It is unlikely that in a few decades humans will be the dominant intelligent, emotional, and learning species on earth. Robots and AIs already show creativity, the ability to learn, and very human emotions, and they will continue to evolve. This may be a good thing, it may be disastrous, but that is not a question I’d like to answer. When I was asked recently to think about museums in the far far future, I wondered: Will robots (and AIs) create museums? And if they do, what will these institutions look like, and what can we learn from them for our human museums?
As always, it is easy to say what a museum for robots probably will not look like: a physical building, limited opening hours, inaccessible collections presented statically. Many human museums are transitioning away from this old model already.
What a museum for robots will look like, is harder to imagine. I don’t think you get there by looking at how museums will change, but rather by looking at the significant trends and developments that are changing the world. These are considerable, ranging from changing climates to digital disruption, and from polarisation to the digital divide and other inequalities. For robots, I would like to focus on three observations:
- When robots become common, there will be an awful lot of them. Already, there are billions of ‘smart’ devices in the world – watches, kettles, onesies. Add a sensor and/or motor to all the dumb ones, and robots will outnumber humans greatly.
- These robots will be super well connected, through the Internet of Things, amongst others. Also, they are almost all digital natives, which gives them an edge over some humans.
- Likely, these billions of well-connected robots will have the ambition to do or make something. Humans that come together in large numbers and are well-connected organise themselves in creative communities that change the world. Robots may do the same, with their speed and ability.