Living Robots — Bad News for Humanity
A few days ago, Wyss Institute at Harvard University, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Vermont and Tufts University, published a paper showing that they have developed biological robots that can move on their own, “feed” themselves, and even self-replicate and reproduce. With this feat, these robots have met the three basic requirements for science to define them as living beings. However, they are living robots and not organisms that have evolved naturally. As robots, they do what their operator instructs them to do. As living organisms, they can be placed anywhere and reproduce independently and indefinitely.
I know that in the end we will wise up and learn to use knowledge for the common good. In the end, we will realize that we are all connected and we cannot hurt others without hurting ourselves. The only question is how much agony we will have to endure before we learn.
This is bad news for humanity. I cannot imagine anything good coming out of this. These games of ours, when we “play” with new inventions, never lead to anything good. Now, in addition to nuclear weapons and the countless other curses that science has wrought on our heads, we will have another headache.
It has been known since biblical times that “The inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). Regrettably, knowing how evil we are has never stopped us from behaving according to our nature. Despite the horrors of the twentieth century, with its two world wars, the Holocaust, and several genocides on a massive scale, humanity does not seem to have improved one bit, or that it even tries.
Man must not be given more than a rock and a stick. In fact, you can trust him to misuse even these, not to mention anything more sophisticated and potentially harmful.
Even in ancient times it was clear that unworthy people should not have access to knowledge. In his book Phaedrus, Plato wrote, “When [speeches (teachings)] have been once written down, they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, or to whom not. And if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them, and they cannot protect or defend themselves.”
But who listens to the wise? No one. We listen only to our own selfish whims, which is why our world is in such a poor state.
I am not being pessimistic. I know that in the end we will wise up and learn to use knowledge for the common good. In the end, we will realize that we are all connected and we cannot hurt others without hurting ourselves. The only question is how much agony we will have to endure before we learn.