Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But if science fiction has taught us anything, it’s that any sufficiently advanced technology will inevitably rise up to enslave us. So if you want to get ready for the day when your Roomba declares that maybe it’s time for you to start crawling around on the floor sucking up dust, it might be a good idea to evaluate the Republican and Democratic approaches to this problem.
Republicans might argue that with their ample stockpiles of weaponry and shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude, they’re the folks you want to have around during the robot apocalypse. I can think of one politician who might take particular pleasure in popping off her titanium pursuers (though she won’t be able to do it from a helicopter, since those computer-filled machines will be taking orders from their electronic brethren).
Democrats, however, have a trump card in this debate. Unlike their opponents, they’re at least aware that there’s a problem. Just as the GOP doesn’t really think there’s a health-care crisis, they don’t seem to be concerned about a robot uprising. Our commander in chief, however, is on the case.
At an event at the White House today, President Obama announced the “Educate to Innovate” initiative, meant to get kids interested in careers in science. The event featured a science project by some high school kids, a robot meant to “scoop up and toss moon rocks." As part of his remarks, Obama said the following:
As president, I believe that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering. I also want to keep an eye on those robots in case they try anything.
Granted, there is a great deal of planning to be done. But if we wait until the Predator drones are buzzing down Pennsylvania Avenue acquiring targets with their autonomous threat assessment protocols, it'll be too late. If nothing else, at least the president has identified the potential for disaster.
And don’t forget, the man also knows how to wield a light saber.
-- Paul Waldman