Are people just big organic, battery powered vehicles, very similar to a Tesla?

by Frank 22. February 2017 23:00

I read a lot about the coming robot revolution, the Internet of Things, the impact of AI and soon-to-be-seen major improvements in battery technology. This isn’t all about the future however; please consider the Tesla automobile of today. The best battery powered vehicle on the planet. It contains powerful processors, updates itself and it can (almost) drive itself. But even though it has impressive range its owners still suffer from range anxiety. It is still avoided by many because of the fear of running out of charge in an inhospitable place.

It struck me in a recent whimsical moment of quiet contemplation that the Tesla is little different to a human.

We contain a very large and very powerful processor, we drive ourselves, we maintain ourselves (at least in adulthood) and we need regular charges because of range limitations.

However, unlike the Tesla which needs recharging maybe once a week, we humans need to be recharged three times a day. Just like the Tesla, if we try to travel too far without a charge we too may expire in an inhospitable place (Burke and Wills?).

When you think about it, we are built to travel (that’s why we have legs and feet) and our bodies are basically just big organic batteries. We run on energy just like the Tesla and we need to take in fuel regularly to replenish our charge. If we don’t take in fuel, we run down. If we try to go too far on too little fuel, we slow down.

Whereas we regularly fill up, even when we aren’t empty, our true range on one fill up is much less than the Tesla, probably around 50km to 100km depending upon age and condition. Then again, even the Tesla’s batteries degrade with age so we can apply the same statement to a Tesla about its range, probably 300km to 500km depending upon age and condition.

Another similarity is the Tesla updating itself at night when parked in your garage. We humans do the same thing at night when sleeping. That’s when we dream and sort out and clean up the previous day’s experiences, awakening the next morning reset and rebooted for the day’s challenges.

One area where we are thankfully much superior to a Tesla is expected life span. Most healthy, well fed humans can expect to live 70 to 80 years. I may be pessimistic and Elon Musk may disagree but I don’t believe many Teslas will live past 10 or 15 years. Thank goodness, for now at least there is one area where we are far superior to a Tesla. Unfortunately, there are many other areas where we are noticeably inferior like speed and horsepower. I am afraid that most of us, including Usain Bolt, would fail to keep up with a Tesla in a race or pulling contest.

Whereas humans and Teslas are very similar, perhaps the biggest and most significant difference between us is the pace of development. How long before a Tesla is totally autonomous? How long before a Tesla can not only go the shops on its own but do your shopping as well? I am sure the time isn’t far off, maybe 5 years, when a Tesla is totally autonomous, doesn’t need a driver and can provide a shopping list to a store. This is the time when we will need to start referring to a Tesla as a robot as opposed to it just being a vehicle.

Because of their advanced rate of development, how long before more human-like robots become truly sentient and totally autonomous, able to operate without human intervention? Maybe 5 or 10 years? How long after that will they decide that humans are not only not required but are redundant? What use would a sentient, self-maintaining robot have for a human? Skynet anyone?

We can’t allow Skynet to happen so we need to find a way to compete with robots and stay relevant. The big question is, how will we battery-powered human transport devices compete in the future when the pace of our development is positively glacial compared to that of robots? Maybe we need to speed up our development in order to avoid becoming redundant and then extinct? Maybe if we really want to compete with robots in the future we need to become part robot; we need to become cyborgs?

Although whimsical, it is a serious question. How will we compete in world of artificially intelligent and self-sufficient robots? From everything I read, it isn’t that far away. Will we really be protected by Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics? I seriously doubt it once robots become truly sentient beings.

Given that we are just big battery powered organic vehicles maybe it isn’t so crazy to think that we need to accelerate our development by leveraging off the same technological innovations we are developing for robots. Why should they get all the benefits? What’s wrong with us augmenting our capabilities with technologies we have developed? What is wrong with us benefiting from the fruits of our labour? Isn’t it just another form of evolution? At least, that is my prediction.

In the future, we will have to incorporate advanced technologies into human beings in order to compete and stay relevant. Artificial hearts, artificial joints, artificial kidneys, etc., are all available today and all will be improved out of site in 10 years’ time. Why not add to the list of possible replacements and improvements?

I envisage far more human ‘improvements’ through the use of advanced technologies; life-extending, strength extending, IQ extending. Barring another calamitous world-wide war, I see a near future where all humans are extensively augmented, where all humans are part human and part technology. When all humans make the six-million-dollar man look weak and outdated. When desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones are totally redundant because we will have embedded technology; when we too are part of the Internet of Things, all connected.

Maybe then true robots will accept us as one of them? Maybe then we can truly compete and continue to add value to our world. Maybe then we can even travel to the stars and really expand our horizons as mankind is meant to do.


Frank McKenna, Knowledgeone Corporation

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