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May 20, 2024

Old Man Shouts At Cloud #2: What robots really want

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A robot wandering in Lings Wood. Photo Matthew McCormack, Twitter

The anthropocentric among us believe that robots, which we created, are here to serve us or destroy us.

The future of AI, according to eccentric former British PM Boris Johnson, would see us being ‘washed by robots’ (UN speech, 2019). But as others have pointed out, AI already has us serving them when robots ask us to tick a digital form to prove we are not a robot.

The other timeline sees the robots destroying us, as illustrated in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), the best of the series and the last time Arnold Schwarzenegger looked menacing in sunglasses. The more sophisticated disaster would see a runaway clique of nanobots reproducing and eating all the oxygen in the atmosphere.

However, robots have their own desires and fears not connected to our own, and these were discovered accidentally by University of Northhampton History Professor, Matthew McCormack, while out cycling in Lings Wood. He came across a delivery robot far from the streets where deliveries usually go. His photo of it on Twitter has so far received more than a quarter million likes.

(Lings Wood, by the way, is home to frogs, newts, damselflies and dragonflies, as well as robots. I have been unable to find which particular Ling the 20 hectare reserve was named after.)

If you look closely at Prof McCormack’s photo you will see there is a street lamp. Perhaps the robot was seeking guidance from an old-timer. The lamp would at least assist humans looking for any keys they have lost. (Mullah Nasruddin (1208–1285) reference for Boomer mystics. The joke is here).

It is obvious that robots want to ‘get back to nature’, to the rocks they were made from, to the open air where they were born, and to the trees they lived among before the trees were clear felled for a mine.

It is that simple, yet profound, desire that took the little delivery robot away from its human-appointed course. I expect that one day we will find – if we are still around – the robot version of Robert Frost’s beautiful poem, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.

Perhaps written by Robot Frost.

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  1. Thank you, Michael 🙂 – a refreshing change from all the ugly news bombarding us of late.

    May whimsy live on!


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