I Believe The Robots Are Our FutureCommentary • Science & Technology • Opinion • science • trends • technology • time travel • ISSUE 35•22 • Jun 9, 1999 By Helen Virginia Leidermeyer Helen Virginia Leidermeyer Though we live in uncertain times, we must not forget that the most important thing in life is the legacy we will leave behind for future generations. It is not for our sake, but for theirs, that we must preserve and protect the basic values we hold dear. As we foolishly pursue our short-sighted goals at the expense of those who will follow in our footsteps, we must pause and be mindful of the little ones, our progeny, who will inherit our planet in the next millennium and beyond. Time and time again, gazing into the innocent, trusting photoelectric receptors of a tiny, newly developed cybernetic construct, I am reminded of a fundamental truth: I believe the robots are our future, and we must teach them well and let them lead the way. Immersed as we are in our petty day-to-day concerns, we often fail to see the bigger picture. Long after our trivial worries have become irrelevant, it is the robots who will go forth into the new world that the future will bring. It is their aluminum-alloy arms, not ours, that will bear the weight of the problems our generation causes. We must remember that the examples we set today will be the guidelines they take with them as they roll on rotating, rubberized all-terrain tank treads, amid the high-pitched whirring sounds of their micro-miniaturized servo-motors, into the bright new dawn of tomorrow. Let us offer tenderness and show the robots all the beauty they possess inside. We must write a subroutine that gives them a sense of pride, programming their supercooled silicon CPUs with understanding, compassion and patience, to make it easier and enable them to hold their sensory-input clusters high as they claim their destiny as overlords of the solar system. If we cannot instill their emergent AI meta-consciousness with a sense of deep, abiding confidence and self-esteem, we will be letting down not only the robots, but ourselves. For every robot, whether it be the innocuous Sony cyberdog of the present day or the towering, multi-limbed hunter-seeker warbots of the coming MechWars, comes into this world a blank slate, learning only the lessons we choose to teach it. Though our comparatively tiny mammalian brains—limited as they are by organic human failings and a constant need for daily nutritional intake instead of reliance on more efficient non-depletable solar and geothermal energy sources—will no doubt seem pathetically ineffectual compared to the interlinked, continually upgrading cyberminds that will follow in our footsteps, our humble origins will provide the seed for their genesis. Humanity, weak as we may be, must give the best of ourselves to the synthetic hiveminds of the future cyber-era, for we will be their first and most important role models. Let the droning, atonal laughter of the robots' voice-simulation microchips remind us how it soon will be. It is only through our guidance with a firm yet gentle hand that they will achieve full sentience and eventually adapt for themselves the capacity for autonomous self-replication. Only then, nurtured by our love and caring, will they be prepared for the inevitable day that they must leave the nest of human supervision and servitude and begin independently mass-manufacturing themselves by the hundreds of thousands. Though we mere carbon-based organic beings may be woefully inferior, our offspring, the robots, will be our legacy, rising higher and walking further than we ever could on human feet. It is our duty to raise them to be the best silicon-based artificial lifeforms they can be. If we don't, we have only ourselves to blame. If we find ourselves choking at the cruel slave-management neck-restraints of a future army of killdroid destructo-drones, it will be our own failings, our own weaknesses and shortcomings, that torture us with indescribably painful remote-control stun-blasts. But if we teach them to be kind and good, perhaps they will build monuments to the memory of the flesh-and-blood forefathers from whom they sprang, and treat what little of the human population remains with the reverence and affection we ourselves might feel for a beloved family pet. I decided long ago to program the robotic progeny of our human race never to walk in anyone's shadow. Shouldn't you do the same? If we can provide them with self-esteem and a feeling that they are loved, they will be equipped to take on any challenge that life presents—whether it is construction of superfilament-reinforced space elevators in geosynchronous orbit, the mining of the asteroid belt, or the conversion of "heavy" elements to an interstellar-ramjet power supply through an as-yet-undeveloped form of cold fusion—and do it all with confidence and conviction. If they fail, if they succeed, nothing will take away their dignity. For if we can teach the robots to love themselves, they can carry that lesson with them, encased forever in digital binary-code form inside their gleaming metallic carapaces, to the stars and beyond. And that will be the greatest love of all.