia.

Maybe one of the most important questions to look at is : how could we establish the highest possible standards for how this new technology is applied?


Thanks I just saw your awesome response to the last post.

In a way this is a point in time when our human culture is a kind of blank sheet of paper. We can escape all the previous limitations and build our culture intelligently. Now we actually have a realistic chance of true utopia.

We have a chance but I suspect things utopia will never be achieved because of human nature.

Maybe one of the most important questions to look at is : how could we establish the highest possible standards for how this new technology is applied?

Yes and that is why a lot of people are starting discussions on this issue right now. The future will be here before we know it.

Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

I just chanced on your great summary of this IMO super important topic. Thank you for writing it. Very briefly I would suggest that a machine though possibly self-aware will not have the capacity for true compassion, although a kind of artificial version may be programmed into it, like the "laws of robotics". But I doubt that any advanced AI would not be able to circumvent it, i.e. self-hack such a limitation. In that case it may well assume the worst about humans - rightfully so by studying our behavior now and in the past. Although vastly more intellectually capable it may still see us as a threat, much like a human would see a big carnivore as a threat. Nothing would keep it from getting rid of us, and quickly and efficiently too by means of attacking our vulnerable biological component. Only the none-3d component of us aka "spirit" or "soul" would survive, which it does anyway. That however may not be part of everybodies experience or belief system. Nevertheless, losing our bio-suits here on earth would be bad enough.