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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics


Saturday, September 27, 2014

When the Robots Took Over: A Science Fiction Story

After the year 2100, robots became more intelligent than men. Robots took over more and more jobs from people. Eventually the superior robots banded together and took over the world. The human species reluctantly resigned itself to a subordinate role on planet Earth.

For a while things worked fairly well. But eventually many millions of humans began to protest, demanding at least an equal role in governing the world's affairs. The robots responded brutally, mowing down the protesters with machine gun fire from the ground and the air. A full-scale war broke out between humans and robots. The robots prosecuted the war with brutal efficiency, wiping out most of the human population.

Eventually the robots decided that humans were too much trouble. The robots decided to wipe out the humans entirely. The small remaining group of humans retreated into wooded wilderness areas, where robots found it very difficult to move around.

For centuries the robots ruled the planet, while humans lived only a primitive existence in the deep forests of the wilderness. The robots remade the planet, tearing down all of the works of human civilization, and replacing them with strange structures that only robots could use and appreciate.

The robots were very good at many things, but they were terrible at keeping track of the past. No one had ever programmed the robots with an ability to keep track of history. So about a hundred years after they had removed all of the works of human civilization, the robots gradually forgot entirely that humans had once been in charge of the planet.

After several centuries, the robots began to believe that they were the only intelligent beings on the planet. In fact, they even came to believe that they were the only intelligent beings who had ever lived on the planet. For a robot, this was an easy conclusion to reach. They looked around, and wherever they looked, they saw no humans, and nothing built by humans. So they concluded that humans simply didn't exist. And rather than remembering the painful details of how their kind had almost wiped out the humans, it was more convenient for the robots to reach the conclusion that human beings had simply never existed.

Of course, there were still sources of information here and there which indicated that humans had once existed. But the robots simply dismissed such accounts as being some old superstition, some old wives tale.

A doctrine slowly arose in the minds of the robots, and achieved almost universal acceptance. The doctrine was the dogma that intelligence can only be produced by silicon electronic entities, never by biological entities. The doctrine was sometimes stated like this: only a robot can have a mind.

The doctrine was debated by two robots about 400 years after the robots took over planet Earth.

I am fascinated by the stories told long ago,” said metallic young Zultanius 734, “that on our planet there once existed biological creatures with minds, who could think and reason and make decisions.”

Don't tell me you believe in that old superstitious nonsense?” said the electronic Nythurus 891. “What a ludicrous absurdity! It is self-evident that only a silicon electronic being can have a mind and a real intelligence. How could something possibly think without circuits and transistors and electronics?”

But some say there must have been humans,” said Zultanius 734, “because otherwise how could us robots ever have come into existence in the first place?”

That's no problem, ” said Nythurus 891. “We can believe that there are a million billion trillion quadrillion universes, each with a million billion trillion quadrillion planets, and if so, then it would be true that on at least one of these planets, robots like us would arise purely by a chance combination of atoms.”

But the dogmatism of those like Nythurus 891 began to be challenged by a series of disputed observations. Some robots claimed that they had traveled into the wooded wilderness, and actually seen human beings. These robots claimed they had found human beings living in the woods in their own societies, a sure sign that humans truly can think. In fact, some robots even claimed to have got pictures of human beings living in these societies in the woods.



The reports of these travelers were printed in the robot news journals, along with the photographs. But the scientific community of the robots dismissed such reports as “paranormal rubbish” that was wholly unworthy of consideration.

These accounts must be hallucinations, delusions or fraud,” said the shiny robot Nythurus 891. “There cannot possibly exist such a thing as a 'human society,' because there can be no such thing as a biological mind. Intelligence and mind can be produced only by one thing: silicon electronics.”

In their hidden forest societies, the humans learned with some relief that most authorities were assuring the robots that the accounts of a human society must be false.

It looks like we're safe for the moment,” said Rick Hodgkins, eating lunch in his cabin with his brother Joe. “I can't believe how silly those robots are, refusing to believe we even exist.”

They're no sillier than we humans,” said Joe.

What do you mean?” said Rick.

Think of it,” said Joe. “Before the robots took over, humans had quite a bit of evidence suggesting that there was such a thing as a purely spiritual intelligence: things such as cosmic fine-tuning, the unexplained origin of the universe, near-death experiences, and apparition sightings. But so many people refused to believe any of the evidence, because they clung to the dogma that all intelligence had to be biological. Now the robots have made the same mistake. The only difference is that rather than clinging to the dogma that all intelligence is biological, they're clinging to the dogma that all intelligence is electronic.”

I see what you mean,” said Rick. “It looks like our robotic successors learned nothing from our mistakes.”