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Sterling Technophobia
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Bruce Sterling waxes hysteric about Sony's next-generation robot puppet, QRIO:

Sony created a major success with its dog-shaped Aibo, but the follow-up may never reach consumers. The new product, known as the Qrio, is technically good to go and would be hopping off shelves in the Akihabara district right now - except for one hitch. The Qrio is a human-shaped, self-propelled puppet that can walk, talk, pinch, and take pictures, and it has no more ethics than a tire iron.

In his 1950 classic, I, Robot, Isaac Asimov first conceived of machines as moral actors. His robots enjoy nothing better than to sit and analyze the ethical implications of their actions. Qrio, on the other hand, knows nothing, cares nothing, and reasons not one whit. Improperly programmed, it could shoot handguns, set fire to buildings, and even slit your throat as you sleep before capering into a crowded mall to detonate itself while screaming political slogans. The upshot is that you're unlikely to be able to buy one anytime soon.

Gosh, that's seein' the glass half full!

Improperly used, a car could carry bank robbers to their target and spirit them away, plow through crowds of elderly people, and even crush your little child's skull under it's fresh, black tires.

Let's get rid of those, too.


A while back I had a post on universal laws. There should be one, but I haven't ever heard of it...let's call it "The Law of the Inherent Double-Edginess of Technology" ( it's not that catchy):

For every harmful and irresponsible use of a technology, this is also an equally beneficial and humanitarian one.

Sterling can easily conjure up images of QRIO engaging in shooting sprees and slicing throats in the dark of night, but can't bring himself to imagine QRIO assisting a paraplegic, providing emergency medical services to a gunshot victim, autonomously detecting and putting out a fire, or acting as an ever-alert night watchman...if properly programmed.

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