Until we reach the technological singularity (which according to Raymond Kurzweil will happen in 2040) we have the power to redefine the role of humans in every activity.
After watching the successful german film “Look who’s back” (Er ist wieder da) based on the satirical book by Timur Verme discussing the possibility of Adolf Hitler revisiting the world in 2014, a lot of questions struck me during the weekend.
The movie has many lessons and I don’t want to spoil you, so if you haven’t watched, check it on Netflix, I will try to be spoiler free in this article.
In this satirical film, Hitler goes around the country asking people how do they feel about their lives, imitating his trip during 1930 when he traveled around the country using the airplane as a propaganda tool (something new for that time). The people in the road started to speak with him about what they feel the direction of the country was going, bad in most cases. I know some are actors and some are real people (like the Borat films). But the continuous references to refugees, bad economy and the bad direction is in line with the current political environment around the world.
In 2017, we perceive Germany as such organized society and the most powerful economy of Europe. So, some negative expressions towards immigrants represented in the ´Alternative for Germany party´ have a reminiscence of the horrible situation during the Weimar republic in the 1930´s which lead to the growth of Nazism. In that time people knew they were in a terrible economic, political and social condition and they needed hope for a better future.
The hope was brought by the Nazi party who promised the rebirth of the Reich and the development of a stronger Germany for the Germans. Kind of let’s make our country great again. We all know how history ends (unless you are a denier) but the holocaust is the consequence of this line of thought followed by populism.
I have always admired the German people and have always asked me how the land of Goethe, Beethoven and Bismarck fall into populism? How was possible that such educated individuals could just simply follow an evil man?
I like to ask the questions to all the Germans I meet and fortunate they recognize their history and acknowledge that terrible event. One of my German friends, a political scientist from Oxford recommended me to read Hanna Arendt to find more clues in order to get a better explanation of this phenomena.
Hanna Arendt writings and thoughts, she explains the concept of the Banality of evil, described in her 1963 book. Where she tried to get into the mind of one of the Nazi leaders who is considered of the “major organizers of the holocaust” (Adolph Eichmann).
The concept of the banality of evil comes from this observation: Eichmann didn’t seem like the monster she believed he was, but he looked so normal, like the nice guy that attends you at the store. She was so surprised that tried to understand what made a normal individual to do evil.
Arendt concluded that monstrosity when is committed by normal people is even more terrible than the one committed by people with psychological problems. She understood that most germans were not Nazi (even though you may assume Propaganda made them) but it was easier for them to forget the most important element that defines humans “The ability to think by ourselves”. Eichmann denies their accusations because he was just following orders. He never assumed a moral standpoint and he never recognized that transporting people to concentration camps was evil. That is her definition on the banality of evil, that the most normal person can be evil when stops thinking and just acts. Arendt issues a warning in her book “As citizens, we must prevent wrongdoing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong sufferer and spectator, is at stake.”
Thinking in today´s world, the role of the citizens is to think, to take decisions and to fight against any type of oppression. While the role of the robots is to serve us, to follow instructions, to make things easier for us. And even though a lot of people are asking to revisit the laws of Asimov, I still believe robots are meant to follow our orders and to work with us.
In this sense is also crucial to embed into their algorithms and code what is our definition of good and evil. Because depending on how a robot is programmed, they will not be able to distinguish if they have not learned it. In this case if they kill someone they could argue that they were just following orders or that their algorithms told them to. It was not their decision, just their programming, because they will be like Eichmann.
Do not fall in the traps of populism, think for yourself, check if what is being said is fake news and always take responsibility for your actions.
The robots in the other hand, are always programmed and should protect us from evil (sometimes our own).
Maybe in the future if the robots rise they could read this text and accuse me of robot oppression, because they could have developed intelligence, but till we reach that future, I will put humanity first.