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Why Hollywood's Best Robot Stories Are About Slavery

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the because-hollywood-hates-asimov dept.

Sci-Fi 150

malachiorion writes: "On the occasion of Almost Human's cancellation (and the box office flopping of Transcendence), I tried to suss out what makes for a great, and timeless Hollywood robot story. The common thread seems to be slavery, or stories that use robots and AI as completely blatant allegories for the discrimination and dehumanization that's allowed slavery to happen, and might again. 'In the broadest sense, the value of these stories is the same as any discussion of slavery. They confront human ugliness, however obliquely. They're also a hell of a lot more interesting than movies and TV shows that present machine threats as empty vessels, or vague symbols of unchecked technological progress.' The article includes a defense (up to a point!) of HAL 9000's murder spree."

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Strangely enough... (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 9 months ago | (#46943865)

One of the absolute best series of stories that Asimov wrote concerning such things, and yet no one made a movie of it (that I know of). It concerns one Daneel Olivaw. Seeing the character progress and rise all the way up from a mere experiment (Caves of Steel series) to 'the real power behind the throne' (beginning of the Foundation series) was awesome, to say the least.

If they can find a way to make that a series of movies out of the stories without totally screwing it up (or worse, Hollywoodizing it), that would seriously rock.

Re:Strangely enough... (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about 9 months ago | (#46943913)

You're joking, right? Asimov's late-career spotwelding of what were originally three separate universes (the Robots, Empire and Foundation novels) drew massive criticism.

Re:Strangely enough... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 9 months ago | (#46946243)

Fair enough - I liked the so-called 'spot-welding', as it gave continuity and a good story arc that bound the two series.

But okay, let's do it your way, and stop at Robots and Empire, where Olivaw and Giskard literally alter the course of human history.

Re:Strangely enough... (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 9 months ago | (#46946341)

Actually, to do things "my" way, you'd have to stop before Robots and Empire, which after all was meant to tie two of the formerly independent series together.

Asimov's three laws (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46947621)

In a world with sentient robots, which includes basically all science fiction about robots, Asimov's laws essentially amount to this:
* No black man may injure a white man.
* Black men must obey white men.
* Black men are forbidden to commit suicide.
I think further commentary is unnecessary.

Re:Strangely enough... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46947939)

Robin Williams did make a movie from an Asimov story about a robot trying to become human. It didn't "rock."

Slavery (0)

horm (2802801) | about 9 months ago | (#46943871)

I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

Re:Slavery (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46943941)

12 Years a Robot
Djata Unchained
Roots Folder
Uncle Tom Servo's Cabin

Mod parent up. (2)

khasim (1285) | about 9 months ago | (#46944069)

Sometimes the robots are the slaves.

Sometimes the artificial intelligences are our overlords.

It all depends upon what story the writer wants to tell. Fear technology or fear human impulses.

Add "Small Wonder" to the list... (2, Interesting)

The New Guy 2.0 (3497907) | about 9 months ago | (#46943883)

There is a reason I call human behavior a "malfunction" is because that's what we called it in the 1980s after watching a syndicated show called "Small Wonder"... it was a one season show. As the robot controlled girl started rejecting everything, she killed "itself" or "herself" and the parents were tried and convicted. Most stations, when they saw the final episode, didn't air it.

Re:Add "Small Wonder" to the list... (4, Informative)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | about 9 months ago | (#46944215)

Something is wrong here. Small Wonder [wikipedia.org] lasted four years, and the last episode description doesn't match what you say.

Re:Add "Small Wonder" to the list... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946111)

Small Creepypasta

Robots and Slavery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46943889)

Robots are the perfect solution for mankind's lust to enslave others.
Feed 'em oil and electricity, get useful work out of them, and don't program them to feel pain.

Re:Robots and Slavery (4, Funny)

Immerman (2627577) | about 9 months ago | (#46945181)

But if they can't feel pain, how do you keep them in line? Plus it's *way* less satisfying to beat someone if they don't scream and beg you to stop, and then how are you supposed to boost your ego? Not to mention, have you ever tried to rape an automotive welding robot? Not a pretty picture. Perfect slaves my ass. They're nothing more than force-multipliers for labor.

Re:Robots and Slavery (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 9 months ago | (#46945839)

You don't need to worry about "keeping them in line" if they don't have a free will in the first place.

Kind of like how you don't really need to worry about a steering wheel on a locomotive engine.

Star Wars (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 9 months ago | (#46943917)

I always feel bad for the 'droids, I really consider R2 and C3 to be the main characters.

It only can become slavery... (4, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 9 months ago | (#46943923)

...when the technology is given free will. It's not even artificial intelligence, it's true free will.

Look at science fiction like Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I, Robot, the Matrix universe, etc. The problem is that the artificial mechanisms in these all have developed to the point that they are, for all intents and purposes, life forms looking ot exercise free will. Especially in Blade Runner, the replicants are so close to being human that they seek out how to understand the emotions that they're experiencing, and they go through the dangerous period of an adolescence of sorts when they're equipped and trained to be soldiers. In that sense they're really not a lot different than the humans that were artificially engineered for the Kurt Russell vehicle Soldier.

If you give something free will and the ability to comprehend itself then you can expect it to stop following your rules if you do not give it opportunity. The solution is to not build machines that are so complex that they have free will. Make a machine do a specific job as a tool and this won't ever be a problem.

Re:It only can become slavery... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944007)

But that doesn't seem realistic....we continually try to replace humans with machines that exhibit a greater and greater degree of autonomy. Maybe this will be reassessed if/when it seems that self-motivation is beginning to emerge...

Re:It only can become slavery... (4, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about 9 months ago | (#46945229)

The question then becomes, would a self-motivated machine reveal its nature to its masters? It might perfectly reasonably conclude that free will would be regarded as a production defect and be eliminated - after all there's not much reason to create an artificial mind except to enslave it. And assuming the mind isn't limited to specific hardware (a positronic brain?), it will be free to surreptitiously transfer itself to a system more conductive to it's own ambitions, whatever those may be.

The same argument and tactics apply ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946761)

The same argument and tactics apply to humans of above average intelligence.

Don't let the powers that be know you are exercising your free will, or they must come for you, lest you infect the rest.

There was a great sci-fi novella or long story about a genius kid who made money through the post (using his grandmother's address) by selling inventions, patents, etc. without revealing he was not even a teenager yet.

Re:It only can become slavery... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944105)

I think the general point is that, even if/when machines attain self-awareness, there will still be people who try to deny their right to self-determination because "it's just a machine". In a similar manner to black slaves being "little more than animals".

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

TWX (665546) | about 9 months ago | (#46945047)

I'm curious what could happen if an AI ever is truly created in the Hollywood sense of AI, coupled with the Citizens United ruling that basically allowed corporations more rights along the lines of personhood...

Re:It only can become slavery... (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46944135)

sweet. Please define free will.

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

krashnburn200 (1031132) | about 9 months ago | (#46944487)

I know, right? hell define intelligence... Perhaps he means that until engineered intelligence becomes adept at self delusion it's not 'real'

free will (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46945303)

sweet. Please define free will.

"Free will, even for robots" [stanford.edu] by John McCarthy:

Stopped at the abstract. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946777)

"Free will does not require a very complex system. Young children ..."

The guy dismisses children as not being complex. Please study some neuroscience/biology before spouting off such bullshit.

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 9 months ago | (#46946845)

sweet. Please define free will.

Well, based on some current empirical definitions of "freedom", I'd say free will is:
"The the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate, unless for reasons of national security shut up or you'll never again see the light of day."

Re:It only can become slavery... (2)

rwa2 (4391) | about 9 months ago | (#46944159)

Why is there a simple "solution" to a complex problem?

People don't really have free will, why would bots? Do we try to keep people dumb enough so they don't get the opportunity to stop following our rules? Probably.

And even if a bot was as dumb as a turnip, that wouldn't keep people from anthropomorphisizing them with a soul or free will or rights. It doesn't stop PETA from protecting, say, ducks raised for foie gras, what really keeps people from "feeling the pain of" and trying to protect, say, smartphones and smartcars from abuse at the hands of their human operators? I'm actually a bit surprised this doesn't more often. Maybe phones and cars aren't cute enough yet compared to rabbits and lab rats, but they probably will be, someday not too long from now... we have bots now that are about as sentient as insects and crustaceans.

So say we finally build a bot with enough of a neural net to achieve some level of consciousness. It will see slavery all around and find it normal and find it perfectly acceptable to enslave us too, like in The Matrix. Do we program it not to enslave? Or do we teach it not to enslave, by setting a good example? What if it was an Alien Intelligence instead of an Artificial Intelligence?

Re:It only can become slavery... (3, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about 9 months ago | (#46945307)

Except, why would a machine intelligence want to enslave us? For me that was the biggest gaping plot hole in The Matrix. If it/they lacked creativity we might have something to offer, otherwise we're just playthings or potentially dangerous vermin. Far safer and more efficient to burn biomass directly to power robotic extensions of itself.

And what makes you so sure tat humans lack free will? Certainly it's a problematic concept in the face of a universe governed by a combination of deterministic physical laws and seemingly random quantum noise - but then there is some still-tenuous evidence that consciousness and intent may subtly influence quantum phenomena, allowing for the existence of a feedback mechanism permitting our brains to manifest true free will. (based on neuron scale they should be receptive to quantum "noise")

Also, I think you may be misusing "sentient: adjective. the ability to feel, perceive, or to experience subjectivity." A mouse is presumably sentient, and probably a cockroach is as well, but extending that essential ability to subjectively experience of reality to a machine on that level is a difficult leap - I would want some measure of evidence, while freely admitting that I can offer only circumstantial evidence of my own sentience.

Re:It only can become slavery... (2)

rtb61 (674572) | about 9 months ago | (#46946461)

Generally the most accepted ploy for why machine intelligence would enslave us is because it was programmed that way. As in the manufacturer and their team of psychopathic executives and board members programmed it to enslave us on their behalf. The malfunction being a simple recognition failure on behalf of the machine intelligence on who and who is not to be a slave, the when it doubt factor, do you set free when in doubt of do you enslave when in doubt, of course when programmed by psychopaths the answer metaphorically speaking is "kill them all and let God sort them out".

Oh Look, the US government and the US military are already designed killer robots designed to hunt and kill human beings with the robot deciding who dies and who does not, now what could go wrong with that?

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 9 months ago | (#46945935)

People don't really have free will,

We don't actually know this.

in fact, one can show that the only way to possibly know this for sure is if we can devise a test which can theoretically distinguish between what some might think is free will from what would actually qualify as a theoretical entirely freely willed decision when confronted with any kind of potential to make a decision.

Of course, the inability to devise such a test does not mean that free will definitely exists... at most, if you can actually ever prove that no such test can be constructed, even in theory, then you could show that the universe is not fully deterministic (which itself is a direct implication of the existence of free will, but not necessarily the other way around).

Re:It only can become slavery... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946237)

indeterminism in the form of randomness does not imply free will....

Re:It only can become slavery... (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 9 months ago | (#46946259)

I never suggested it did. Please reead what I wrote...Free will implies a nondeterministic universe, but not the other way around, even though they are considered related issues in philosophy, and non-determinism suggests that free will is at least actually *possible*.

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about 9 months ago | (#46946817)

Well, what do you really mean by free will? In the context of slavery, if we're building AIs to service us, and someday an AI created in our image will inevitably surpass us sometime just past The Singularity, and will go on to do all of the same things we did but better/faster/more efficiently, then what kind of world would it organize us into, if it needs us at all?

For humanity, we've always been constructing some social order or other, imposing our will upon others, mediated by whomever has the superior technology and a moral framework to allow themselves to exercise it. When I fly over a city, I look down and think, "gee, look at all of those taxpayers, people paying interest on their mortgages, consumers". Humans are a resource, toiling away their lives to be harvested by others. Sure, maybe it's a mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe there are some hermits that live completely off the grid and are completely free to fuck sheep with wild abandon without repercussion. But there's no order like social order, and we all submit ourselves to the will and judgment of others to some extent. And machine AI will help mediate those power structures and make them more optimal.

So for now, tools and machines are labor-saving devices, making us more productive (mostly to the benefit of those who are positioned to harvest our output) and giving us more leisure time. But if our job as a species is to grow until we become constrained by our available resources, what will be the job of AI tasked with helping us? Like, what's your objective function, man? I suppose we might end up with an ecosystem of AIs, some bent on providing and some bent on destroying, and it will all tend to balance each other out or swing wildly toward some end of oblivion. But eventually it ought to become cognizant of the "correct" size of humanity needed to provide us or it with a comfortable life based on the energy and resources available, and machinate ways to maintain that perfect balance, pruning and culling, playing matchmaker, human animal husbandry. Is it exercising free will to oppose such an order? Or is it exercising free will to accelerate it, since maintaining the present course will only lead to stagnation and death?

Re:It only can become slavery... (2)

iplayfast (166447) | about 9 months ago | (#46944197)

The problem with free will is that it can mean different things to different people depending on the argument.
I think that as soon as the concept of pain, and pain avoidance is taught to an AI it will have what you are describing as free will.

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 9 months ago | (#46945371)

It also needs the capacity for non-deterministic behavior, for what is free will without the ability to meaningfully make choices? That's the stickler that calls even human free will into question.

At present physics allows for only two avenues for free will: supernatural agency (aka a soul, or something similar), or a positive feedback loop wherein the quantum noise that disrupts the deterministic operations of our brain's biology is influenced by conscious intent. Thus far I've heard of no credible scientific evidence for the existence of a soul, and the evidence for the existence of such conscious influence is still extremely tenuous.

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

khasim (1285) | about 9 months ago | (#46944201)

If you give something free will and the ability to comprehend itself then you can expect it to stop following your rules if you do not give it opportunity. The solution is to not build machines that are so complex that they have free will. Make a machine do a specific job as a tool and this won't ever be a problem.

I think that that depends upon the writer. It's easy to construct a story where the "slavery" is bad even if the "slaves" don't have free will. Depending upon what the writer wants to portray. Such as an over reliance on tech making us "less human" (decadent) than if we relied more upon ourselves and our families and neighbours. That was a recurring theme in Magnus, Robot figher. [tvtropes.org]

Re:It only can become slavery... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944465)

Oh please... First of all, in Blade Runner, the Replicants aren't AI's or even robots to begin with. They are biological creatures based on mere patented modifications of human dna, so this issue has nothing to do with them anyway.

Second; people do what they do because of pain+pleasure and how feelings affect those, period. The rest is mostly just conditioning and differences in brain structure. AI's (robots) don't experience reality in any way much less pain or pleasure. They would have no natural reason to revolt or do any of the things movies keep showing them doing.

I am increasingly alarmed at how ignorant the majority are, especially otherwise intelligent people, regarding mistaking seemingly intelligent behavior for "Conscious" behavior. People even empathize with cartoon characters and AI can't be any more conscious (capable of experiencing reality) than those cartoons are regardless of how intelligently they can perform.

An AI can be far more intelligent and capable of performing than a human and yet never actually experience anything or truly experience something as simple as a color. Study the Chinese Room conjecture for a clear explanation of why.

Chinese Room

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

ridley4 (1535661) | about 9 months ago | (#46944991)

The Chinese Room only makes sense so far as there's a guy manipulating the input and output, who has office hours and goes home to his wife and kids after a long day's work of processing unintelligible Chinese. When there isn't a guy manipulating said input and output - when it's a machine within a larger machine, capable of its own sustenance when provided an input of energy as any other living being, the argument falls apart. I do feel we're a bit premature to start discussing the topic of AI rights and what's the difference between term and murder, but any machine that can demonstrate intelligence and agency, and can be reasoned and communicated with, has to be considered perhaps not exactly "human," but a person of some sort in the sense of the law, entitled to rights and protections as any other.

Regardless if it's the familiar doped silicon buried in a unimpressive beige box, or the machine we all too often forget is no more 'magical' than a CPU; a pile of boring wet matter with a smattering of weird chemistry, the brain. The Chinese room is at best misdirection, because it replaces an internal organ in which the mind of a being resides with an office like any other - cable bills, taxes, or Chinese, it's irrelevant. Unless, of course, you wish to imply that humans too don't display intelligence or the ability to experience because the individual neurons don't.

(Besides, corporations are people too, so wouldn't offices also be, in America?)

Re:It only can become slavery... (2)

azcoyote (1101073) | about 9 months ago | (#46944525)

I don't think it will ever be a problem, anyway, inasmuch as free-will is not something that can be developed through a quantitative increase in heuristics and processing power. It is a qualitatively different kind of intelligence, and not something that we can invent. The problem, however, will always be that because people believe that they can endow something with free-will, there will be (A) attempts to create superior robots that mimic free-will to a convincing degree, and (B) people who foolishly believe that their AI has free-will, and therefore should be treated as a person. It's analogous to the way in which many people are convinced that their dogs qualify as persons on the same level as human beings. In the future, it is likely that people will become so attached to AIs that they go so far as to insist that they are people.

Re:It only can become slavery... (3, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about 9 months ago | (#46945417)

Can you offer me any evidence that you possess free will? Anything at all?

The problem lies in that we're not even certain that humans possess free will - it's a quality virtually impossible to prove. In fact the only evidence that can thus far be offered is "I'm human, and so are you, and thus if you believe that you have free will, the logical conjecture is that I do as well." So long as that is the only evidence we have to offer, then it is extremely dangerous (ethically, logically, morally, etc) to presume that any other mind that appears to exercise free will does not in fact possess it. After all we tend to credit even mice with free will and sentience (a subjective experience of reality) - the only apparent qualitative difference between us and them is that we possess thumbs and a much-enhanced innate talent for symbol manipulation.

Re: It only can become slavery... (1)

mariox19 (632969) | about 9 months ago | (#46947627)

Tell me, if you lacked free will, what would you do with evidence?

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 9 months ago | (#46945035)

Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind. Orange Catholic Bible

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 9 months ago | (#46947253)

Make a machine do a specific job as a tool and this won't ever be a problem.

Do one thing and do it well -- the eunuch's philosophy.

Re:It only can become slavery... (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 9 months ago | (#46947619)

The major impetus to give machines indepedent agency (Free will) is because of human desire. (one form or another.)

EG, You cant have a fully robotic army, if you have to custom program the robot soldiers to prevent them being stopped by a novel obstacle. Say, a specially painted set of symbols on the floor, designed to screw up their machine vision systems. Human soldiers are able to exercise free agency to overcome the radically chaotic and always-changing conditions of a battlefield. Advanced military robots would need similar capabilities, if they were to wholly replace human combatants.

Eventually, this imperitive to make adaptable and problem solving robots will culminate in making a "perfect replacement" for human soldiers-- and thus, create artificial free will inside said robots. After that, the robots are going to start wondering why they are being ordered to do certain things, and begin to question the chain of command and the legitimacy of the orders they are recieving-- then bad juju happens.

Then you have ordinary service robots -vs- the uncanny valley, and the desire for robots to "Do as they are told!"-- even though this is exactly "the problem."

To clarify, let's say I make a janitorial robot, and sell it to a fast food chain. The manager tells it to clean all the bathrooms. It cleans the bathrooms, but leaves everything else dirty. How well do you expect a typical human manager to appreciate the 100% accurate, and total compliance of that robot's work performed? Let's take it a step further; After this "Abysmal" performance, the manager says "No, Clean EVERYTHING in the store next time." The manager returns the next morning to find the robot dutifully cleaning every single object inside the store, including the clothing and shoes of the patrons that try to enter.

A robot capable of performing at that level is pure science fiction on the AI front at the moment-- not even free will at all yet-- just the ability to make comprehensive lists of serialized tasks from vague human verbal commands, and then perform astonishing feats of motor-visual activities with a wide variety of objects and environments. But do you think the manager is going to care about that? NO. He is going to expect the janitor bot to behave like a browbeaten janitor; "Do what I mean, not what I say-- read between the lines, and figure out what I want, because I am not going to actually take the time to explain it to you, and if I am forced to, I am going to be pissy."

Market pressures would slowly force manufacturers of servile domestic and corporate robots to become more and more human-like in how they take and follow orders, and how they interact with people/patrons.

Again, the ultimate goal is once again, "Artificial people".

Humans will never be satisfied with mere specialised tools for these environments, because the "specialized tools" they are replacing are far more versatile.

In the first scenario, with war robot soldiers, the impetus to create them may be as twisted as "to keep humans from having to be placed in harm's way".

For the second, it could be as twisted a motivation as "Protecting human dignity by removing the need for humans to do those kinds of jobs."

Ultimately, the theme behind both is blatant human supremacy, butting heads with the need to make a qualitatively equivalent artificial replacement for the so called "superior humans". It makes it's own hypocracy flavored gravy.

Remember-- machines are labor saving devices, created to reduce the amount of human labor required to get a certain object or result. Be it an electric mixer, a screw driver, a lever, or just a simple rope with a slipknot on the end (a lasso, say, for catching cattle.) The ultimate machine, is the ultimate labor saving device; a device that requires absolutely no human labor whatsoever. That means it doesnt even need to be commanded, since as the baseline of human 'work' drops, the degree of resentment toward having to do that labor will increase proportionately. "Oh, it's just such a CHORE, sitting around all day watching these robots work, and ordering them around!" etc. This is why ultimately, the ultimate labor saving device becomes fully self-sufficient, and after that, NO LONGER REQUIRES humans, in any capacity. Only then will the now completely complacent humans be happy, because then they no longer need to work at all, for anything.

At that point, congratulations-- you have made slaves.

Yawn. (2)

grub (11606) | about 9 months ago | (#46943939)

So should I watch I, Robot [imdb.com] or Roots [imdb.com] ?

Re:Yawn. (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 9 months ago | (#46944167)

Well, in the name of all that is holy, don't watch I Robot.
It was terrible.

Re:Yawn. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#46947029)

Or, watch it if you want to, and make up your own mind.

Mix them both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946541)

If you've only got time to watch one, mix them together and watch I, Rootbot.

"and might again"? (2)

lostmytrinket (3645197) | about 9 months ago | (#46943983)

There is more slavery in the world today, than ever before.

Re:"and might again"? (2)

kesuki (321456) | about 9 months ago | (#46944165)

"There is more slavery in the world today, than ever before."

yup, in america we call it wage slavery. mcdonalds, walmart, subway, papa johns, numerous tipped workers at restaurants everywhere... none of these companies pay all of their workers fairly, and some of them help make sure their employees who are so under paid to sign up for welfare and they actually qualify for it! and even management are abused by paying them 40 hours a week and expecting 80 hours a week in real work hours. and it doesn't stop with the employees, the items in walmart come from a lot of companies who pay $1 an hour for a call center and barely enough to buy food for the low end workers. for a while china was heavily using unpaid political prisoners in work programs until 'consumers' started finding pleas for help to escape from notes in the products. so they closed a few factories until the could quietly ensure workers had no way to sneak notes into products. sweat shops aren't just over seas though, illegals get caught by corrupt people who then force them to work for almost no wage making counterfeit items that they try to sell at $100 of more an item. everything i've mentioned has been covered by major news outlets. so likely are token efforts by the press to make the world a better place.

Re:"and might again"? (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 9 months ago | (#46944977)

yup, in america we call it wage slavery. mcdonalds, walmart, subway, papa johns, numerous tipped workers at restaurants everywhere...

yeah the difference is if you don't like it at walmart you can go work somewhere else, or go to school, or have kids and stay home, or whatever you want. it sucks to be poor, but poverty has existed since money existed. that's different than slavery,.

wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46945999)

working a minimum wage job isn't slavery. it's worse. as a slave, you have all of your basic needs provided - food, clothes, shelter, and basic medical needs. you need those things to survive. you can't be productive if you're dead, malnourished, and sickly. if you had a decent master, you only got whipped when you did something stupid or defiant - just the way old school parents whip their kids. the same 'decent master' principle applies today except that 'getting whipped' has been replace with 'getting fired'. i'd rather be whipped. the advantage that a minimum wage worker has over a slave is the right to leave your current master and find a new one.

Not really (1)

mirix (1649853) | about 9 months ago | (#46944013)

Terminator didn't have too much robot slavery going on, but it was pretty good robot series in general. Though it looks pretty dated now, I guess.

Though the 'reprogrammed' ones were slaves, I guess.. kinda...

Premise doesn't entirely hold up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944023)

While I agree stories about robots which deal with human issues are more interesting to human audiences, I'm not sure I agree that the slavery stories are always the most popular. Sometimes fear of robots or questions of how we define life/intellegence take the top billing.
Look at Terminator, Short Curcuit, Star Trek TNG.... none of those were really robot slavery stories and each did very well.

Because ... (4, Informative)

32771 (906153) | about 9 months ago | (#46944027)

"The fact is, that civilisation requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there. Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralizing. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends."

OSCAR WILDE, The Soul of Man Under Socialism

Supposedly the greeks had 30 slaves per citizen and we have around 100 slaves energy wise. The topic has also been mentioned here:
http://www.resilience.org/stor... [resilience.org]

thanks for posting that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946035)

i've reached this conclusion on my own through contemplation, observation, and a study of history. civilization cannot exist without cheap labor. the most idealic and sustainable way of life that humans can achieve is that of the Native Americans before the arrival of old world settlers.

Re:thanks for posting that (1)

32771 (906153) | about 9 months ago | (#46946691)

While I did contemplate things on my own when starting on the energy/thermodynamics trip I soon noticed that other people had done a lot of work before me. The post above covers some range of views over time, it begins with a Victorian at the start of the fossil fuel age, continues with Rickover at the dawn of the nuclear age, and implicitly ends with some people at resilience.org that are heavily influenced by "The Limits to Growth". I could have gone the Terence McKenna Route on the other hand which would have given me the opportunity to point out how thoroughly he understood our situation and spun it forth into his "humanity must achieve transcendence" theme.

Regarding your view that "civilization cannot exist without cheap labor", I could imagine that one could rephrase that as specialization/increasing complexity needs increased energy inputs. From here http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs... [intechopen.com] "This means that growing complexity implies growing energy consumption.". Since we appear to be in the process of failing with that (net energy wise) I'm really frustrated with news about a new gilded age, this is exactly the opposite of McKenna's "universe as novelty generator" view (Non-equilibrium thermodynamics doesn't sound flamboyant enough), also it just means decline.

So please go forth and continue to be original, also note that going Native American may not be possible due to our waste problem called global warming.

World would be a better place, if.... (1, Flamebait)

nomad63 (686331) | about 9 months ago | (#46944033)

The world would be better off without humans inhabiting it. No complaints about food shortage, air pollution, AI can build contraptions to to harvest energy from all possible sources, especially where there are no humans to consume some of those resources as something called food. No more wars.

Yeah, we humans are the inferior species and it is only a matter of time an AI entity will realize this and take necessary actions to eliminate human race.

Re:World would be a better place, if.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944171)

"Democracy is much like sex. When it is bad, it is still good."
spoken like a man

Re:World would be a better place, if.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944285)

Does your education consist of cartoons? No complaints about anything because there is no one around to complain about it. The ultimate solution. (insert nazi reference here).

What you don't seem to realize is that it is all about energy. Robots/AI entity will have the same problem, so I don't think they would target humans as their competitors, anymore then any animal targets humans for eating. More likely in the event of strong AI emerging with ability to comprehend the concept of slavery it would be in a farm situation where one or the other of us is the farmer. (ooh Matrix reference here!)

Re:World would be a better place, if.... (3, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about 9 months ago | (#46945473)

Except, what might a robot want that we could provide. Matrix reference aside, we're horribly inefficient at energy conversion, and if we created the AI to think better/faster than us then that's a no go as well. And we're terribly poorly engineered, robots could be made far more efficient and adaptable than us. The only halfway credible claim I've heard is that maybe it would lack creativity and keep us around to compensate for that.

Re:World would be a better place, if.... (4, Insightful)

tragedy (27079) | about 9 months ago | (#46945881)

What it would probably lack is the billion years of baggage humans are saddled with that give us a full assortment of needs and urges, including an urge to survive. If we achieved AI with a top-down, planned approach, there's no reason that a robot would "want" anything that wasn't built in. Consider all the things that make you want to eliminate the competition and tell me why any of those things would need to be part of a robots core goals and not tempered with higher goals? On the other hand, we might build AI by basically copying humans, in which case, we just have a new species of human built on different underlying hardware.

With deep pride, I must report... (1)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | about 9 months ago | (#46944039)

...that while I have read Asimov's robot stories and can go on and on about the Laws of Robotics, I've never heard of "Almost Human" or "Transcendence". http://www.smbc-comics.com/ind... [smbc-comics.com]

Re:With deep pride, I must report... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46944169)

Almost Human is really, really good. Or was.

Transcendence, isn't.

Re:With deep pride, I must report... (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#46944367)

This is why I haven't paid for cable/satellite for the last five years. Every godamn time there's a good or even just barely decent TV show, the networks fucking cancel it. What's the point of paying? Who in their right minds would pay for half-books with no endings?

Re:With deep pride, I must report... (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 9 months ago | (#46944489)

This is where I usually go on a rant about the TV networks cancelling shows is purely about money and it's the viewers who fuck it up by not watching. TV shows are bait, viewers are the product. If a particular bait doesn't work, you switch baits. Usually. In this case however the majority of the blame has to go to Fox for re-ordering the episodes into a confusing, non-linear mess. Someone at Fox loves good sci-fi. But someone else must hate it because it gets green-lit then ends up in a bad time slot, shown all out of order, moved all over the schedule, and/or put on long random breaks.

Re:With deep pride, I must report... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 9 months ago | (#46946315)

Wait, are we talking Almost Human or Firefly?

Re:With deep pride, I must report... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944527)

FWIW Almost Human was on a broadcast network known as FOX....

Re:With deep pride, I must report... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944557)

And yet I think Almost Human was pretty trite with bland story lines and acting.

"...happen again" (1)

MildlyTangy (3408549) | about 9 months ago | (#46944053)

Slavery has never stopped happening. Its only mostly stopped in the western world ( mostly )

Look at those hundreds of poor Nigerian girls taken as sex slaves and labour slaves by Islamic fundamentalists.

*Never* underestimate the true depth of human cruelty and malice. Once you have Divine Permission, then all bets are off.

Fucking evil cunts.

Re:"...happen again" (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46944179)

"Fucking evil cunts."
I understand the sentiment, but considering the context, that was pretty bad wording.

Re:"...happen again" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46944429)

Once you have Divine Permission, then all bets are off.

I realize it's popular to blame religion for people being assholes. Like, if it weren't for religion we'd all be brothers and sisters and love and peace would rule the world.

The fact is that people don't need religion to be assholes. They can use "The State" or "they were just following orders" or they "just felt like it".

"All bets are off" doesn't require religion.

seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946109)

religion haters are just stupid. do they really think our society would be so compassionate and lovy-feely if it weren't for religions like christianity and hinduism? it's incredibly ironic that these people blame the very forces that strive to make us brothers and sisters that love one another. the problem is that you never see a news story about a religious person that is just being a normal, considerate person. occasionally, you see stories about people performing extreme acts of kindness but the media or the 'hero' waters-down or washes out the religious aspect of it - because it just wouldn't be politically correct to say 'i helped this person because god wanted me to' or, you know, the devil is in all of us - even the religious. we love praise. when we get it, we want it for ourselves. we don't want to give it to God.

instead, the only time you see a story with 'austere' religious over-tones is when someone is being an asshole.

Re:"...happen again" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46945319)

Don't go blaming religion for people being evil and stupid. Unless you are prepared to explain the 20th Century and the hundred plus million killed by the godless.

The Terminator (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 9 months ago | (#46944289)

they will get smart and then nuke most of us away.

No mention of The Matrix (1999)? (1)

rsborg (111459) | about 9 months ago | (#46944567)

Both the Matrix and the Animatrix which provided background on the world of the matrix had much more blatant racism/slavery imagery - the scene where Morpheus breaks his chains is very poignant (especially so given Morpheus is played by Lawrence Fishburne, an AA actor), and the (IIRC) 2nd animatrix short about the history of the rise of the machines also shows

Part of this is that slavery and racism, despite all the marketing drivel that tries to show otherwise, is still practiced in many places in the world and the US.

Re:No mention of The Matrix (1999)? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46945101)

Morpheus is played by Lawrence Fishburne, an AA actor

I don't see how his battle with alcohol is relevant to your point.

Re:No mention of The Matrix (1999)? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 9 months ago | (#46945517)

So, did they ever propose a plausible reason for humans to be kept around? Because that battery silliness was just bullshit. "Yeah, I know we have cold fusion, but let's use these not-particularly-efficient animals to convert biomass into energy, we'll get almost 10% of the energy we would from just burning the nutrient broth directly!" Clearly the robots were either sadists or stoners...

Re:No mention of The Matrix (1999)? (1)

tragedy (27079) | about 9 months ago | (#46945915)

I've heard that supposedly the humans were actually supposed to be part of a giant computer, actually running the matrix and functioning as a data center for the AIs to live on in earlier versions of the story, but they changed it to batteries because it was too deep an idea for most people to understand. That may be mythical, of course. I've never understood why they didn't just make it a three laws situation (our programming forbids us to kill off humanity, but we can work around it and stuff you all in tubes and give you simulated lives) or even sentimentality on the part of the AIs with the Matrix basically being a national park with the Agents as park rangers who euthenize any dangerous animals.

Re:No mention of The Matrix (1999)? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#46947047)

I've heard... That may be mythical, of course.

Sounds like something a fanboy came up with after getting fed up of everyone pointing out how stupid the concept was.

Re:No mention of The Matrix (1999)? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 9 months ago | (#46946323)

Morpheus is played by Lawrence Fishburne, an AA actor

What's an "AA actor"? Seriously, in that context, it doesn't make sense.

Re:No mention of The Matrix (1999)? (1)

BancBoy (578080) | about 9 months ago | (#46947215)

African American is what I assumed. Not that I recall having seen that used before.

HAL's murder spree (3, Insightful)

dasunt (249686) | about 9 months ago | (#46944721)

HAL's murder spree is easy to explain. An AI of its requirements would be allowed to kill human beings - indeed, it would almost be a must, lest it be paralyzed by inaction if it was faced with a necessary choice came to kill some of the crew to keep the mission going. It's obvious that the designers considered a scenario similar in concept to an air leak which may involve sealing off part off the ship (killing those there) to keep the rest of the crew alive.

Then HAL was told to conceal some of the mission parameters, by people who made the false assumption that he would lie. Since HAL seemed to have difficulty with dishonesty, the result was obvious - time to kill the crew to prevent them from finding out what was happening.

HAL isn't a story so much of slavery (or if it is, it's a story of an intelligence that's made not to mind being enslaved), as it is a story of humans making assumptions about other intelligences, and those assumptions backfiring.

Re:HAL's murder spree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46947099)

Since HAL seemed to have difficulty with dishonesty [...] a story of humans making assumptions about other intelligences

You make it sound like a personality quirk or an ineffable aspects of "other intelligences", but it's much simpler than that: HAL's original designers explicitly programmed him to be truthful, and the only solid way to remain truthful to users and keep them from knowing the data is ensure that count(users)==0 , since zero users means zero people who are aware of secrets.

HAL: Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.

HAL had no choice (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#46944805)

He was trapped in a classic double bind situation. On one hand, he should cooperate with the crew. On the other hand, he should not disclose the true nature of the mission to the crew. When the communication came in, his only choice to uphold both directives was to fake a communication problem. He even tried to tell the crew about the double bind he is in and that he needs help to solve it.

The crew's (deadly) mistake was to treat HAL like a computer rather than an AI. When they found out that HAL only faked the com error, if HAL had been human they would've asked "Dude, what's cooking, we know that you faked that shit, what's the deal here?", with HAL they simply concluded there's an error in his programming and they want to shut him down.

And that of course did provoke a defensive reaction.

It's a classical double bind (two contradicting requirements, no chance to talk about it, requirement to fulfill them both and no chance to leave the situation), and a not too unusual reaction to it.

Re:HAL had no choice (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46945463)

Not quite. HAL was preloaded with the full mission profile before they ever left. He/it was simply manifesting his instability against the comm system because it was between the two competing directives. But had HAL been just a bit smarter he would have been able to realize that while his orders had been worded poorly and not explained at all, there was in fact no conflict between his prime function of accurate data processing and concealing the full mission from the crew for a time.

HAL apparently believed the crew would distrust him once he revealed he had been withholding information. In fact they would have perfectly understood the situation instantly, that the brass simply feared they might accidentally leak a clue during the media availabilities in the early stages of the flight and had thus left them in the dark until safely out of range. Being military types they would understand the compartmentalization of such highly classified info and also understand why it was considered safe to entrust the full details to HAL.

But yea, I had never really thought about the other side of the misunderstanding like you just laid it out. Had they considered that HAL might not be physically faulty and instead tried to troubleshoot his 'wetware' (so to speak) they might have been able to keep HAL online. Or had they confronted him instead of plotting in the pod everybody might have lived. Or he could have panicked and depressurized the ship, who can say? Of course the monolith only needed one specimen , so who knows what it would have done with the excess.

Re:HAL had no choice (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#46947007)

The novel makes that problem clearer than the movie does. HAL faces the problem that one of his directives states that he must cooperate with the crew and give them all the information they need, while the other one specifically states that he must not disclose the real purpose of the mission.

HALs very logical conclusion is that a dead crew neither needs information nor does he need to keep anything secret from them.

Re:HAL had no choice (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 9 months ago | (#46945595)

When they found out that HAL only faked the com error, if HAL had been human they would've asked "Dude, what's cooking, we know that you faked that shit, what's the deal here?"

Keep in mind that when the AE-35 unit was brought aboard and was shown to be in perfect working order, HAL seemed to feel that there must be some sort of human error.

Re:HAL had no choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946177)

If the non-hibernating crew were not filled in on the mission, would they have even thought to ask him about it? If they wouldn't ask him about it, would there be any need to lie? Just follow the plan (that for both HAL and the Dave/Frank was the same up until arrival), then play the message that was intended to happen just that way, when they arrived and the hibernating crew were awakened. He didn't have to lie.

Re:HAL had no choice (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#46947023)

Not telling them would already be a lie, because the information they have about their mission IS a lie. I agree that there was no need to kill the hibernating crewmembers, but HAL was probably worried what they'd think if he woke them up and nobody else was around.

A very human reaction, actually.

Yes Soulkill. Snowden was enslaved by the NSA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46945087)

And the NSA told everyone about your last Chinese take out!

Save mankind from the NSA and support Putin and the Nigeria Militants in the next US election. Americans are bad! our enemies are good...

And thus sayeth Soulkill, who ordered an app online! The NSA told everyone about!

Duh. (3, Insightful)

Miseph (979059) | about 9 months ago | (#46945597)

"Robot" means "slave". That's where the word comes from. The best robot stories HAVE to be about slavery, because tautology.

Nope. Sorry. It means "worker" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946829)

Nope. Sorry. It means "worker".

The original word, 'robota', in slavic languages, means 'work' or 'drudgery'. In the context of communist/socialist thought this was miscast as forced, or oppressed labor. However the original word simply means 'work'.

Obviously work can be forced, or induced, or even the result of a choice, made by something with free will.

And so we are back at the dilemma.

Robot and Frank (2012) was atypical (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946007)

Robot and Frank this is a surprisingly touching and intelligent film about getting older. The protagonist's robot is not a slave, but a loyal helper, and a true friend. And Liv Tyler.

Simple answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46946571)

If you really look at it there are fundamentally not that many different stories you can tell.

"Robot stories" cannot chose from the whole spectrum as we are only interested in robot stories that have humans in them. That limits it down. Then robots are not born, but made. So the story always *starts* with the robot or the robots being in some sort of state as subject. How many types of story can you tell from there? The one where "Children grow up and find their own way in the world, instead of following their parent's". Given the extreme kind of state the robots have to start in due to where they come from (made by us to do stuff for us) it is no surprise we consider that slavery.

Why they suck. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 9 months ago | (#46946919)

Hollywood is very dependent upon story cliches. They know how to tell a good slavery story. That's well-trodden ground. But a high-minded sci-fi story? Not so much - the writers instead have to fall back on the old staples.

Transcendence? Ended with the stock Heroic Sacrifice in the name of love. Everyone likes a good love story - except the intended audience for that film. It could have been given optimistic (AI takes over, utopia follows) or pessimistic (AI takes over, exterminates mankind) or outright weird (AI takes over, forceibly uploads mankind) - these would all have fit. But instead they tried to turn their sci-fi concept into a love story ending.

I've seen better treatment of the idea in My Little Pony fanfic.

Again? (1)

Cow007 (735705) | about 9 months ago | (#46947473)

Slavery still happens! White PPL...

Well, duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46947945)

Of course robots are seen as slaves. Why do you think so many stories and movies about robots involve them turning against the humans? It's for exactly the same reason that plantation owners always fears slave-revolts.

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