Posts Tagged 'Humans'

The ever warm topic of robotics is heating up once again.

It’s hard to disentangle if the advent of two robot related TV shows is causing this spike of automated interest, or whether a bunch of companies have held their recent press releases to coincide with the promotional campaigns for said shows. Regardless of the timing, or the machinations of marketeers, there’s no doubting a shift in the wider messaging around the advent of more sophisticated robots within our lives.

To help define what we’re on about, have a look at these two pieces of data released by the business publication Forbes. The first shows off the countries that currently have the highest populations of industrial robots, while the second similar list marks out the countries with the greatest risk of human job losses to robotic workforces.

More demonstrable evidence of this tipping point can be found in the fact that Japan is addressing one interesting Sci-Fi issue – The Silver Tsunami – by introducing robot engineers to supplement an aging construction workforce. A similar situation is happening within North American agriculture, where the combined factors of a retiring itinerant workforce and a better standard of living in their native countries is leading to diminishing number of labourers within fruit farming. The solution? Harvest CROO Robotics!

It’s not just the human workforce that are being supplanted by increasing numbers of machines. While The Guardian’s round-up of robots mimicking animal behaviour neglects to mention Festo’s styalised droids, it does refer to NASA researching robotic bees for Mars exploration, as well as an octopoid robot powered by chemical reactions and hydrolics – that means zero mechanics parts.

So these are just some of the stories clustering behind the sensational moments depicted in the already well-received Westworld season two (see above), and the return of Channel 4’s Humans. Whether we like it or not, social demands, technological advancements and the needs of industry are making these fictions a reality. Which means the robotic revolution isn’t coming. It’s already here.

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Humans Channel 4

There are times when the inherent integrity of science fiction is humbling. Yes, the genre is currently squirming in the aftermath of its own version of gamer gate, but the fact that it is so open and inclusive means that even reactionary elements are heard, considered and then either supported or derided. It’s a mess, but a very self-aware, contemplative mess and one that has more than enough homegrown tales of caution about stifling freedom of speech to ensure Noam Chomsky will never have reason to complain.

There have always been questionable libertarians, homophobes and closet racists who have decided that SciFi is a worthy – and probably safe – platform for their views. History has been rewritten through its lens, a religion has been formed and a lot of truly terrible books, films, TV and radio plays have been produced. All of which, while challenging to personal tastes, is wonderfully nonprescriptive.

It’s unsurprising then that while the genre takes itself to task over the views it voices, it is always a basic reflection of the times we live in. Look at the demonising of minorities, and then consider the flurry of android-based ethical tales that have recently appeared. While Quantic Dream’s Kara tech demo, within the games space, perfectly captures the uncanny effect of these ‘living dolls’, there are numerous other recent examples. Swedish TV’s Real Humans, created by Lars Lundström, was aired in 2012. This was then followed more recently by Gabe Ibáñez’s 2014 film Autamaton which starred Antonion Banderas. This year we’ve already seen Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and now Channel 4 are releasing their own, distinctly British, take with Humans this June. Which as far as French/Swedish/Spanish/British cross pollination goes, already seems pretty diverse to me.

So, while the Sad Puppy saga may well be disheartening for some, it’s also evidence of just how adaptive SciFi can be and that, my friends, is why it will endure. To steal from one of the past highlights in machine/human relations… All this has happened before, and it will happen again.

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