Last year, Sony debuted a robotic dog–Aibo. This was no ordinary pet. Aibo used state of the art artificial intelligence to learn about its owner, its surroundings and develop behavior based on positive and negative reinforcement. Aibo responded to its name and a collection of commands normally associated with pets.

All things considered, Aibo was a remarkable pet beyond being a remarkable robot. Without the usual biological issues of daily life or the unfortunate biological issues of circumstance, like disease, the first generation of Aibo was at least as interesting–and certainly more responsive –than the average cat.

The price of a pet that doesn’t want to eat off your plate or crap in your plants or require trips to the vet was $1,500. Aibo debuted in a variety of fora, including the annual Comdex computer show and a Janet Jackson music video. Sony sold 100,000 units in the first year. Not bad for a super expensive toy.

Aibo, however, represent something much deeper for Japan’s robotic industry. The total fertility rate of this Asian Pacific economic powerhouse mimics other industrial European nations by producing approximately only one child per couple. Over time, the luxury of needing only one or two children turns into a population problem that creates a large segment of the elderly without the necessary working age and young people to support them.

In Europe, their response to this problem is to import workers from Turkey and the Middle East. The political fallout that occurs from creating an underclass of migrant workers with their tendency to produce more than two children per couple, is a rabid nationalism. This kind of ignorance tends to demand that countrymen produce more “White babies” so immigrants don’t “Take over.”

A brief survey of Japanese literature reveals an equally rabid nationalism with the desire of fringe elements to keep their blood “Pure” with their particular desire to keep Koreans out of it. It’s nonsense, yes, but it’s familiar nonsense. Every homogeneous culture likes to believe they are superior for some reason for another.

As of 1997, Japanese robotic research was all over the map. Every possible aspect of biology was being research to convert into robotic form. They have since embarked on a 20 year plan to manufacture a robotic brain with all of the nuances of the human mind. They have already made major breakthroughs on replicating biomechanical processes such as walking. It is only a matter of time before the robotics research becomes focused enough and advanced enough to remove the proletariat from the production equation.

Some obscure Czech playwright coined the term “robot” in the 17th century. Its precise and literal translation is “slave.” There is a poignant irony to the fact that every neoliberal country of Western civilization invest billions of dollars in robot research. The same capitalism that creates a giant underclass for production is within 50 years of no longer requiring the services of this underclass.

The other disturbing trend of the next 50 years is that the population will double in size and plateau between 11 and 15 billion people. The world will be able to produce enough food for everyone but it will not be able to distribute the food it produces to everyone. Between robotic and Energy Research, there will be no need to feed the mouths of those who cannot afford it. Charity will not be able to overcome the problem of distribution.

With expensive toys like Aibo, the trend will be imperceptible. As in the demand for the literally thousands of types of robot units goes up, the demand for personnel will drop. The cost of manufacturing will drop. The ever declining need for personnel began with the widespread use of the personal-computer. It will end with the robot.

Combine genetic research in agriculture with a workforce of robotic units and every excuse in the world will be made to lock out the poor and, by extension, punish them for their circumstance.

Only a small fraction of the 15 billion people will suffer famine. Capitalism requires a consumer market but what do you do for a consumer population whose production capacity is considered to be inefficient and not required?

That answer that is with the current trend would be to give them drugs and make sure there plenty of robots to satisfy the pleasures of the flesh. Between poverty, drug abuse, food distribution problems, war and social dysfunction, the proletariat underclass–which is rarely aware of their position or fate– will take no more than 200 years to wipe themselves out.

The 23rd century could end up being a world of two or 3 billion prosperous people. Maybe less. There is no other path–no faster path, anyway–to the Star Trek world bereft of hunger, evil and inequality.

Perhaps without intending it, the rock band Pearl Jam describes this vision of the future in their song Rats.


They don’t eat, don’t sleep
They don’t feed, they don’t seethe
Bare their gums when they moan and squeak
Lick the dirt off a larger one’s feet
They don’t push, don’t crowd
Congregate until they’re much too loud
Fuck to procreate till they’re dead
Drink the blood of their so called friend

Robots don’t cause much of any trouble. It all begins with Aibo.

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