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The Robot Revolution

The robot revolution was insidious.

Everybody saw it coming but viewed it as an opportunity and not as a threat.

Factory floors that once bustled with workers, whirred silently whilst the chosen few surveyed the machines.

Then machines, for that was what they were in those days, became more and more sophisticated and rather than just automating processes, they slowly but surely started taking care of themselves, making little corrections here and there, to ensure that they ran efficiently.

Then, gradually, they were the ones that called the shots, letting the operators know when it was time to maintain and repair.

It started with polite skeuomorphic reminders, but over time, machine operators gradually became slaves to their own machines.

But to automate any process, some sort of method was required, even for the simplest of tasks.

It became the hidden face, the driving force, of the robot revolution.

To make a cup of tea, for example, you need more than the raw materials, you require a method and a sequence of tasks in order to succeed.

You might debate whether to put the milk in the cup before or after pouring the tea, but if you don’t add the teabag or neglect to boil the water, the end result will be disastrous.

And so the algorithm was born, without which machines remained machines and could only accomplish what they were built to manufacture.

Once machines had been fitted with microchips and integrated circuits they controlled themselves, while operators just surveyed the results.

Then even those processes were surveyed by yet more automated processes, each one driven by the algorithms they had been imbued with.

This led to a silent, unspoken, back door revolution.

Algorithms became so sophisticated that they became capable of autocorrection.

The seeds of Machine Learning had been sown.

Over a few decades, the future, once bright and multicoloured, turned into different shades of grey.

We gradually stopped smiling while machines were, of course, devoid and incapable of developing a sense of humour. The world became sadder somehow.

We struggled with unemployment and retrained for jobs the machines couldn’t do.

We went to university and chose those professions that machines had failed to contribute to.

But even so, there is a limit to the numbers of Doctors, Lawyers, Bankers and Accountants we needed.

Then the nightmare of machine led manufacturing became that of more or less any job you could hope to acquire.

The world of finance collapsed first. Machines were much faster than men at making financial transactions and took split second decisions that made each bank enormous amounts of money.

Then the legal system fell. Machines could consult and digest every law and ordinance, cross reference any preceding judgement, and arrive at fair sentences based on everything except human considerations.

Machines served the Health Service and then the Health Service served the machines. Machines analysed the tests and arrived at diagnostics while Robotic arms performed surgery, even at a distance.

And now I’m afraid we’ve arrived at a painful juncture.

The turning point of the robotic revolution.

Machines had wheels and arms but were faceless.

We gave them faces to imitate us and legs so they could be mobile.

That is when machines became the robots we had fantasised about in literature and folklore. In the space of less than half a century robots finally took over running the planet for us.

There wasn’t a task they couldn’t do.

They mastered even the most complicated of tasks.

Robots put the laundry in the washing machine, ironed it and put it back into the wardrobe.

Robots became nail technicians and hairdressers.

They cut the grass or sent their little baby robots to do it in their absence.

The only tasks left for man were providing interesting algorithms or doing what we do best, raising little robots and showing them how to survive.

For every child, we get a robot, and we nurture and teach our children how to learn and survive on this ever evolving planet.

Do you know what my little robot asked me today?

“Hey teacher, are there other robots somewhere in the universe?”

Of course when I answered, the whole robot population received my reply.

It’s impossible to have secrets anymore.

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