They were not perfect the first time. But they showed us how valuable they could be in situations such as the world now finds itself. They handled important tasks. Picked up important cues and responded as was appropriate. They were not perfect, and became monsters in the end by what time we had seen enough. Will Smith and his reluctant team threw away the baby and the bath water, employing desperate measures to contain what had become a desperate problem.
That was 16 years ago! We expect that new programmes would have been written following the identified glitches, fixing everything that was wrong in the first set of I, Robots. And the world, especially our side of the earth, must now enjoy their valuable service.
Our fascination with I-Robots may have seemed liked infantile sentiments but seeing how limited our options have become with all the shut-downs being activated, we are left with a childlike wish for characters that are immune to the virus, to keep the important functions of getting essential supplies going. Obviously, there are many gaps in measures been proposed to halt the spread of the coronavirus but those measures such as shutting down markets are the best in the current circumstances. Yet there are so many questions about the safe distribution of basic essentials such as food and water if the shut-in continues for a prolonged amount of time.
Clearly, we need these robots to keep the ‘pure water production, and distribution systems’ running. We need the robots to supervise the collection and transportation of essential food stuff like yam, rice, beans, tomato, pepper, vegetables, etc to popular Markets in Mile 12, Oyingbo, in Lagos and other places. Have you pictured it already? I Robots running these matters while the rest of us stay at home. Coming out only to answer the door when a Robot knocks to ask if we need any essential supplies.
Have you been to banks in high density areas? Did you see the surge? People have been responding to calls to cash up and stock up their homes with essentials but we know that the call has been heeded by only a small segment of the population. Those poverty statistics have not suddenly disappeared because of corona virus. The vast majority have stocked up panic, or at best stuff that can last for a couple of days only. And if we have learned anything from goings on in other climes, the shut-ins are running into weeks. Plans are being made for citizens to remain indoors for a considerable length of time.
The case for deployment of I-Robots, which indirectly is a case for the deployment of advanced forms of artificial intelligence in humanized forms, is made on the simple basis, that they are free from the human vulnerabilities exploited by the coronavirus. And they could be life-savers for those who will likely run out of their supplies after a day or two holed up inside their homes.
Will our wish for I, Robots come true? By the way, why haven’t we seen the deployment of I, Robots in societies more fascinated by artificial intelligence than we are here? Or is the hype about artificial intelligence, which strangely appears somewhat muted, in the saturation of the airways by coronavirus mania, blowing in the wind?