When we were child’s we used to play a lot at interesting places. There were secret places in the forest, in the lawn, in the cellars of our houses, dangerous places on roof tops and special places like the painting factory next to our house. This was the first time I encountered a real robot. It was one of those fairly modern robot arms in red with black sleeves on it. Maybe one of the first with the relatively compact design you would still encounter in most of the factories today. From this time on, it must have been around 1995, the term ‘robot’ was clearly lined out and occurred in an steadily rising frequency in the world I grew up.
About one or two years later, I discovered two boxes full of sci-fi books from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Through that, I was confronted with all the hot topics that those authors where discussing so full of imagination but still extremely serious and most of the time on the top of what was thinkable from a scientific and technological point of view, 20 to 30 years before I was born. It was a fascinating world that I was thrown in, full of cold war metaphors, rockets, spaceships, extraterrestrial life, planets, moons, super intelligences, black holes, galaxies, pulsars, super novae, other dimensions, time travel, space-time singularities, hibernation, completely different models of societies, food for everybody, intergalactic imperiums, post-apocalyptic worlds, atomic wars, vaults , mutants, telepaths, telekinetic skills, fusion reaction, quantum teleportation and ROBOT’s. Everywhere. The future was full of robots and I was very soon an expert in robotics. I knew everything from the importance of Isaac Asimov’s three rules of robotics over how to program a positronic brain to the different models on how they can walk on different amount of legs, roll, float, or be attached to something. Around this time I also learned the Sentence of Pythagoras and was starting to hack the computer of my dad which still had a floppy disc.
When computers came into the game things were getting more concrete anyway. Synchronizing my life from early years on to the biorhythms of machines had a bad impact on my sleeping habits. I learned that the future from the past as I knew it was not the present of today. That there were no positronic brains and programing PASCAL was refreshing, too. I also realized that there where other generations growing up in the cities that I was exploring in the meantime, which missed the
serious science fiction from the past completely and knew the future only from rare, action-focused and scary movies. Also the hippies were dead. All the good hope from these days, hope in technology and hope in nature was destroyed by the imperialistic and capitalistic spirit that started somewhere in the deepest middle-age and at last won the evolutionary fight of individuals versus mass dynamics. Resource wasting products were flooding the 21 century even more than I knew it from the 90’s and there were no super intelligences that were regulating and maintaining peace and welfare for everybody.
Instead the machines had turned into the biggest threat for our planet and its inhabitants. The global industry and economics had grown into an unstoppable moloch that was pumping oil from the deepest ground under the sea and refining it into red plastic toys with a smile on it. Most of the babies playing with these toys were sitting in cars that were produced by robots and adults were driving those car, consuming robots manufactured food.
While the biodiversity was exponentially decreasing to zero, only a handful of people were really benefiting from this, a bigger part of the people were arranging themselves with the circumstances and didn’t see any alternatives, and the majority of people were seriously suffering from it. I was born in Germany and the things that I saw the most in my life were cars. It took me a while to grasp the immense proportions of the things that were going on and to realize that it was not normal.
In 2013 we reached the limit of 500.000.000 cars that are populating and polluting planet earth . With a population of 8.000.000.000 people it means that about 32% of earths population could fit in those cars if you are talking about 5 seats per cat. Or in other words, thinking about 1,5 tonnes condensed metal and plastic per car we come to the conclusion that we are talking about 750.000.000 tonnes of material. I won’t even start to approximate how much energy is needed to produce the raw materials, to assemble everything and to transport it to the paying customers.
This massive amount of work would not have been possible without machines. 100 years ago, the biggest advance in technology was the automobile. From there on, nothing changed with the actual concept of transportation, just some minor changes were made to keep the development interesting for the light-minded customer. At the same time other promising more sustainable and less wasting ideas and technologies got suppressed.
The real advanced were not made for the cars, but the manufacturing process that was producing them in an ever-increasing speed and efficiency. Robots replaced human workers. High-tech factories nowadays have big areas where only a few people are allowed to work with special security clothing, because these production halls are full of robot arms and toxic air. There are about 1.000.000 industrial robots existing in the world today, 150.000 alone in Germany. In comparison: There are about 25.000 humpback whales and about 9.000 blue whales left in the oceans of this planet.
Cars are not the only thing they produce. You can not think away robots from most of today’s production chains. Try to just think about the military industry. Weapons, ranging from small hand guns over massive bombs to aircraft carriers are only possible with robots. A big part of the worlds nations primary industry has to do with the military. Germany is on the list.
Money turned the good robots into the bad robots and they were not yet smart enough to understand, as it seems. In fact, no one is controlling them, but they are controlled by the implications and causality of the monetary system of this world.
Around 2005 the US military started using drones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Already in 2012 I heard rumors about drones being used for the surveillance of peaceful demonstrations in major cities in Germany and other countries in Europe. Some time before I saw pictures of Samsung war-robots being used at the Korean
boarder and some time later Youtube was flooded with ugly robots mounted with machine-guns and soldiers wearing AR-glasses and exoskeletons. Autonomous shooting-robots in the air, everywhere. What happened to the three laws of robotics?
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Obviously, only the good guys have red about it. Nevertheless, I started the year 2013 with the feeling that the future that I was waiting for had finally arrived, because of different indications.
People had successfully started to organize them in a proper way and a lot of promising open-source projects invite to join developing technology for a better world. Lego, 3D Printers and cheap servos and Arduino enables everybody to jump right into robotics. There are programming libraries for almost everything that can be done with the computer.
But from my bad feeling about the contradiction between the world as it is and the world I learned how it should be, I am still a bit careful with being happy about robots that are having faces now and are interacting with people in a friendly way.
I am also careful about personal quadrocopter drones that you can control with the tip of your finger. As much as I see how useful a personal drone can be for a hacktivist , as much I see how fast the existing ‘bad’ industrial infrastructure can adapt to such technology and mass produce them
just for the sake of money without asking for what it is used. In the end it would be used to fight unnecessary wars or support fascist regimes anywhere in the world. These drone swarm robots could potentially control whole cities without anybody having a chance to move out of the house.
The risks are not just there in the physical devices and machines. Also the internet is already a flourishing habitat for so-called ‘bots’. Of course spam is not the biggest problem in our world so far. But as the virtual more and more moves into our physical environment, it has an ever growing effect on our daily lives. For example, I see the benefits but also the problems with Google Glasses and AI that is accessing your visual cortex over an omnipresent network.I see the technology that we creative people develop with a smile in the face and with an open hand to everybody, already being abused by the military in many cases. And there are still cold war like threatening bubbling coming up from these people who have so much destruction capacity that we creative people seem meaningless against it with our creations.
As machine learning and feedback control is advancing and robots are building better robots everyday, we are constantly heading towards a technological singularity that yet has to prove, if it will overcome the baby hick-ups of our civilization and is able to create a world in which humanity can exist next to each other and together with Robotinity in a way in which the ecosystem doesn’t collapse within a few decades, or if it is maybe already too late and the machines will only wake up to see that for some tragic circumstances, they have become the dominant life form on this planet.
 Umwelt- und Prognose – Institut e.V. ‘Folgen einer globalen Massenmotorisierung’
 Statistikgrafiken VDMA 2011