5 Human Things Robots Cannot Do

We live in a world today with technology growing faster than ever, with no mood to settle or slow down. Robot's and Artificial Intelligence (AI) growing at a tremendous rate trying to become sentient (free thinkers). 

Can they achieve humanity?

With more and more tasks being handed over to machines, like loading-unloading in warehouses, driving vehicles, taking orders at restaurants, machines and software are being trained daily to replicate things that humans do. And yet, there are some things which despite serious advancements will still remain human forte and what makes humans special. Actions that cannot be expected of machines to understand.

1. Emotional Quotient
Whilst AI can be trained to have a high Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ) will always remain a human concept.

For e.g. everyone goes through hard times, be it a breakup or a failure or maybe the loss of a loved one. This is an emotionally challenges phase that can cause people to take wrong decisions. In a vast majority of cases, it is human touch and emotion, that helps people recover from such phases

Machines can surely be trained to say nice warm things, but they can never really replace true empathy, the tone, knowing what they want to hear and when, the warmth of a hug, a beating heart, just being there to understand that they need you and calling out to you. 

There is a host of such emotions as frustration, anger, hope and most importantly love. It is felt from deep within... It cannot be taught or trained.

2. Building Relationships

Another important facet of being human is the ability to build and nurture relationships. While robots may be excellent companions to get work done and tasks completed, maybe even personalize things, but, the ability to be personal is human nature.

Like a waiter, at a restaurant, not only serves you food, but may also help you with a crying child or listen to your specific needs and accommodate or just be nice and able to strike a conversation with you to make you feel good; build a bond with you and you'll end up going there regularly.

Be it friends or falling in love or deciding who is good enough for you to marry or something as simple as which dress out of a million would look good on you... is beyond what machines can be taught.

3. Deciding and Upholding the Law

This topic is complicated even for humans themselves to handle. While people may argue that law is black and white, either someone broke it or not, real life is never that simple. To be able to categorize whether a certain case can be termed as being within or breaking it is the most difficult part. There are so many nuances attached.

For e.g. take a case where a man jumps from a high-rise to commit suicide. While passing one of the floors, a gun accidentally fires and hits him, but he dies after hitting the ground. What would this be accident, murder or suicide? Not that simple.

An even more difficult task is drafting these laws. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong for the whole nation; maybe for all of humanity. It is a very big decision; with thousands of known and unknown parameters. This needs a human perspective, it not black (0) and white (1).

Which crime is more severe? Deserves short-term jail or long term? Should the guilty be executed; to actually take a life? These conditions defy simple logical boundaries and many such new scenarios being added daily, beyond what can be inferred by machines living in an instructional boundary based world.

4. Politics

You can train a machine to do the right thing, but how do you train it to do the wrong thing for the right cause or the right thing for the wrong cause? How do you teach it about how much of right/wrong is enough?

Politics is not just about building infrastructure or making laws. It is about being able to prioritize which tasks need funds or attention. Is it roads? Education? Healthcare? Schools or building reserves for calamities? It is also about keeping scandals out, tethering to people's expectations, out-thinking opponents, being shrewd and to some extent capable of making bad/tough decisions.

Not all scenarios are perfectly logical in nature, not all fit in the boundaries of the known... taking it beyond the scope of machines knowledge and capabilities. Haven't we all seen movies where AI wants to kill all humans so save humanity? :)

5. Unstructured Problem Solving

This is a topic difficult to explain in itself. Problems (decisions) are broadly of two types - structured and unstructured.

A structured problem is the kind of problem where you can follow instructions and solve it. Like if your car breaks down; there are instruction manuals for every type of problem to fix the issue. Find the problem and follow the instructions to fix. There is not much thinking to do.

An unstructured problem, on the other hand, is a problem where you don't even know how to identify the problem you have. Even if you identify the problem, you have no clue on how to solve it, there are no instructions available.

In such scenarios, you need to break down the problem and come up with brand new solutions from outside the scope of known parameters. You need to invent the solution and test it knowing the cost, the pressure and the urgency. Like testing a new medicine on humans, keeping in mind they are live people and pushing yourself to think of every known and unknown scenario to avoid risks. Knowing that humans are not expendable resources. This comes from being a human and cannot be taught.

There may be many more features that I have not listed out, but technology is growing fast; it is catching up. The question is, will it ever reach a stage where AI becomes more human than humans themselves? If that day ever comes what would then be the future of us so-called 'humans'?


  1. Very well presented. True, tbat robots may never be able to replace humans in a lot of aspects. But what I believe is that mankind is a product of thousands of years of evolution and have been able to reach the top of the food chain because of its capability to adapt to natural laws, which I believe robots won't be able to do, at least not in near future. And last but not the least, nature has its own role to play too, in its selection. It selected humanity over a lot of other species that diminished gradually from our planet. As Charles Darwin rightly said, mankind is what it is today because it successfully passed the test of "Survival of the fittest"!

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