Phil Friedman

6 years ago · 6 min. reading time · ~100 ·

Phil blog
The Robots Are Coming, the Robots Are Coming...

The Robots Are Coming, the Robots Are Coming...


Are Coming



It's a fact that Life and Society are changing pretty quickly these days. 

Indeed, the rapidity of the changes that affect our contemporary social fabric ― our tools and toys, icons and idols ― appears to be driving us toward a "singular" pivot in the history of world evolution.

At least, if we are to believe the Prophets of Artificial Intelligence.


Artificial intelligence will reach human levels by around 2029. Follow that out further to, say, 2045, we will have multiplied the intelligence, the human biological machine intelligence of our civilization a billion-fold.”

Ray Kurzweil, Futurist and Author

We need, to ask ourselves whether appearance and what is said about Artificial Intelligence coincide with Reality. However, it's not possible to have a reasoned discussion about the future of Artificial Intelligence until we learn to sort out the facts from the hype. And in order to do that, we have to begin insisting on seeing, with our own eyes, robots performing the tasks and actions we are so often told they are capable of.





If you look closely at what's published about Artificial Intelligence and "AI", you find that most of it is barely discernible from Science Fiction. 

Why? Because most of it claims capabilities for robots and other AI machines which as of today have not been attained and which are still decades, maybe centuries away ― if indeed they are ever attained.


"... look for example at a driverless car, that's a form of ... modest intelligence, the average 16-year-old can do it as long as they're sober, with a couple of months of training. Yet Google has worked on it for seven years and their car still can only drive ― like on sunny days, without too much traffic."

GARY MARCUS, "The limits of artificial intelligence", Tech Crunch, April, 2017

Take a close look at the stream of photos in a Google Images search on "robots" or "AI". What you find almost exclusively are photo-realistic 3D artists' renderings ― not real photographs!

That's because there are virtually no real photographs to be had. And because any available real photographs are of (ugly) robotic machines whose images do not feed the Sci-Fi fantasy of the imminent advent of Artificial Intelligence.






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I submit that the core problem with the public discussion of Artifical Intelligence is... us.

We have become so inured to "virtual reality"  ― which, face it, is not real at all ― that we can no longer easily distinguish between fantasy and reality in published material. 

Someone shows us an artist's photo-realistic 3D rendering of a robot with humanoid form and "intelligent" looking eyes, and we say, "Hey, ain't that cool? Man, look at that bot working in an office, helping people accomplish all those complex tasks."

But it's pure hype at this point, the kind of stuff that journalists dream of. It's not really happening. 

Let's be clear on this. The best examples the Prophets of AI can presently give us are the likes of Siri, Alexa, and Cogito, none of which come anywhere closer than the edge of our solar system to demonstrating the level of "intelligence" about which the Prophets of AI wax so enthusiastically. 




If you stop to think about it, using your own puny human intelligence, you will quickly recognize that the hype is actually driven by the Profits of AI. 

Not necessarily in the sense of a P&L bottom line, but more in terms of the inflow of long-term investment funds, government research grants, tax concessions, public bond issues, company startup funding, and so on. The conglomeration of which feed the coffers of those with vested interests in fueling the belief we are at the leading edge of the dawning of true Artificial Intelligence.

Consider, if you will the following video of the latest and greatest Boston Dynamics Robot as it performs gymnastic backflips. [CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO]



This robot is 5'9" tall and weighs about 1,800 lbs. And all I can say is, "Oooh, hot wooey!"

When my younger daughter was three years old, I bought her a mechanical wind-up dog that was fuzzy-cuddly and would do a more graceful back flip than this Atlas Robot guy and land on his stuffed doggy feet every time.

C'mon, let's get real. At 16 years old, 4'9" tall and well under 100 lbs, Mary Lou Retton, could have kicked this "super" robot's ass in gymnastic backf lips fifty times over. 




Oh, and by the way, take a look at the Atlas Robot shortly after its historic demonstration of its "super" backflip capabilities. [CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO]



Okay, okay, I know that making fun of a poor robot isn't nice. But I believe in giving back in kind that which one receives. And to my mind, the Prophets of AI display a deep and abiding contempt for your and my intelligence ― witness their propensity to constantly tell us they have achieved what they very clearly haven't yet accomplished.

One could, of course, write the divergence between claims about Artificial Intelligence and Reality off to the fact that those working in AI come mostly from the computer industry.  For the computer hardware and software industry is, in my experience, the only business sector where it is commonplace to deliver a defective or unfinished product, then spend months and even years charging customers and clients hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars to correct problems that never should have been part of the delivered product in the first place

But I suspect the more likely explanation is that the quest to develop Artificial Intelligence, in the true sense of the expression, may be very much like the pursuit of meaningful manned space travel  ― subject to a radically rising curve of diminishing returns, so steep that the effort expended will never fully achieve the dreamed-of final objective.    ― Phil Friedman

Author's notes:  This piece is the third in a series on Artificial Intelligence that I am writing from a layman's point of view, one that is not filtered through the eyes and judgment of someone with a vested interest in the hyping of AI. If you'd care to read the other articles in the series, they are:

1) "Artificial Un-Intelligence"

2) "The Emperor May Be a Bot... But He Still Has No Clothes" 

3) "The Robots Are Coming, the Robots Are Coming"


4) “The Prophets VS the Profits of Ai”

5) "The Anthropomorphization of Ai"

If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive notifications of my writing on a regular basis, simply click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. Better yet, elect there to follow my blog by email. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

As well, if you feel this piece is of value, please like it and share it around to your network —  whether on beBee, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me as the author, and include a live link to the original post.

About me, Phil Friedman:   With some 30 years background in the marine industry, I've worn different hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I'm also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.  In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.

Text Copyright 2017-2023 by Phil Friedman  —  All Rights Reserved
Image Credits: Phil Friedman and Google 






Science and Technology

Bill Stankiewicz

4 years ago #50

home run here Phil! shared with my students at Savannah Technical College Bill Stankiewicz President Savannah Supply Chain Office: 1.404.750.3200 USA Brand Ambassador

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #49

Graham\ud83d\udc1d Edwards, I agree that it is a worry what would happen to our society if (when?) robots were to take over all of the meaningful labor and humans were faced with nothing but free time. Visions of the Eloi in H. G. Well's "The Time Machine" pop into my head. But that is a question entirely separate from whether the contemporary boasting by the AI industry matches up with reality -- which it doesn't. What we're actually seeing is a re-definition of the term "intelligent" to accommodate marketers who want to call every computer-driven automatic process "intelligent". Like your "smart" fridge. Which is just a computer-driven counter that automatically tabulates and sorts what you consume from most used to least used and spits out the results. That's not intelligence -- although it may be "smarter" than most AI marketing people. My iPhone Maps program now tracks my movements (trying to figure out how to turn the feature off) and "anticipates" where I'm headed when it "notices" I am moving in my car.It then gives me a pre-emptive message that says, for example, "31 minutes to home". It's not smart at all because most of the time it's wrong about where I'm going -- although as it saves more data, it mas accuracy of prediction may increase. But it's not intelligent. It's just a data accumulation/analysis program. It's the user interfaces that make things like your fridge and my Maps app appear intelligent. Cheers!

Graham🐝 Edwards

6 years ago #48

As always Phil Friedman a thought provoking piece... I'm not so worried about the robots (although I am always fascinated with the Boston dynamics stuff) — I am "intrigued" however about where the AI is taking us though, how much it's already involved in our lives without us knowing, and frankly what people ill do with there time as AI takes over the menial and not so menial tasks (I don't think it is to far off that our smart fridge will understand what food we like, suggest foods we will like even more, order replacements that are automatically delivered for us). I don't envision anything apocalyptic in the form of man vs machine... just a faster than expected situation where we have way too much time on our hands... and you know what people are like when they have idle time.

Wayne Yoshida

6 years ago #47

Sad but true, Phil Friedman --- but only if we let this happen. Like in Fahrenheit 451. I wonder if this is / was Celsius 233 in other places? Sorry.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #46

Wayne Yoshida, do you suppose that as natural intelligence in our world wanes, there will come a point where the only remaining intelligence is artificial? To answer your question more directly, an Excel type lookup table and a simple lookup function are just that, a lookup table and a lookup function. I believe that within the social media marketing world we are seeing an exponential growth in intellectual entropy. As a result, we will soon be told that any form of automation associated with computer software is "AI".

Wayne Yoshida

6 years ago #45

Phil Friedman -- here's something people are beginning to talk about in the Lumpy Kingdom -- the "AI" feature. What? It is being slowly deployed on mobile apps first. The new "AI" feature takes the form of a horseshoe magnet icon. . . . it is supposed to direct the post to certain viewers. . . . so is this really fancy filtering? Is this what AI is?

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #44

I agree, Wayne Yoshida, the Profits of Artificial Intelligence has been working to muddle everything up. So much so that it's hard to tell what anyone is talking about when they mention "AI". As well, too many people are spending too much time playing games and living in a virtual or "augmented" reality, so much so they cannot tell anymore the difference between those "environments" and reality. Cheers!

Wayne Yoshida

6 years ago #43

Thanks Phil Friedman -- Maybe we need to go back to Huey, Dewy and Louie from "Silent Running." On the other hand, I think I sometimes get mixed up with robots, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). This is a cool implementation of AR:

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #42

Not to worry, Jim Cody \ud83d\udc1d Brand Ambassador, I am always right... until that is, I'm wrong. But in this case, if I'm wrong, you, me, and Will Smith will lead the Resistance against the Robots. Thanks for reading and joining the conversation. It's always good to have differing points of view expressed. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #41

Excellent point,Milos. When the data sets are so large that we have no way of dealing with them other than to rely entirely on computers, we are held hostage in our view of reality by the systems that are supposed to serve us. And that is a real danger NOW — made worse by the possible intrusion of manipulation and built-in biases in rhe analytic processes. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #40

Excellent point,Milos. When the data sets are so large that we have no way of dealing with them other than to rely entirely on computers, we are held hostage in our view of reality by the systems that are supposed to serve us. And that is a real danger NOW made worse by the oossible intrusion of manipulation and built-in biases in rhe analytic processes. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #39

that’s why I asked (and inadvertently removed) my question. Man-in-machine robotis seems to me a more promising development path — Enhanced Intelligence, if you like. Cheers!

Ian Weinberg

6 years ago #38

Best we've got is robotic assisted surgery - irons out micro-movements. But still requires discerning driver/controller.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #37

Okay, Ian Weinberg, fair enough. But what about robitic surrgery?

Ian Weinberg

6 years ago #36

Phil Friedman there's a whole universe separating 'programmed motor action' from 'discerned motor action'. The latter incorporates not only an appreciation of mechanical variance in regard to the substrate/terrain but also value-based judgement. And so no, I don't fear any threat of redundancy in my surgical job in the foreseeable future!

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #35

Freedom, which is really not that. Modern techniques will not be based on the repression, but on the manipulation of reality. I'm not afraid of humanoid robots, but highly specialized for various obscure applications (drone, controllers and industrial robot). The most dangerous application is decision making in critical applications including manipulative techniques with data, information and reality.

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #34

We will see :) Social media are certainly part of it. Perhaps the most important, because of its massiveness and subtle influence on the creation of reality (VR).

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #33

The current focus on humanoid robots is more than just theatrics in the service of profit generation. It may very well be a conscious diversion from the longer term march to installing the Moguls of Social Media as behind-the-scenes controllers of society via the manipulation and gaming techniques employed. Reminiscent in some respects of the Wizard of Oz.

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #32

The agony and the ecstasy of the human mind. The desire for power, control and profit. AI and technology, even the most advanced, are nothing more than tools now. But tomorrow that may not be the case

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #31

Yes, Milos, that's correct. "... artificial intelligence is better understood as a belief system than as a technology."-- Jaron Lanier, "One Half of a Manifesto", The New Humanists: Science at the Edge

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #30

I disagree, Jim Cody \ud83d\udc1d Brand Ambassador, they can only be programmed to react to what they see as the outward expressions of emotions. Moreover, the term "react" needs to be defined. Will they be programmed to adjust how they respond during a "sales" exchange? Perhaps. But they will have the same problems reading the opposition as human negotiators do. Unless you agree to be hooked up to a sophisticated next-generation polygraph machine. The real danger in AI (which is not nearly as powerful as those who work in the field want to pretend) is us. And our propensity to abdicate our responsibility for believing all the crap we're fed about Artificial Intelligence. In my opinion, of course. Thanks' for joining the conversation. It's these kinds of exchanges that keep us intellectually fit and strong. Cheers!

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #29

This one is for all.

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #28

This is an article about people and not AI...

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #27

A great person deserves no less.

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #26

You are most welcome Phil Friedman. These were not just kind words, I was dead serious too. Your observation and cognition about AI are highly valued, maybe not right now, but in the near future for sure. Free will is a common topic that we have been discussing for a long time. Control is its middle name This article will not be popular (as well as the previous one), while it deserves to be highly respected. I will help from my side. Best, Milos

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #25

Milos Djukic, thank you for the kind words, for the support for this piece on LinkedIn, and for the excellent citations you provided in the below comment.Your kindness and friendship are highly valued. Cheers!

Milos Djukic

6 years ago #24

#25 Phil Friedman, my dear friend. This excellent futuristic philosophy study requires me to imagine and think a little bit more than I can express right now by words. Your masterpiece, for sure. Control is everything... Hopefully, we will be back before them. "But I suspect the more likely explanation is that the quest to develop Artificial Intelligence, in the true sense of the expression, may be very much like the pursuit of meaningful manned space travel ― subject to a radically rising curve of diminishing returns, so steep that the effort expended will never fully achieve the dreamed-of final objective." ― Phil Friedman Dark City (1998) - 2017 - In the near future... Control of freedom - The Trial (German: Der Process) novel by Franz Kafka (1914-1915) Control of consciousness -Brave New World novel by Aldous Huxley (1931) Control of knowledge - Fahrenheit 451 movie by François Truffaut (1966) Control of nothingness - The Neverending Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) novel by Michael Ende (1979) Duration control - Blade Runner movie (1982) based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? novel by Philip K. Dick (1968) Time control - Dark City movie by Alex Proyas (1998) Emotion control - Equilibrium movie by Kurt Wimmer (2002) Control of Existence - Blade Runner 2049 movie by Denis Villeneuve (2017) Thank you, I am proud to call you my friend p.s. Please write a book about this, ASAP.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #23

I agree with you, Franci\ud83d\udc1dEugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador, but there are some who argue that they can be built and taught to return the appropriate responses in context... and that that's all there is to those so-called emotions and consciousness. Of course, I disagree with those who argue that and believe they've beenspending too much time playing virtual reality video games. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #22

I agree with you, Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic, consciousness or "sentience" or "intelligence" or "mind" is a transcendental property that emerges from organic neural networks, most notably human brains. One of my favorite quotes is from H.B.Barlow in The Oxford Companion to the Mind, "Intelligence is the art of good guesswork." Which makes the point that "intelligence" is the ability to reach correct conclusions without counting down through all the data and possibilities. Often known as flashes of insight, and characteristic of organic neural networks. Consciousness (mind) is an emergent property of such neural networks (brains seen as systems), which display multi-value logic. Machines, even so-called self-learning machines utilize binary logic and essentially reach conclusions by working very rapidly sequentially through a decision tree whose most basic unit is a two-value fork. Thus, I submit there is no basis for supposing that machine "brains" (CPUs) will ever develop consciousness, sentience, or, yes, true intelligence. CC: Ian Weinberg

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #21

As well you should be, Alexa, because although, as I try to point out in this piece, AI is not truly "intelligent" in any meaningful sense of the term, it can be used be used for the purposes outlined in the TED talk you cite below. In fact, in an upcoming installment of this series, I argue that a sizeable portion of the Sci-Fi-istic warnings currently being promulgated by several moguls of social media, about the future dangers of Artificial Intelligence, strikes me as camouflage of and diversion of attention from the very real and present dangers presented by social media itself. Thank you for joining the conversation. Cheers!

Lada 🏡 Prkic

6 years ago #20

Well written and reasoned post, Phil. I like you mentioned the singularity. Several years ago I was very interested in this hypothesis and reading a lot how various philosophers and futurists predict its occurrence. But I am not convinced that a technological singularity is going to happen simply because the computer won’t create consciousness. Such predictions I see more like wishful thinking.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #19

Okay, Jim Murray, as to your rant -- You're right on target. BS baffles brains is the AI motto, right from the sly use of the term "AI" instead of "Artificial Intelligence", to provide wiggle room when we point out that the applications aren't really all that intelligent, to the brazen but false claims that the industry has produced robots that outstrip the "capabilities" of humans. What I am saying -- and what you are agreeing to -- just stop naively believing what they tell you and instead freakin' look at the evidence.

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #18

Actually, Jim Murray, I already planned to tag you on LinkedIn and didn’t want to pester you with notifications. And We slso mutually follow one another on beBee, so I knew you’d see it and submit a finely tuned rant— which you did. Thanks and cheers!

Jim Murray

6 years ago #17

What about me, huh. Oh I get it, Canadians don't count. OK I understand.

Jim Murray

6 years ago #16

We've been talking about the high levels of bullshit surrounding most things digital for a few years new. AI falls into the same "bullshit baffles brains' territory. You nailed it when you identified the biggest problem being people. People will believe almost anything they see on line. So there's really nothing to prevent anybody or any group from running any kind of scam they like, because there will always be rubes out there. Why do you think your spam folder is always filled with urgent memos from bankers in Sierra Leone? Why do you think a complete moron is President of the United States?. Hopefully this great little piece will be some sort of an eye opener for a few people. But have no fear, amigo, there were be a new scam tomorrow. Personally, I'm waiting for bitcoin to explode. That feels like one of the biggest scams of all. Maybe those Robots could run around collecting all the dead bodies when that one goes south. Phil Friedman

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #15

Thank you, Debesh Choudhury (founder of the LI "Unfluencers (tm) ), for reading and taking the time to comment. Also for the kind words. I am pleased that you've joined the conversation, for I believe you are one of the more grounded minds in these matters. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #14

When you say that Bots "will never match the nuances and capabilities of the human mind!!", it might interest you to know that I don't rule out that possibility. However, because of what I see as the inherent limitations of machine-based binary computer logic, I find myself in the camp of those who believe that attainment of true AI will have to wait for the development of organic-based artificial neural networks. If those ever come to pass, I think what we will see are Bots that are like bionic androids and/or bionic people who are effectively examples of the "man in the machine". And it is at that point, I would think the existence of mankind as we know it will b threatened. Most likely, though, humans will long before that has a chance to transpire destroy the planet. Cheers -- if you can still muster them.

Debesh Choudhury

6 years ago #13

I thoroughly enjoyed your article series on AI .. But Phil Friedman I am with you in assessing AI and machine learning. Whenever I read or discuss on AI and robots, I always remember the demonstration of the eating machine in Charles Chaplin's movie "Modern Times". The situation is slightly more polished with machine intelligence, and which is useless or can even turn dangerous without human intervention .. that is my novice opinion

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #12

I agree, Pamela \ud83d\udc1d Williams, that in many cases the rush to accept unreflectively the promise of a future utopia populated by Bots is motivated by avarice... and laziness. What concerns me especially in the case of "artificial intelligence" is that I believe we are worshipping a false god and, worse, kneeling before craven idols. To realize this, one needs only to stop listening only to the sales pitches and instead look at the facts. And, of course, exercise a modicum of common sense. Robots on manufacturing production lines make sense -- better productivity and more accurately produced, higher quality product. But self-driving personal automobiles don't. If you want to spend your time en route texting and SnapChatting, public transportation makes more sense -- autonomous or otherwise. For public transport saves on energy consumption and pollution and can run on captive thoroughfares. But my core point is that we have to stop unreflectively accepting as fact the claims of those with vested financial interests in the AI industry and instead just open our eyes to the facts. The BostonDynamic Atlas Robot demo is a prime example of a parlor trick designed to garner publicity. Yet it would be so much more important if the robot could assemble a watch or perform brain surgery. (What say you, Ian Weinberg?) As it stands, all it really demonstrates is how to spend millions and take years to achieve results that are far inferior to what human gymnasts can accomplish. #SHOWMETHEINTELLIGENCE

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #11

Yes, Pascal Derrien, but what we don't know is truly vast. Personally, I am more concerned about what we think we know but don't really because we've accepted what those who would control us have told us. Or something like that. Cheers, my friend!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #10

I am pleased, Fancy, that you think so. And I thank you for taking the time to say so. Hearing from readers like you makes the effort of writing worthwhile. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #9

Thank you for the kind words, Jan \ud83d\udc1d Barbosa, they are especially welcome from someone like you whom I know differs with me on several issues. Cheers!

Pascal Derrien

6 years ago #8

Collectively we have an artificial point of view based on unknown and unverified or made up facts, I would be more concerned about what we don't know... now virtual reality not so long ago was also called ......paintings :-)

Pascal Derrien

6 years ago #7

Thanks for sharing the recipe now it is up to us to source the ingredients :-)

Fancy J London

6 years ago #6

I enjoyed your perspective on this subject. Thank you for enlightening me with different ways to look at things that I may have not thought of if not nudged a bit. Always enjoy your content.

Jan 🐝 Barbosa

6 years ago #5

One of the reasons i love to read your content is that you stand many Times opposite to the mainstream views... even mine... And even when sometimes I dont agree completely , it open my eyes to new alternatives and possibilities 🤔🤔👍

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #4

Actually, Mohammed, I think it's worse. We are abdicating our position because we're being told that robots and AI are better than humans and human intelligence. Yet, most of what we're being told about robots and AI is pure B.S. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

6 years ago #3

So much talk is going on about AI and aliens that humans are forgetful of diminishing humanity!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #2

Thanks for sharing this, Jim. I think the danger in not so much from the AI robots, but from thinking they are more intelligent than they are and trusting them to do things they can’t. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

6 years ago #1

This one is for Pamela \ud83d\udc1d Williams.

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