Man and robot should join together in a singular destiny

TBy Dan Koski

those who long for the days when our embattled nation could turn to our news and find run-of-the-mill stories dominating the headlines received a late Christmas present this winter, when the offbeat sect known as the Raelians announced that they “had achieved immortality” through the cloning of two humans. Though their claim was largely discredited by the mainstream, the question of cloning and ethics was thrown once again to the forefront. Is the cloning of human beings a logical step in the process toward a brave new world, or are we opening the door towards greater human disaster? What are the religious and moral ramifications of cloning? Will “body part shops” become a mainstay of modern medicine among affluent nations, where a faulty heart or a poor lung may be merely replaced with new, improved models for those that can afford it? And of course, what if cloning technology should fall into the wrong hands, deeming it possible that another Hitler or Stalin could rise from the dead?

I have thought long and hard about these many questions. And time and time again, I come back to the conclusion that the sane and better alternative to cloning is the development of better, more efficient robots.

As a child, I longed for the days when robots would become chockablock in our nation. From Sesame Street and Isaac Asimov to “Mech Warriors” and “The Jetsons,” I saw a future in which every convenience and commodity would involve robots that could cater to our every whim. Even catalogs were full of toys that reached for the near-possible dream of robots that could achieve some smaller tasks. I never thought much of these toys and television programs, but I saw them as a step up towards the greater dream of man and robot joining in a singular destiny.

Sadly, today I see a decline in this great dream. Yes, I know that our stores and expos are lined with gadgets and gizmos that bark and move, but they are a travesty compared to what could be. Would Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein settle for the metallic claptrap toys that our so-called “scientists” and “researchers” come up with?

No! A thousand times no! They would push on towards creating a race of atomic robots that would bring us closer to the gods of old. There is no need for cloning when a robotic surgeon can resurrect the dead with a photonic energy lifebeam! No need for “body part shops” when a mechanical arm, eye or esophagus could do the trick!

Consider the benefits in other areas, such as the jump-starting of our weakened domestic industry. More and more Americans are on the go, but cooks, maids, butlers, gardeners and nannies are still eluding even the middle and upper classes. With robotic servants, we can leave our worries to increasing our capital. Even the financially-pressed college student might be able to “hire out” a robot to do menial jobs at diners, fast-food shops and movie theaters. Police work, even military service, would benefit from flying robot soldiers deployed for foreign or domestic work. No need to waste human lives when “Mr. Titanium” can be replaced. Note taking, grocery shopping, escorts, home security – the list of possibilities is endless.

Of course, some reactionaries worry that robots themselves will fulfill the Frankenstein nightmare and turn against us. But fear not, for every house that has robot appliances will be equipped with one powerful weapon that no RX-24 Domestic or Atzon P3 could ever match – the human mind. Supposing our own “HALs” would rise up against us (and if programmed right, they never will), we can always defeat them in the realm of creativity, dousing them with a bucket of water or pulling the circuit box switch.

But let’s not give in to conservative malarkey about some sort of mechanical mayhem arising from our nation’s laboratories. Let’s think sensibly, and turn a bionic eye toward the future. Robots are here to stay, and they are marching into our hearts with every invention that we make. The Germans and the Japanese may be ahead of us with cars or radios, but we can still beat them on the robot front if we have the courage to do so. In fact, if I am any judge of competitive markets, we better get a move on.

By putting our technological research and development out of cloning and into robotics, we can ensure a better future for all of us on planet Earth. But we must ultimately make the push ourselves, starting here, at the University. Get active by writing to the chairmen and chairwomen of our college and urge them to use money from plant and animal research grants for robotic development. A percentage or two more in student fees, perhaps even voluntary, could mean an electronic genius to teach your kids 10 years from now. Once we bridge the great robotic gap, the sky will be the limit. Moving sidewalks on every street corner, hydrogen powered jet-packs for the commuter, anti-gravity rayguns, even hovercraft mobile-homes are not impossibilities for a robot-friendly world. All we have to do is encourage our movers and shakers, and those old ads and late-night movies filled with robotic dreams not yet made will no longer mock our society and what it could be.

The iron dream is possible, if we are willing to work for it. The choice is yours.

Dan Koski is a University senior studying history. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]