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.
— Isaac Asimov, I, Robot
Last week iRobot was announced as the 2018 theme for Burning Man. After several years of enjoying themes that have looked to the past, e.g. Caravansary, DaVinci's Workshop, Cargo Cult, etc. this year's theme looks to the future.
While the theme is based on a book from 1950, the organizers have challenged the Burning Man community to consider:
"the many forms of artificial intelligence that permeate our lives; from the humble algorithm and its subroutines that sift us, sort us and surveil us, to automated forms of labor that supplant us ... This year we invite participants to use their native genius to create expressive robots of all kinds. We also welcome art that examines how it feels to live in a world that is filled with robots that watch us, track us, hack us, read our tweets and emails, listen to our phone calls, and sell this information to other robots."
In the harsh conditions of the playa it's hard to imagine an automated existence where robots do our every bidding in order to make life easier. It's also one of the few places where regular surveillance is not a part of daily life. Yet the relevance of the theme can't be missed as we move into a more automated connected world. Even cell phone service has become more accessible at Black Rock City, a concept unheard of even a few years ago. Soon we will live in a world where connection will always be available, whether we want it or not.
It will be interesting to see how artists and participants represent the future with both art and fashion.