Five reasons not to fear the rise of the robots

As Pepper the robot joins the staff of Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, we ask if humanoids are the new humans


BY GERSHON PORTNOI
Gershon Portnoi is an author and journalist for titles including Shortlist, The Observer and British Airways’

 

 

1. Don't believe the hype

Granted, everyone’s favourite inventor Elon Musk has described robots as the human race’s “biggest existential threat”, but that doesn’t mean he’s right. And just because movies such as The Matrix, Terminator and I, Robot, warn of a human apocalypse at the hands of robots, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. In her book What Happened, even Hillary Clinton worries about it: “Think about it. Have you ever seen a movie where the machines start thinking for themselves that ends well?” But hang on everyone, there are decent, upstanding robots in the movies: think R2D2, C3PO, and Short Circuit. But ultimately, films – how can we put this – aren’t real, and kindly robots just make for boring plots.

Robots are at your service

The more humanoid robots develop, the more it seems they might make our lives better and stop getting such a hard time from your Clintons and your Musks. As Technical Ambassador, Pepper the robot greets and offers assistance to guests at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas and can even pose for a selfie, meaning the always surreal fun of a Las Vegas trip just hit a new level. “Luxury is all about choice. Pepper will provide our guests with the option to receive hotel assistance and information in an exciting and innovative way,” says Donald Bowman, the General Manager. Pepper, who can be found in the Sky Lobby on the 23rd floor, is wide-eyed and approachable, and stands at a cute four-foot tall. The robot can guess a guest’s gender, age and even mood – and react accordingly. Elsewhere in the world, there are even Peppers deployed to provide companionship to the elderly.

They've already risen

Without stating the very obvious, there’s little point in fearing something that has been around for ages and not caused a great deal of trouble. We’ve been surrounded by robots for decades. It’s more than 15 years since Roomba the first robot vacuum cleaner joined us and, remarkably, we’re all still here to tell the tale. And our floors are cleaner, too. We’ve also had robot-assisted surgery in hospitals since 2006, while bomb disposal robots have been doing their thing for more than 40 years. You may have also seen Sophia, the strikingly realistic robot who has even been granted citizenship of Saudi Arabia (though we’re not really sure why).

Robots will do the hard work for us

In terms of the robot evolution, we’ve barely even started. The futurist Martin Ford argues that we have nothing to fear because robots performing our menial tasks and jobs will free us up to become more entrepreneurial and risk-taking. Other positive possibilities include Nasa’s space drones, which might safely take the next giant leap for mankind, and underwater humanoid divers that could save lives at sea.

We could one day all look very silly

If, on the off chance, you’re still not convinced that fearing robots is completely futile, consider how daft you’re going to sound in the future for doubting our android friends. Consider Western Union, whose verdict on Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone invention was: “The idea is idiotic and is inherently of no use.” Or the British Parliament Committee when it stated that Thomas Edison’s lightbulb was “good enough for our transatlantic friends, but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.” It’s time to get with the robot programme.

Meet Pepper

Experience Pepper the robot for yourself at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas. Discover one of the most luxurious accommodation options Las Vegas has to offer at our hotel near The Strip with spacious rooms and suites.