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I Have Become the Robot – The Robot Has Become Me

June 25th, 2016 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, is the day when we need to draw an ethical line in the sand, in the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), too far off to worry about or too close for comfort?

I read today that the head of Toyota’s Silicon Valley research company expects that the company’s $1 billion investment in robotics research will start paying off in five years. It makes me wonder what the near future – let’s say the next decade – may have in store for us.

A quick Google search revealed that the following robotic wonders will likely arrive on the scene:

A robotic communications portal for hospitals that travels from room to room and allows face-to-face communication between patients and doctors. The device can be controlled with an iPad tablet and the medical communications are secure and protected.

Robotic devices capable of performing precise neurosurgery, including spinal surgery and brain surgery, that may be used in the treating disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

Self-driving vehicles – essentially robots that can transport people and (theoretically) avoid automobile accidents caused by human error.

A robot capable of autonomously monitoring crops for dangers, through the use of lasers, cameras and other sensors, which can quickly move up, down and between rows of plants.

A robotic exoskeleton that can help people with spinal cord injuries to walk again.

With the exception of the self-driving car, which I took issue with in an earlier post, these robotic innovations seem to warrant two thumbs up.

But the Toyota robotics guru also envisions a time when all robots are connected together in a network, sharing information on the cloud and helping each other improve. Sound familiar? This is the premise of I Robot, the 2004 movie starring Will Smith.

In that movie, the AI computer VIKI decides to take control of the world to protect humans from their self-destructive tendencies. The robots obey her instead of their human inventors.

I Robot points to the inevitable question that will arise when the brave new world of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) reaches its maturity. At what point do the AI controlled machines stop serving us and we start serving them?

Regardless of whether the doomsday scenario of I Robot is plausible, we will eventually reach a threshold where we will need to answer the question no one wants to talk about. Is it morally justifiable to make a percentage of the population redundant or less valued than a machine?

The metaphor embedded in the title I Robot – I have become the robot / The robot has become me – warns us to draw a line in the sand. The day we need to take that action may be a whole lot closer than we think.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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