Elon Musk Promises Bright Future Where Robots Take Our Jobs But We Can Still Beat Them Up
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced Thursday that Tesla will develop humanoid robots based on the artificial intelligence and sensor technology that's also going into its cars, with the aim of producing friendly robots that will perform repetitive simple tasks, freeing humans to do more fulfilling things like argue on Twitter all day. Since no actual prototype exists, Musk began the presentation at "Tesla AI Day" by having a dude in a robot-looking unitard dance around on stage to techno music, to demonstrate the range of motion that the human body has, and that the eventual Tesla Bot may or may not clumsily approximate.
It looked like this. Which is to say it looked just like a dude in a robot suit dancing around like a robot might, were the robot a dude in a robot suit.
We swear we are not shitting you and that, to the best of our knowledge, you are not actually a brain in a box, trapped in suspended animation while your spaceship's AI pilot frantically attempts to keep your mind from going completely mad.
The Washington Post was quick to clarify that "Musk was quick to clarify that the dancing robot was not real." And if you think about it, we're probably all nothing more simulations inside a larger simulation. Would you like some tea, because we haven't got any.
Speaking of which, we keep having this recurring nightmare where whenever we write about humanity's bleak future, any YouTube video we want to use is preceded by Richard Branson trying to convince us to sign up for a contest that will send one lucky winner on a brief trip to the edge of space.
Probably nothing to worry about. Can I interest you in some electric sheep?
Anyhow, here is Elon Musk talking about the glories of the Tesla Bot, which also may or may not be named "Optimus" depending on whether legal thinks Hasbro would have a good copyright infringement case. You can stop watching once the CNET video moves on to the stuff about how self-driving cars and autonomous robots are basically the same things in different forms, which is both kind of cool and depressingly like Taco Bell menu items.
That synergy between cars and robots was one of the central themes of the presentation, which might be just as much about share price as any actual eventual products.
Tesla is arguably the world's biggest robotics company because our cars are like semi-sentient robots on wheels. It kind of makes sense to put that onto a humanoid form. We're also quite good at sensors and batteries and actuators.
Musk also explained, snickering now and then about the hellscape he's dragging us toward, that Project Liability Nightmare is "intended to be friendly, of course, and navigate through a world built for humans and eliminate dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks." The robot also might be used to run errands for its owner, like popping around to the store to bring back your groceries, and possibly flirting with that cute self-checkout terminal, wowwzaaaa [system reset].
In what he probably intended to be exactly as not-reassuring as it sounded, Musk explained,
We're setting it so that it is at a mechanical and physical level you can run away from it (heh-heh), and most likely overpower it. (heh!) Hopefully that doesn't ever happen, but you never know.
Musk stopped short of saying the robots would have Genuine People Personalities, but knowing his fondness for monetizing bits of nerd culture, we're completely confident the things will include an option to make them sigh and complain that they're incredibly depressed, and and what's more they have this terrible pain in all the diodes down their left side.
The outstanding cleverness and seamless craftiness of it all will be simultaneously hilarious and soul-killing.
A rendering of the bot indicated some anticipated specs of the friendly robot — five-foot-eight, 125 pounds, able to deadlift 150 pounds and carry 45 pounds, and limited to 5 mph so you can outrun it — but not an expected off-the shelf price, if it ever exists.
And while Musk specified that the bot should be able to perform repetitive tasks like turning a wrench, he insisted it wouldn't primarily be used in manufacturing settings, or to replace fallible human workers who have an annoying habit of getting injured on the job or threatening to start unions.
"It's just that we're just obviously making the pieces that are needed for a useful humanoid robot so I guess we probably should make it," he said. "And if we don't someone else would. … I guess we should make it and make sure it's safe."
Any similarity between that statement and "Aperture Science: We do what we must because we can" was purely coincidental. Still, he said, it might be a good idea for hu-mons to reconcile themselves, eventually, to being replaced, or at least to having to share their workplace with soulless automatons, as if Kevin in Human Resources wasn't already 90 percent there already.
Essentially in the future, physical work will be a choice: If you want to do it you can, but you won't need to do it. [...] This is why I think long term there will need to be universal basic income.
Then Musk removed his own faceplate, revealing the complex circuitry and fusion batteries that keep him alive. He's more machine now than man.
Now, technocrats have been predicting / fretting about the replacement of humans forever, although frankly we'll believe it when we see it. And then we'll try to scream, even though we have no mouth.
Should Musk actually bring this thing to market, it'll probably be a competitor with Boston Dynamics' not-at-all-terrifying Atlas robots, which can do parkour.
Brain the size of a planet, and they tell me to jump around an obstacle course.
It will be a cool new world of robot dance-offs, robot cage matches, sexbot brothels probably, and of course police work, where the machines will probably veer into occasional violations of Asimov's three laws of robotics and the occasional civil rights of now-redundant humans when the money for universal basic income goes instead to standing up those robot police forces. Life? Don't talk to me about life. Not getting you down, am I?
Or maybe everything will be great and we'll spend all our time reading books and talking about great ideas, that could happen too.
This was a triumph.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.