How humans helped robots enslave them

During the CHI 2013 conference, four robots from the future, posing as legitimate researchers, presented a paper called “CHI and the Future Robot Enslavement of Humankind; A Retrospective“. The paper illustrates how the sustained effort of Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) specialists “tirelessly focussed on the improvement of technology to make it more usable, accessible and fun, while simultaneously more ubiquitous, hidden and capable of understanding and controlling the behaviour of humans“, thereby creating both the technology and the mindsets that would make domination by evil robots possible, and unstoppable.

Pointing at trends such as crowdsourcing, gamification and “human computing” (what may today be referred to as “digital labor“), the paper also shows how “significant effort was expended in developing systems that either directly or surreptitiously increased the workload of humans, freeing up machines to engage in more fulfilling pursuits.

The paper ends by thanking the majority of 21st century HCI research for working so hard to “increase the reliance of humans on, and affection for, machines.” Obviously, by 2013, the four “authors” were confident enough that the trend towards robot domination had become irreversible, so that they could address a major international conference without fearing any kind of backlash.

This is not a new paper, but it deserves to be brought to the attention of less specialised readers, especially at a moment when issues such as governance by algorithms (and the regulation of algorithms), as well as the displacement of highly skilled workers by AIs and robots, are becoming mainstream.

Ben Kirman, Conor Linehan, Shaun Lawson, and Dan O’Hara. 2013. “CHI and the future robot enslavement of humankind: a retrospective”. In CHI ’13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2199-2208. DOI=10.1145/2468356.2468740

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