Advances in cognitive and motor skills of robots by Boston Dynamics and their social implications

Boston Dynamics [¹] has released a video [²] of human-like (ATLAS), dog-like (SPOT), and bird-like (HANDLE) robots dancing a twist to the song “Do you love me?”. The video shows a astonishing, if not mind-blowing level of cognitive (ie listening to music) and motor (ie dancing, jumping, balancing) skills.

I assume Boston Dynamics released this video for two reasons:

  1. to show the impressive skills of the robots and
  2. to frame their technological achievements as harmless, human-like, and fun.

Considering that the development of these robots by a private company (currently owned by Hyundai Motor Company) is very expensive and is expected to be finally applied for economic or military purposes to provide return of investment, the video may be perceived as worrisome because the impressive (generic) skills maybe used for these ends. AI legend Kai-Fu Lee explained in his book [3] about the past, present and future developments of Artificial Intelligence, that he is deeply worried about the social implications of replacing human workers (blue and white collar!) with artificially intelligent software and hardware .While in the past workers could improve their conditions by organizing in unions and joint strikes to fight against corporate power, because they were needed, this will not work in the future in a world, where they are replaced by computers and robots, and not needed anymore. Therefore, human politics should anticipate these social changes and provide the necessary social welfare programs and a restructuring of the job market, e.g. by training humans for tasks they are superior at, e.g. social interaction in health care and education, to support the transformation into new forms of society.