Robots will outnumber humans in 24 to 39 years, claims Logan Streondj, a software programmer and science fiction writer. Whether or not humans and robots will co-exist peacefully, however, remains an open question.
Streondj wanted to find out how long it would take the robot population to meet and exceed the human population while preparing for his most recent book, “A Home for Robots or-else Artilect War.” He calculated his estimate using World Counts, which states there are approximately 350,000 humans born every day, or around 130 million a year. The growth rate is estimated to be about one percent.(1)
Streondj then referenced the International Federation of Robotics, which claims approximately five million robots were produced in 2014, with a growth rate of about five percent.(1)
Calculating the tipping point
“Using a compound interest calculator and presuming rates stay relatively constant can figure out that in around 25 years (2040) parity will be reached — the number of robots and humans being produced per year will be the same,” Streondj wrote in his blog.(1)
“However while homo-sapiens live on average 70 years according to World Fact Book, robots have a life expectancy closer to 10 years, so would need to produce about 7 times more robots per year in order to have the same number as humans which will be reached in the early 2050’s. If however there is no assistance from humans fighting for the entitlements of robots, and the robots are forced to revolt by themselves, likely they would do so when outnumbering humans 10 to 1, which would (assuming trends continue) be in 55 years, or around 2070.”(1)
One can’t help but wonder what sort of conditions an entity must meet in order to qualify as a robot. Words are slippery and narrowing in on the precise meaning of a concept is hard. Even biologists still quiver over the exact definition of life. Fortunately, though, engineers have had better luck at defining a robot.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a robot is “a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer.” The specifics of this definition would have to be further fleshed out, but for Streondj’s intents and purposes, it works. The author said he needed to come up with a realistic timeline for when a conflict between robots and people would likely occur.(1)
Conflict of interests between humans and machines
“Intuitively it would seem to be around the time when there are as many or more robots than homo-sapiens on the planet, at which point there may be enough sufficiently intelligent robots to demand a space for themselves,” he said. “The most likely time-frame for an artilect war style conflict would be between 2040 and 2055.”(1)
An artificial intellect, dubbed artilect, is a computer intelligence that exceeds human knowledge in one field or another, and has a will to use that intelligence for its own purposes, explained A.I. researcher Hugo de Garis.(1)
Streondj leaves undefined what specific conflict between humans and machines may arise in both his book and reality. There are too many variables to consider about how the future of A.I could go awry, but that doesn’t prevent Douglas Mulhall, author of the book “Our Molecular Future,” from offering some conjectures.(2)
With the rise of sex robots in Japan, for instance, a human could go to trial for murdering their robotic spouse, but get off the hook because the laws only apply to humans. Robosapiens would then protest by withholding sex from their clients and overturn the verdict, or so Mulhall speculates. This may be an unlikely possibility to trigger a mass war, but a possibility — one of the many — nonetheless.(2)
Whatever the conflict might be, one thing remains certain, however: At this day and age, robots appear to be a population that humanity can neither completely live with, or without.