The start of the millennium saw rapid technological developments, some of which could not have been envisaged two decades ago. According to Kelly, one of the major implications of these technological changes is that there has been a proliferation of robots who have increasingly replaced human beings in performing some of their traditional tasks. However, the phenomenon is not exactly astounding given that as far back as 1930 John Maynard Keynes had predicted immense technological advancements that will balance out revolution and stagnation. What the likes of Keynes did not envisage is that the technology would ultimately cause technological unemployment. One of the areas where replacement of human beings with robots is perfectly justified is in performing tasks that are dangerous and difficult. This essay interrogates the reasons for and instances that necessitate replacing human beings with robots. In the essay, I will argue that since the appropriation of robots in dangerous and taxing situations reduces the risk to human life then robots should be used in the situations mentioned above to preserve human life. Analysis indicates that robots should replace humans in performing dangerous and difficult tasks because they are lifeless yet just as efficient.
Technological advancements in the recent past have enabled the creation of robots that perform some functions with the same effectiveness and efficiency as human beings. Moreover, most of them are cost effective and reduce the expenditure that could have been used to contract a human to perform the same tasks. These robots are computer assisted and in some instances even bestow more benefits than a human being could under the same circumstances. One of these areas is in executing tasks that endanger human life. For instance, robots have been appropriated extensively in the military services to perform tasks that are extremely dangerous and suicidal. The Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) is a perfect example of how the robots have been used in place of human beings thus reducing the risks to human life. The EOD are used to examine suspicious packages, buildings, vehicles and other installations for any explosive devices. The EOD can also be used to deactivate safely or detonate bombs and mines. The US army has greatly benefited from the Explosive Ordinance Disposal in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan where the terrorist groups plant Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) along the roads. When a suspicious element is detected, it is the EOD that is risked instead of risking a soldier’s life. The impact the robots have had in saving the lives of the American soldiers cannot be estimated. If the soldiers had carried out the reconnaissance by themselves, they probably would have been blown up. The soldiers have also extensively used robots in the form of unmanned vehicles such as drones to conduct surveillance and even bomb targets with precision in highly insecure zones. If the soldiers used helicopters and jets, they might have been targeted by rocket-propelled grenades by the terrorist groups. Using a drone means that in the unfortunate event that the drone is destroyed no human life is lost in the process. The value is human life is supreme. A single human life should not even be compared to the costs of producing and sustaining one robot. Hence, it is prudent to appropriate robots in difficult and dangerous tasks.
Another excellent instance of a dangerous situation where the robots come in handy is in investigating hazardous environments where human life is endangered. These environments can subsist in the form of an active volcano, a raging inferno or even a hostage situation. Since there are robots that can be used to collect volcanic data and even search for and rescue victims in fire situations, it is only advisable to send a robot instead of risking human life. Andros F6-A, for instance, is used by police to solve a hostage situation. It can be controlled remotely, has a camera and even a speaker. It can fight the captors by firing water cannons and even bullets if the need arises. The hostile environments also include the environments that present harsh conditions that do not support human life such as space and underwater explorations. Since there is no evidence that, for instance, Mars supports life or even if the humans sent to space would return safely it is only prudent that a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) be used instead sending humans. The same applies to underwater exploration where the temperatures are freezing, and the pressure is so immense that it endangers human life. ROVs mounted with sensors, HD cameras, and other useful gadgets can be used to provide a detailed analysis of marine life several kilometers below the sea level. The use of robots in underwater exploration has especially come in handy in addressing oil spills at the floor of the ocean, a task that would have been insurmountable for human beings.
Opponents of the viewpoint that robots should be appropriated to perform dangerous tasks such as Collins argue that robots are not suitable in these circumstances as they lack the intelligence. According to the proponents of this view, the robots are susceptible to destruction as they cannot perform tasks outside their predefined and programmed specifications. They cannot adapt to a dangerous situation as would a human being since they are not intelligent and sentient. Granted, the point raised is plausible in that the robots are designed for a specific function or a group of functions. What the detractors fail to appreciate is that robots are rarely autonomous. In most instances, they operate under direct human supervision. They do not think on their own. It is the human operating the controls who applies intelligence and should change the robot’s operations as the changes are anticipated and or experienced. It will, therefore, be misleading if the presumption that robots operate on their intelligence is allowed to stand.
Some of the opponents of the viewpoint that robots should be appropriated to perform dangerous tasks such as Rus have gone further to argue that since robots lack emotions and conscience the robots, in fact, endanger human life rather than hedging against it being risked. Collins for instance laments that the use of robots in warfare is especially destructive since in some instances emotions and conscience should be used in decision-making. Collins claims that the use of robotic gadgets such as the unmanned drones infringes on the human rights of the people targeted. The target is not given a chance to present their case or to exhibit whether they pose any danger before the assault. Even if the targets surrender, the programmed robots will not understand or empathize with them but will attack them nevertheless. As such, the robots can be misused, intentionally or otherwise. Their greatest objection with regards to the use of apathetic robots in warfare is especially pegged on the scenario where there is a structural malfunction or a programming error making the robot perform tasks it was not to or target incorrect targets.
Again, that argument is fundamentally flawed. It is based on the presumption that robots are fully autonomous yet they are not. Furthermore, it is based on the fact that it is prudent to afford enemies enjoyment of certain human rights in the battlefield that is misleading at the very least. Even with robots it is advisable to err on the side of caution instead of appropriating soldiers with emotions and conscience but who can lose their lives in the battlefield. Crucially, there is no technology that can hedge against its misuse. It all depends on the ethical standards of the persons appropriating the technology. Even the most progressive of human technologies such as the DNA technology that is used in the medical field to design effective nursing interventions can be misused by insurance companies and even in making biological weapons. Therefore, the fact that the robots can be misused especially because they do not have intelligence, emotions or conscience simply does not hold.
Apart from performing dangerous tasks, robots should also replace humans in performing difficult tasks especially those that are repetitive in nature or that require exemplary precision and consistency. For instance, robots are now increasingly being appropriated in car manufacturing plants. They are used to perform tasks that can be mechanized such as the installation of body parts, painting, and welding among others. While human beings can perform the tasks mentioned above, they only do so with great difficulty. It takes a lot of human effort and increases the production expenses. If the expenses spiral upwards, then the pricing will follow suit and may adversely impact the profitability. Appropriating robots makes an economic sense in that it will be able to perform the tasks faster, more efficiently and without getting exhausted as would a human being. The robots are especially effective and efficient where there are difficult yet repetitive tasks as they will not be impaired by fatigue or boredom that can compromise on the quality of the production. Another difficult task where computer assisted robots come in handy replacing human beings is in commercialized agriculture. Agriculture is labor intensive especially if undertaken on a huge tract of land. The use of robots that can navigate farmland, spray pesticides, monitor the growth of crops and even harvest will save on cost and time that would have been incurred had humans performed the functions. The robots are thus efficient.
Lastly, since robots have greater precision, accuracy and consistency, they should replace humans in difficult tasks that require the exhibition of the aforementioned traits and characteristics. One of the major areas where robots have successfully replaced humans in performing difficult tasks with precision is in orthopedic surgeries. Robots have usurped humans in performing remote and minimally-invasive surgeries that demand incredible precision and accuracy. Human fingers may tremble during the operation that is detrimental to tasks that require pinpoint precision. Furthermore, human fingers are large in some instances and are not appropriate for minimally-invasive surgeries. Robotic arms controlled by surgeons can have narrow ends that enhance accuracy and precision of the orthopedic surgeries thus improving patient safety and patient outcomes.
In conclusion, it is evident that the proliferation of technology has enhanced the appropriation of robots. The implication is that robots are increasingly replacing human beings in performing day to day tasks. One of the areas of application where the replacement is apt is where the tasks are difficult or are dangerous to human life. The most common applications are in security, space exploration, underwater exploration, agriculture, and car production among others. Robots unlike human beings are lifeless and, therefore, can easily be risked. Robots, furthermore, have consistency, precision, accuracy and boundless energy that are lacking in humans to enable them to perform difficult and dangerous tasks. While appropriating robots in other spheres of life may be contentious, using them to perform difficult and dangerous tasks is prudent and saves human lives.