Welcoming Our New Robot Overlords

Adam Elkus in The New Atlantis:

What ever happened to machines taking over the world? What was once an object of intense concern now seems like a punchline. Take one of the latest videos released by the robotics company Boston Dynamics, of its iconic two- and four-legged machines shaking it to “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours, which was met with sarcastic online quips about the robots doing victory dances after murdering humans. The revolt of the machines, subsumed into the background ambiance of generalized fears of tech dystopia, no longer seems like a distinctive worry. For those who remember an earlier era of techno-panic, that should be startling.

Once upon a time — just a few years ago, actually — it was not uncommon to see headlines about prominent scientists, tech executives, and engineers warning portentously that the revolt of the robots was nigh. The mechanism varied, but the result was always the same: Uncontrollable machine self-improvement would one day overcome humanity. A dismal fate awaited us. We would be lucky to be domesticated as pets kept around for the amusement of superior entities, who could kill us all as easily as we exterminate pests.

Today we fear a different technological threat, one that centers not on machines but other humans. We see ourselves as imperiled by the terrifying social influence unleashed by the Internet in general and social media in particular. We hear warnings that nothing less than our collective ability to perceive reality is at stake, and that if we do not take corrective action we will lose our freedoms and way of life.

More here.