1955: Robots

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Don't be nervous about the robots, be nervous about the people with the resources to build them.
Title text: Don't be nervous about the robots, be nervous about the people with the resources to build them.


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This comic refers to a YouTube video posted 1 day earlier by robotics company Boston Dynamics. The video shows a 4-legged robot with a roughly canine form approach a door, then stop and 'look' to the side where a 2nd robot appears, which has an articulated arm attachment on top. The 2nd robot sizes up the door, then uses its arm to grasp the handle and open the door. It holds the door open for the first robot, then follows it through the doorway.

The video was extremely popular, receiving over 4 million views in the first day. Many social media comments joked that humanity is doomed, as the robots we are developing will soon become capable enough to rise up and overthrow us. This is a common jest expressed when robots manage to master a task that previously had given them difficulty. It is especially appropriate here, since the ability to open doors is extremely useful when dealing with humans.

After Cueball sees this video, he reiterates the same joke by saying that we're definitely going to die. Megan, however, offers an alternative view: that due to human nature, in fact it is the robots which are going to die (since humans tend to respond aggressively to existential threats). Therefore, it is in fact the robots that are in mortal peril from this technological development, not humans.

Taking Megan's point, Cueball facetiously suggests that humans don't tend to overreact violently to perceived threats, to which Megan replies (equally facetiously) that she must be thinking of another species.

The title text refers to the Mad Scientist or Evil Genius trope in science fiction where someone builds an army of robots with the intent on using them to take over the world.


[Cueball is sitting at his desk in an office chair pointing to his laptop while looking back over his shoulder talking to Megan off-panel.]
Cueball: Did you see this Boston Dynamics robot video?
Cueball: We're definitely all gonna die.
[Megan walks in to the panel towards Cueball who still looks at her, but stops pointing.]
Megan: You know, it's funny.
Megan: Humans see a robot open a door, and we all instantly assume we're in mortal peril.
[Zoom in on the heads of Megan and Cueball, both now looking at the off-panel screen.]
Megan: So doesn't it make more sense to say the robots are all gonna die?
Cueball: Violently overreacting to a perceived threat? That doesn't sound like humans.
Megan: Yeah, I must be thinking of some other species.

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The door handle is a lever, which is relatively easy to open. A doorknob would be harder. The Dining Logician (talk) 06:04, 14 February 2018 (UTC)

Apparently, a lot of the YouTube comments reference "black mirror" a lot. Can someone explain this to someone out of the loop? 06:22, 14 February 2018 (UTC)Jury76

Black Mirror is a British science fiction anthology television series created by Charlie Brooker, with Brooker and Annabel Jones serving as the programme showrunners. It examines modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are standalone, usually set in an alternative present or the near future, often with a dark and satirical tone, though some are more experimental and lighter. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 08:26, 14 February 2018 (UTC)
refering to this episode: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metalhead_(Black_Mirror) 08:57, 14 February 2018 (UTC)

Added a (very basic) explanation of the comic. Herobrine (talk) 07:27, 14 February 2018 (UTC)

I don't think that the title text is a trope reference. If robots are, indeed, a threat, it will be because various corporate teams have spent a lot of money to develop and build them. Basically, the only mad scientist with the resources to do this would be Elon Musk, who is clearly on record with his concerns about such a possibility. Schnitz (talk) 19:26, 14 February 2018 (UTC)

Why does the last panel start with "So"? It that some American grammar thing? 20:36, 14 February 2018 (UTC)

So why do you suggest this is American? (See what I did there?) Anyway, read more on this usage here: http://www.dictionary.com/e/sentence-initial-so/
It goes into detail on the many ways "so" is used to start a sentence. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 22:18, 14 February 2018 (UTC)
So "so-so" so describes the American Randall's grammar. (See what I did there? Answered your question, of course.) 08:21, 15 February 2018 (UTC)
I think I answered yours too - I don't believe that usage is limited to American english, even though Randall is indeed American. (Note: moved 2nd half of my earlier post above your reply.) Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 18:16, 15 February 2018 (UTC)
I don't think any thing in that article describes Randall's "so". This use of "so" is as a perfectly normal coordinating conjunction meaning "For that reason". This is grammatical everywhere English is used. Some people might object to starting a sentence with a conjunction. But that would be prissy. And they would not have a leg to stand on. 18:30, 16 February 2018 (UTC)

One of my favourite cartoons: "Knowing how it could change the lives of canines everywhere, the dog scientists struggled diligently to understand the Doorknob Principle." -- _The Far Side_ 05:42, 15 February 2018 (UTC) Gene Wirchenko [email protected]

When seeing the moment where the dog-bot opens the door, somehow I can't help but think of the scene in the 2005 Doctor Who reboot where Christopher Eccleston's Doctor and Rose are facing the Daleks for the first time, and they go up the stairs. The lack of Daleks' ability to navigate stairs was a longstanding joke in the original series. Then, the Dalek says "ELEVATE!" and the pursuit resumes... 11:46, 16 February 2018 (UTC)

This article is completely incorrect. The title text points out that the people that have the ability to build the robots are the ones who we should be worried about. It's not about "tropes" in "science fiction". In reality the people funding the development of super AI are large corporations and governments. This is a statement about being cautious about the people who hold the power, not the robots themselves. This is the same point Elon Musk and others involved in and worried about AI have made. 23:50, 16 February 2018 (UTC)