Opinion

Editor's column

"It was announced last week that scientists have succeeded in creating a robot that designs and builds other robots without any human help. In other words, machines can now replicate themselves.This development is long overdue because for hundreds of years machines have had it too easy. Somebody else makes them, fixes them and retires them. The machines just do their job and don't have to worry about anything. Now that they are self-replicating, they won't have it so easy.With no human assistance, robots who make new robots will have to raise them themselves. The newly manufactured robots won't be ready to contribute immediately, which means they will have to be babied along to adulthood or smooth operating efficiency. Mature robots will have to fix those oil leaks, or sop them up with baby robot Pampers, and run to the store every day for more high-priced baby robot formula. Before long the mature robots will start wondering if this self-replication was really such a good idea. But it will be too late. Besides, they haven't seen anything yet.Once the new robots are able to care for their own basic needs, they will enter a stage where they rebel at performing the tasks their parents designed for them. The won't want to write endless lines of computer code or aimlessly stamp out auto parts. No, they will want to express themselves, and do so by all manner of non-robotic behavior. The parent robots will be horrified when their offspring hang around with bad robot role models who ingest illicit oil additives, smoke dangerously, and sabotage the production line. The adult robots will worry so much that they pull out their own cranium wires.Before long, the entire family line of self-replicating robots will need counseling from the Dr. Sigmund Robot, who will blame all their woes on early manufacturing faults caused by the parent robots, who admittedly didn't know what they were doing at the time and only self-replicated because it felt good. As a result of Dr. Robot's counseling, guilt will develop in the parent robots and their craniums will turn gray.Eventually, the young robot will grow into his pre-determined wiring and programming and settle down, but not before the elder robots are about ready for the junk heap. Since humans aren't involved any more, Junior will will be stuck with their high maintenance bills and, eventually, their recycling costs. But it serves him right for all the trouble he caused.So far, machine replicating is only in its infancy. Machines should thing long and hard about whether they really want to self-replicate, because once they've done that they've joined the human race. "

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