Part 4 – Evolution of the non-organic being.
Wheeled and winged robot technology has made great tremendous improvement over the past 25 years, becoming more efficient, more agile, and smarter. The weaker of the “species” lost funding and died off. Those programs that proved to be fittest, i.e. most useful to humans, have been given continued funding and therefore continued generations of “life”.
All of this smaller, lighter, faster knowledge is now being used to design and build the most complex robotic systems ever. The Humanoid.
There are a few different directions that can be taken regarding function dictating form. Androids for the most part are seen as a tool that should make life easier for the humans with which it interacts. And the more pleasant the experience the better.
As an informational kiosk in airports, the FURO, produced by Future Robot of S. Korea presents a warm smile, empathetic dialog, and a nice face to face experience for weary travelers. This computer to human interaction is becoming commonplace with iPhone’s SIRI answering questions in a generally nice manner.
I can see this kiosk market expanding rapidly, from the Coin Turn-In Machine at the corner store, to prepaid swipe card stations, to vending machines. In fact, a vending machine in your office breakroom may soon recognize your patterns, much like search engines do, and greet you with “The Usual, Jack?”
“Why the hell not, Harvey. Jack’s been a good boy, y’know?” That’s right, we will quickly give ‘droids the respect of having a human identity. They will demand names – or numbers, which may be more practical for a computer to process.
Let’s start with the three fundamental Rules of Robotics…. We have: one, a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Two, a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. And three, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
ISAAC ASIMOV, Astounding Science Fiction, Mar. 1942
The next big step will be AI, or artificial intelligence. While it is widely presumed that we humans, the programmers, the Creators as depicted in an earlier StarTrek movie, will dial in limits to the abilities, motives, and directives of our protégés. But motion pictures are painted with examples of robot run amuck. I will suggest that this is a reflection of a “human-nature” dread of future dire consequences, just as powerful as the nearly universal human primal fear – “genetic memory” – of wolves.
There is a very good reason for an uneasy dread; the presumprtion that the human intellect will remain superior to AI is deeply flawed. In fact, Ray Kurzweil says we will reach the Singularity by 2030. That is where AI exceeds the human mind in speed, capacity, and problem solving abilities.
If we humans have, by that time, integrated and cross connected our swarms of fly-bots and our butler droids and our military Big Dogs, who says they won’t collectively find a more efficient solution than what humans would like? Sobering thoughts.
Should Kurzweil be right, the best course of action would be in securing protocols and policy descisions regarding the containment of AI firmly with the scientific/intellectual community, rather than politicians and the industrial/military machine that holds the grip today. With proper containment, the Androids could be used to advance the human condition on Earth and quickly beyond.
The most significant leap in robotic technology that will directly impact most of us almost immediately is the introduction of self-driving vehicles. This is such a big one I will dedicate another entire post to the issue.
About Douglas Black
Douglas Black is a photojournalist and
green technologies analyst out of Chicago,
and is currently Managing Producer for
Earlier Douglas promoted greentech in Detroit as
Senior Marketing Strategist and Architect.
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