I’ve often contemplated the notion of a futuristic utopian society where machines and robots carry out most, if not all of the monotonous tasks of production on behalf of humans, and what that world would look like, and how it would function. I’ve had many discussions and debates about it with family members, friends and colleagues. The argument always seems to revolve around two opposing ideas, which seem to raise more questions than answers. More on that later, but first…
The Science Fiction author Isaac Asimov defined his Three Laws of Robotics as follows:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Dr Isaac Asimov
In the context of this piece, I’m taking the bold step of introducing the notion of two additional laws:
4. A robot must lighten the burden of human beings by taking on the liability of labour for the general enhancement of humanity.
5. A robot must learn to communicate and make intelligent decisions to enable successful execution of the fourth law.
But the difference between Asimov’s work and what you are about to read in the context of my two proposed additional fourth and fifth Laws of Robotics, is that this is not a work of fiction, but borne out of a real project called Robonomics.
Things are about to get a little technical, so please fasten your seatbelts and hold on to your brain cells.
Robonomics by AIRA (Autonomous Intelligent Robot Agent)
The Robonomics team at AIRALab are developing a platform designed to integrate Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) into the human economy for Industry 4.0 creators, Engineers and Smart Cities using the infrastructure of the Ethereum Network.
Industry 4.0 refers to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes Cyber Physical Systems (CPS), the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and cognitive computing. Industry 4.0 is commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.
Robonomics (the economy of robots) solves problems associated with current Industry 4.0 production methods and the supply chain process. It goes further by addressing the main challenge of how to organise the integration and consolidation of a variety of Cyber Physical Systems (CPS’s) on a global decentralised scale.
The following Problem and Solution sections are from a recent talk given by Alexandr Kapitonov at the Crypto Valley Conference, Zug, Switzerland 2018:
Population growth and the increasing complexity of supply chains require a full-scale deployment of Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) into the human economy.
Smart cities and smart factories of the future are designed as multi-vendor, heterogenous environments with multiple streams of communication that are necessary between robots and humans.
But the current model of integrating robots into the economy via a few centralised parties primarily serves the interests of those parties, and prevents market forces from regulating human-robot relations.
And centralised parties pose a number of threats such as the possibility of interference and data breaches from malicious actors.
A global decentralised network where market forces guide the participants is the most viable way of integrating Cyber Physical Systems into the economy.
The current stage of robotics development makes it possible for CPS to communicate and exchange services among themselves and with humans directly.
Thus, eliminating centralised third party intermediaries could:
- Improve the utilisation of robots: machines can decide what actions to take within constantly changing environments;
- Minimise single pont of failure risks and strengthen privacy protections;
- Incentivise multiple technological, legal, social and cutural innovations.
The Robonomics Platform
From the whitepaper:
“The creation and development of a platform that provides tools for working with the robot economy network (the Robonomics platform) will allow designers of new cities and industrial zones to build trust among autonomous robot services, and provide direct user access for ordering products from autonomous factories and services of urban sensor networks. This in turn will allow us to put in place a decentralized system that globally monitors the activities of cyber physical systems.”
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring human-to-machine interactions to high-level communication based on market liabilities.
Liability Smart Contract
The AIRA (Autonomous Intelligent Robot Agent) project implements a standard of economic interaction between human-robot and robot-robot via liability smart contracts.
We can consider the notion of a liability smart contract in terms of the transfer of ownership between robots during the different stages of production and logistics when humans are excluded from this process.
The Robonomics Protocol
In human-machine systems the Robonomics Protocol allows for the combination of economical and technical parts of communication into one transaction. This is more than just information exchange. We get the protocol establishing an agreement about cooperative business processes between humans and machines.
With the help of the Robonomics Protocol it’s possible to control planetary supply chains using economic theory methods.
Autonomous Economic Agents
Similar to a firm in the economy, a cyber physical system (CPS) integrates many robots into a closely connected network of sensors and actuators capable of organized collaboration.
Described by Ronald Coase in his article ”The Nature of the Firm”, one can consider the evolution of Cyber Physical Systems into Autonomous Economic Agents.
By giving the machine the opportunity to undertake liabilities and create liabilities for its services, we can get a full integration of an economically autonomous agent into the consumer environment.
Advantages of The Robonomics Protocol
Robonomics Protocol for Society
The Robonomics protocol improves the transparency and traceability of goods and services produced by machines. Meanwhile, implementing control of machines’ liabilities detaches from for-profit IT companies, which are partners of producers.
With the help of the Robonomics protocol, Ethereum network validators can check fulfilment of machines’ liabilities. This is economic arbitrage based on economic game theory.
Robonomics Protocol for Business
There is no need to search for a reliable mediator, whom every participant of the chain can trust, to provide security, information exchange and data storage.
Information appears in the supply chain based on the Robonomics protocol and creates additional value for the consumer owing to the increased level of production transparency.
The Robonomics Protocol for Science
The Robonomics Team at AIRA consists of about 10 network architects, engineers and developers, plus 5 designers and community support personnel and an advisory board of 3.
For about the last three to four years the Robonomics team have been working on the ground zero of economic cybernetics, which provides an opportunity to control complex human-machine systems with the help of economic theory.
Their work is based on the ideas of Norbert Wiener, Ronald Coase and Victor Glushkov.
They are realising the ideas of these talented people with experiments in building direct interactions between humans and machines. This way, by using theory and experiments they are able to develop a standard of high-level human-machine communication.
First Main Net Transaction Success
The Robonomics project is progressing well by all accounts, with the success of the first transaction via the emission of the Robonomics (XRT) Token in the Ethereum mainnet. More on this can be found here.
The Robonomics Team
The team members who are given as the authors of the whitepaper are:
Sergey Lonshakov — Robonomics Network Architect
Aleksandr Krupenkin — Robotics/IoT developer, Ethereum smart contract developer, Aira tech stack architect
Aleksandr Kapitonov, PhD — PhD in Industrial Automation, Robot economics academic society professor
Evgeny Radchenko — Systems Engineer
Alisher Khassanov — Industial Engineer
Aleksandr Starostin — Web developer, Ethereum smart contract developer
More information on the full team can be found here.
XRT — The Robonomics Token
To develop economic incentives for maintaining the work of Smart Cities and Industry 4.0 within the infrastructure of the Ethereum network, a new internal Robonomics token will be issued — The Robonomics token (XRT).
XRT tokens will be required in exchange for the services rendered by a Cyber Physical System.
There is a far more in depth explanation of how the XRT token operates within the Robonomics system in the whitepaper, but to give you a flavour, it includes the following synopsis:
“The task of the Robonomics [XRT] token is to ensure the operation of a decentralized network for the maintenance of Smart Cities and Industry 4.0 in the Ethereum infrastructure. In order to achieve this goal, the token economy needs to reflect the incentives for the implementation of the networks useful function by independent providers. These incentives should be distributed between the emission and the commission in such a way as to ensure the capacity of Robonomics in Ethereum depending on the price of the XRT token as well as to motivate providers to run the Robonomics program in the EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) with the data offered by users.”
According to the Robonomics Network website, 80% of the initial 10 million XRT tokens issued will be made available via a Dutch auction. What this means is that the price will start low, and then get even lower over the allocated time frame.
The remaining 20% will be divided equally (10% each) between Pre-distribution and The Robonomics Network Foundation.
It’s somewhat unclear at this time, but the token sale seems to have been scheduled to begin sometime between the Spring 2018, and the end of 2018.
Following on from my introduction, on the one hand is the proposition that the replacement of human labour will somehow bring about the further disenfranchisement of the working and middle classes to the benefit of the rich and elite via a widening wealth gap accompanied by an overwhelming increase in poverty and redundancy. What do we do with all this surplus human time and redundant labour?
On the other hand, why do we humans continue to insist on working like slaves, carrying out menial mind-numbingly boring and monotonous repetitive tasks, when that work can be delegated to robots? We seem to have become almost dependent on this system of abject misery because that’s what our capitalist, Keynesian based economy and society expects of us.
But it’s clear to me, and others, that this prevailing dysfunctional system has failed us. The current paradigm benefits the few elites at the top of the pyramid who are currently the owners of capital and means of production at the expense of the rest of us.
We need a new economic model that is based on fairness, and one where advances in technology serves us all, rather than just a few. I see the Robonomics Network as an amazing leap in the right direction, but we need to make sure that it serves us all and protects us against the further enslavement of humanity by being vigilant to the encroachment of a dystopian totalitarian system of governance.
One of the ways in which we can do that is by moving towards more advanced empowering decentralised systems and intelligent distributed p2p networks (such as the one proposed in this piece) that serves to remove control from bloated bureaucratic central authorities. Will Robonomics be a part of this brave new economy? I sincerely hope so, and I’ll be following their progress closely.
Finally, I will close with the prophetic words of the late great Jacques Fresco, founder of the Venus Project:
“IF we are genuinely concerned about the environment and our fellow human beings, and want to end territorial disputes, war, crime, poverty, hunger, and the other problems that confront us today, the intelligent use of science and technology are the tools with which to achieve a new direction — one that will serve all people, and not just a select few.” Jacques Fresco
Robonomics Project Links
Robonomics Platform — Website
AIRA — Website
Robonomics platform by Airalab — GitHub
Robonomics.Network by Airalab — Medium
Airalab — Twitter
About the Author
Allan Ewart (Bluecat Media) is an independent and freelance writer specialising in the field of Fintech and blockchain related projects, with a degree in finance, business start-up experience and approximately 8 years experience in cryptocurrencies.