4 Fears About Robots That Can Be Traced Back to ‘The Jetsons’

robotsBack in 1962, when a conversation about robots taking over the earth would likely have landed you in a hospital, a little cartoon called “The Jetsons” explored life in the future. This American animated sitcom produced by Hanna-Barbera centered on a family residing in Orbit City where all homes and businesses are situated high above the ground on adjustable columns. George Jetson lives in the Skypad Apartments with his wife, Jane, daughter, Judy, son Elroy, the family dog, Astro, and robotic maid, Rosie.

In the world of the Jetsons, technology is so advanced that robots live among humans like normal citizens. This was not always a good thing, though. Sometimes things went wrong—and it was hilarious. Let us look at a few fears about bots people have today that “The Jetsons” touched on years ago.

1. Robots Turning on Humanity

Some people have expressed concerns about AI turning on humans, including Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Musk has warned multiple times about the need to regulate AI, considering it the single greatest threat to human civilization.

This warning comes true in “The Jetsons” season 2 episode “Robot’s Revenge.” George offends a robotic personal trainer by not leaving him a tip. The robot, named Ralph, puts out a “Code Red” on George, tasking every robot in the world with making his life miserable. And they do.

Even the family’s robotic maid Rosie is in on the plot, though she decides she cannot go through with it. Even worse, when she talks to George about it, she makes it sound like it happens all the time. Imagine if you took the wrong tone with Alexa and she told your smart door locks not to let you in.


2. People Becoming Helpless Without Technology

Another concern about AI, and really, technology in general, is that we are becoming too reliant on devices and losing the ability to do things for ourselves. Smart homes are becoming more common, with companies promising to simplify our lives with new technology every day—our cars are even making our lives easier by driving themselves. But if we rely on technology for everything, what happens if it breaks down?

In the very first episode of the show, the appliances in the Jetsons’ home start breaking down. They have become so reliant on technology and robots that the family can’t even prepare food for themselves without them. The solution? Naturally, they go out and buy a new robotic maid to take care of these tasks.

3. People Losing Their Privacy

This one may actually hit a little close to home. A lot of people in the know (you know, like former FBI director James Comey) keep the webcams on their laptops covered with pieces of tape to prevent anyone from using the electronics to spy on them, and they recommend you do the same. Facebook has also been accused more than once of listening to conversations through users’ smartphone microphones and using the info gathered to tailor social ads.

4. Robots Taking Our Jobs

We have heard the warnings for years, but it looks like the time might finally be upon us—reports are indicating that automation, and robots, in particular, will have major impacts on the economy in the next five years. In the process, they will change the way we work and the skills needed to maintain a job and advance in a career.

Are robots really going to put us all out of work? Probably not. They did not put George Jetson out of work—in fact, they made his job incredibly easy (he still managed to complain, though). It is almost certain the landscape of many industries will change as AI evolves, but that’s a given anyway. The need to adapt is nothing new, and if there is one thing human beings are good at, it is adapting.

Robots Might Actually Save the World

There is no denying robotics and AI also did a lot of good in the lives of the Jetson family. George’s faithful work computer R.U.D.I. was one of his best friends, and Rosie was like a part of the family. They even had flying cars—which might finally become a reality for us, too.

In much the same way, technologies like Amazon’s Echo and Tesla’s self-driving cars are bringing huge conveniences that people could only dream of when “The Jetsons” aired. AI is serving much larger purposes as well, helping preserve animal species, track global warming trends, and improve medical diagnoses.

The challenge for us, like it was for the Jetsons, is to find a way to enjoy the benefits robots can bring to our lives without worrying about being bullied by our mechanical personal trainers. More Rosie, less Ralph.

By Scott Bay
(Edited by Cherese Jackson)

Scott Bay is a digital journalist who reports on the latest technology trends, focusing specifically on travel, security, and AI.


ENSIA: Three Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Helping to Save the World
Telegraph: AI is the biggest risk we face as a civilization, Elon Musk says
Futurism: The Reports Are In: AI and Robots Will Significantly Threaten Jobs in 5 Years
CNBC: From coding to cancer: How AI is changing medicine

Image Credits:

Top Image Courtesy of Scott Bay – Used with permission
Inline Image Courtesy of NYCScout’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Caribb’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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