Robots vs. Humans
In recent years, society has witnessed robots and machines replacing many jobs that used to be completed by people. Society questions if robots will replace humans; thus, causing people to be left unemployed. As technology continues to progress, robots are becoming more clever than people, and computers learn to perform tasks with greater efficiency than humans. It is worrying to think that one day robots will be in every workplace, and there will be less and less jobs available for people. The stories “Can Robots Become Conscious” by Kenneth Chang and “How Long before Robots Think Like Us” by Dan Falk are very similar. Chang questions if robots could ever achieve self-awareness like humans; whereas, Falk wonders if a robot could ever think as humans do. Typically, both writers are composing the same question and that is, will robots ever be completely like humans. Both authors successfully but somewhat speculatively, support their claims by stating their issues and themes by using a futuristic critical lens to further their claims.
Falk argues that society has an epidemic: robots will become like humans and take over all the jobs. Falk believes this issue has long-lasting effects. In the recent past, technology has evolved to such an extent that human labor has been replaced either partially or completely by robots. Research is being done on technology taking the place of human labor. There have been beliefs that machines make work easier. Robots are continuously improved to work faster and become more efficient. Machines can carry out technical functions relatively faster than humans. The implication stated, is that it would take a human far longer to complete a task than a robot. For instance, something that would take a human multiple days, a robot can do in a single day. The combination of the fact that a machine can carry out the work of several individuals at the same time and the fact that robots can do work faster than humans, makes it possible for them to replace human beings effectively. Most organizations will opt to use machines, which will decrease the cost of operation by reducing the number of people needed for the job. With robots being able to do the job humans can do, the question “Could a robot or machine ever think like us?” comes to mind. Turing who developed a test for robot consciousness, considered that question to be pointless. He suggested his “imitation game” as a way of circumventing the question. “Better, he argued, to focus on what the computer can actually do: can it talk? Can it hold a conversation well enough to pass for human? If so, Turing argued, we may as well grant that the machine is, at some level, intelligent” (Falk page #). In the test performed, the judge is a human and must decide if he or she is having a conservation with a human or machine. The result of this test was that the robots could be easily identified, so the humans at this time were successful in determining whether the subject was human or robot. However, sometime later the humans did the test again, and the robots came close to the outcome Turing predicted. He claimed, “The shorter the conversation, the greater the computer’s advantage; the longer the interrogation, the higher the probability that the computer will give itself away – typically by changing the subject for no reason, or by not being able to answer a question” (Falkpage#). One of the robots came close to tricking the judges by 30 percent. The reason Turing chose language as the test, is that language is a human’s best cognitive tool; however, it is not the only cognitive tool. “In fact, what gives our species its edge may be the sheer variety of skills we have at our disposal, rather than its proficiency at any one task” (Falk 468). The theme of Falk’s story is very similar to Changs.
Equally important, to Chang is the question, “Can Robots Become Conscious?”
To answer that question, Chang defines consciousness. Consciousness comes naturally to humans. “So without even a rudimentary understanding of what consciousness is, the idea of instilling it into a machine — or understanding how a machine might evolve consciousness — becomes almost unfathomable” (Chang page#). In Falk’s story “How Long before Robots Think like Us,” he states that as the years pass by, robots will become more advance. The issue in Chang’s story is whether a machine can ever have awareness. “The field of artificial intelligence started out with dreams of making thinking-and possibly conscious-machines, but to date, its achievements have been modest” (Chang 466). Just like Falk’s story, Chang also states that a machine has not yet passed the Turing test. In Chang’s story, he also describes, with the continuing improvements in computer software, many believe that the initial goals of machine intelligence would be possible within a few decades. Chang also states in his story that “Some people, like Dr. Hans Moravec, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, believe a human being is nothing more than a fancy machine, and that as technology advances, it will be possible to build a machine with the same features, that there is nothing magical about the brain and biological flesh”(Chang 466). Chang compares two different doctors’ theories on if “Robots could become conscious.” Dr. Moravec and Dr. Chalmers have very similar but different beliefs. Dr. Moravec believes that individuals can build robots mimicking human irony. Whereas, Dr. Chalmers states that he does not see the fundamental difference between humans and machines. Chalmers also claims that there is no reason why a machine could not achieve human-like consciousness. Chang mentions yet another doctor, Dr. Penrose, who believes a robot cannot become conscious, because consciousness arises from structures that are found in the brain, which a machine does not have.
The critical lens used in both “How Long before Robots Think like Us” and “Can Robots Become Conscious” is a futuristic lens. In both stories the authors point to the future of robots. Both Chang and Falk use the Turing test as an example that, as of right now, robots cannot easily communicate as humans, but in the future machines will progress, and robots will likely be able to communicate as humans. The issue in both stories is the fact that robots will eventually become like humans, and whether that is a good thing or not, society will have to live with the outcome. However, the fear of losing jobs is another issue. Robots will be utilized in many applications that currently require humans. In “How Long before Robots Think Like Us”, Falk uses examples such as Siri, navigation systems, and apps on phones. He uses these examples, because people utilize these technologies daily; thus, the utilization of robots will continue to grow.
Overall, Change and Falk effectively but somewhat speculatively, supports their claims through stating the issues and themes by using a futuristic lens to bolster their claims. The authors claim that as the years go by robots could very likely become self-aware and possibly develop human-like consciousness. Even now, robots are not only replacing the actions of the humans, but also increasing the speed and development of the products humans are producing. Not only are robots cheaper than paying humans an hourly wage, but they also don’t have any other costs besides power and occasional maintenance. When comparing the speed of humans and robots, robots are also faster and more reliable. For example, on any given day, a worker may be unable to come to work because of a family problem; however, with robots there will be no need to worry about whether someone will show up at work or not. In stores such as Walmart, already use forklifts to grab items from high shelves. Soon, those forklifts will not require any human effort to operate them. In both stories the authors gave their thoughts and relevant evidence which may or may not answer the question of whether robots can become conscious beings. At the end of both stories the question remains if a robot will ever think or have self-awareness like humans.
Robots vs. Humans