Despite little or no resemblance to Isaac Asimov’s humanoid-style robots or most of those in science fiction, the world is rapidly becoming the habitat of all kinds of robots. In the original sense of the word, I might add. Not in the sense of being sentient, or having real artificial intelligence. (As originally defined, not our current definition.) Nor the current popular and industrial definition of a robot as being a remotely-controlled device. Rather, devices that operate independently in accordance with their programming.
We don’t think of many of these devices as “robots,” of course. But such everyday items as Automated Teller Machines (remember, that’s what ATM means!), automatic lighting and sprinkler systems – to say nothing of more complex electrical load managers and water and waste water treatment systems. More recently, self-driving cars and trucks. Programmable drones. Robotic vacuum cleaners. Even devices for cleaning cat litter boxes.
One of the most recent robotic devices to come to the market is a little wheeled ‘bot that follows you around carrying your luggage. A neat idea, if one predicted for decades.
One of the most common robots today is found in our smart phones and in tablets (PADDs to us older folks) and laptops and desktop computers. Able to accept voice instructions, modify their actions based on exterior stimuli, and perform many tedious and repetitive jobs, they replace the time needed to flip through hardcopy telephone directories, manual cooking timers, turning lights and more on and off, and many more jobs.
Which is why, I guess, they are racist. Not just cellphones and laptops – all robots. Racist? Yes, indeed, because they are replacing personal servants. There are several aspects. First, only rich, racist people had personal servants in the past, so modern users are inheriting their evil. Second, most personal servants were “people of color” and it was often the best jobs they could get. So modern robot users are displacing people of color – taking jobs away from them. Third, robots are “better” than human servants in the eyes of these racists: they don’t talk back, they don’t need time off, they don’t (mostly) need to be paid or fed or housed, and they are constantly obedient.
But how can an inanimate object be racist, you ask. In the same way that a Confederate Battle Flag or Naval Ensign is racist. You could take those same pieces of cloth and three colors and make (and use) something as a non-racist object. Such as a French or Netherlands flag. Or a jacket. (Not a skirt, of course – that would be sexist.) Yes, the main purpose of the robotic device might be for some specific use that does not promote or exhibit racism, but the connotations are still there. You may claim that you fly the Southern Cross flag out of love for your homeland or to reenact history, but that flag is still racist.
Can we create robots that are NOT racist? I have not the foggiest.
In a side note: Walter Williams made a few points about racism as exhibited today. Can you answer this quiz question?
Who spoke these words in a Father’s Day speech in 2008 to a black congregation? Words that are an “unforgivable outburst of white supremacy.”
“If we are honest with ourselves,” too many fathers are “missing — missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”
Was that (a) Bill Cosby (evil sexist monster) (b) Walter Williams (evil race traitor) (c) James T. Harris (evil black talk show host), or (d) Thomas Sowell (evil race traitor #2).
The answer, of course, is Barak Obama. Bet you didn’t think he was a racist, eh? At least not a racist against black people.