Brian Dunbar stumbled across a great quote on the whole robots vs humans discussion:
Manned and unmanned space exploration go together, hand in glove, and we shouldn’t rule out one in favour of the other. The real question is what is the most efficient way of getting out there, and the answer to that is to take the project out of the hands of the bean counters, bureaucrats and politicians and into the hands of those driven by that most basic of human desires, greed. While businessmen and corporations may not be paragons of human virtue, at least they have a tendency to get things done, because if they fail they cannot hide behind walls of bureaucracy and political manoeuvring, instead they go bust, and the technology and patents they have developed are snapped up by their competitors to be used again, rather than disappearing into the governments’ archives, never to be seen again. We will get out there someday, but as long as the space program is a slave to the whims of government, of national expediency, of the military, and indeed of science, it will be a long, long road with many switchbacks, reversals and pauses, and I for one could do with rather less white elephants sitting in the middle of the road.
I think this comes quite close to perfectly summing up my feelings on the matter. If space transportation was as free and healthy of a market as most other markets, I don’t think anyone would care about robots vs humans. It would be so obvious that the answer is “depends on what you want to do” that nobody would even ask the question. The saddest thing about the mainstream robots vs humans debate is that it isn’t really a robots vs humans debate at all, but merely people arguing over who gets the pork.