Robots can work while humans play

A vital comment was buried today deep within an avalanche of stories relating to humans and robots co-existing in the future workplace. In an article entitled “Rise of the Robotic Workforce”, Harvard Law School professor Benjamin Sachs suggests that “if robots become intelligent enough that we do see a long-term displacement of human labour by technology, we need to rethink a lot of fundamental things about the way to structure work (and) the way we structure the social contract.”

Boom! Changing the way we work would be challenging enough, but re-imagining the social contract is mega: a sea change. But it hasn’t taken the advent of robots to alert us to the unsustainability of our current ordering of things. The stresses on the environment and the global economy are matched by the pressures on the species responsible for creating the mess. We, after all, confected and then corrupted all of our social contracts: with the planet, with other species, and with ourselves.

All the while, “The Robot age is arriving sooner than we thought”, supporting the thesis of the Harvard article with the intriguing thought that robots will advance from a present in which they can now share data over the cloud, to a future in which “every robot’s dreams will improve the performance of all robots”. Against this context, a thoughtful corrective is supplied in a presentation made earlier this summer at Milan Expo, proposing “Five ways that play can save the world”.

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