You see the concept proposed in films all the time; robots that look and act surprisingly like humans. Of course they also have super-human strength and lightning like speed and agility. These robots also “think,” (usually about world domination, but to be fair, some humans do that too [insert appropriate name here ______.]) Do I think robots will take over the world? Maybe, but definitely not tomorrow. I once wrote a paper in my Sociology class on this point and I’ve found myself discussing this lately with friends. I’ll just share segments of what I wrote:
“ Replicating human actions and behavior sounds good in theory, but in reality it is a complex process. Artificial intelligence today continues to develop slowly. Making computers do things that require intelligence when done by humans has proved tremendously challenging. The technology is still not on par with the complete functions of the human brain or the intricacies of the human body.”
One thing we tend to take for granted as humans is our ability to process language and it’s nuances. We are able to make connections. We understand the subject of a sentence even when it wasn’t expressly stated. Furthermore, humans also use context clues to establish the meaning of words, particularly when their are multiple possibilities. To compensate, right now there is a large inference engine in development called Cyc by Cycorp designed to provide artificial intelligence with “common sense” and the power to reason. You can play their game to help Cyc learn.
“Scientists have great difficulty getting a robot to do one thing well, let alone the multitude of actions a human can perform while simply walking down the street. Then there is the matter of power. Even the most advanced robots can only function for a couple of hours before having to recharge. For a robotic rebellion to occur, robots would need to have advanced social skills to communicate with each other and create organizations, they would have to be self-sufficient, they would have to control their reproduction, and have individual consciousness.”
Honestly, if I was paranoid, I would be more concerned about a hostile takeover by the human hybrid (human enhanced with mechanical parts). Creating robots that focus on specific areas have led to the development of more specialized parts and programs. There have been advancements in physical implants and in prosthesis, which is great for those who are disabled. Watch the video on DEKA, the bionic arm created by Dean Kamen that can be controlled by thought or body motion. You can also watch Juan Enriquez’s TED Talk on some technological advances (after some economy stuff.)
“Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don’t look for it on your ballot — or in the stock exchange. It’ll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be … different.”
Did you watch the new G.I. Joe movie Rise of the Cobra? Remember their Accelerator Suits that made them “run faster, jump higher, and hit harder” than anyone? Well that’s not too far away from the real world. Meet SARCOS, the exoskeleton that improves strength and endurance.
Like I stated earlier, I doubt we should be overly concerned right now about android domination. What we really need to keep an eye on is ourselves and our biological enhancements. Ultimately, I believe it will be for the better, but with every new technology there is the possibility of misuse.
For more information on robots I would recommend the book The Robot: The Life Story of a Technology by Lisa Nocks. Of course I’m happy to hear your opinion whether you agree or disagree with anything I have stated. Actually I challenge you to prove me wrong, I am eager to find out more about what’s really out there.