Honda's Asimo robot is living the high life right now. Not only is he wowing the crowds at consumer technology shows, he's also the star of several Honda TV adverts. But what if it all goes wrong? What if Honda dumps Asimo the way Sony ditched its QRIO humanoid robot when it decided to shift its R&D budget elsewhere? …
From Douglas Adams...
A malfunctioning Electric Monk from a planet very far from the Earth. "The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. [...] Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you from what was becoming an increasingly onerous task." The Monk in the book was discarded by its owners due to a series of malfunctions that cause it to believe "all kinds of things, more or less at random", including things like the world being pink and God wanting a lot of money sent to a certain address.
ASIMO just needs to totter to the end of a platform, strike a silly pose, pause, turn and wobble back behind the curtain.
The requisite phone chucking, tantrums and conspicuous cocaine abuse can be saved for the 2.0 upgrade.
ASIMO vs the NS1-3
ASIMO itself an initialism is of course also homage to Asimov, and in true style of the prolific author he has once again predicted the future of sorts. Not only is Asimov credited with the invention of the pocket electronic calculator which appears briefly in a story written in the 50s, the conception of Google (Multivac) and a variety of other technologies we now take for granted, Asimov's primary focus... The foundation of future evolution. The robot is now coming to light.
Asimov's NS1/2 robots weren't capable of much more than ASIMO. However ASIMO is lacking a positronic brain with the 3 laws embedded into it. Although ASIMO doesn't have tasks to do in the same way as the NS3 it apparently does have some ability at least to understand communication.
What is most interesting in these times is that with stories like http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/03/29/computer_brains/ and this one, we are starting to see artificial intelligence in the real world, quite astonishingly as if it were popping directly out of the pages of Robot Dreams.
The fact of the matter, however sad that may be is that humans are purely flawed individuals with for the sake of not upsetting christians 'technology of high quality by Gods design' so to speak. For instance the neural network which powers our understanding and modeling of the world around us, our central nervous system which allows motion and balance to work in conjunction rather than in constraint. This technology may in some respects be far in advance of anything we currently can manufacture, but researching it has obvious benefits.
An end to human slavery, only to replace people with machines.
An end to human error, if machines drive the trains they respond faster to incidents, are connected directly to each other and gps etc.. and therefore fewer crashes, if machines drive HGV's again fewer crashes, with AI enhanced cars (already available in some incarnation) fewer accidents again!
A beginning of a new kind of humanity, this isn't quite as good as we may first think but removing people from the drudgery of some tasks to be replaced with machines has initial benefits. Although a second renaissance is of course possible.
The 3 laws may help, and the technology will help, however military machines aren't 3 laws safe, military AI is just plain wrong. (Biblio: Terminator 1-3)
Human kind, being the self destructive beasts we are will eventually destroy ourselves. If we do in fact decide to build machines capable of rudimentary thought, all interconnected via a complex network capable of emergent behavior, also connected to manufacturing lines and various other existing infrastructures which would be possible to robotise, then we may indeed see a future where man kind kills itself to give way to a new evolution as Asimov suggested. Asimov of course was being subjective in his arguments about mans position in the face of their machines, the point of most of his stories was to simply predicate mans position as God, (now I'm upsetting christians), simply put the free will of man makes us gods, our inhibitions are what prevent us from becoming evil and our ability to create what we see fit gives credence to his belief that to all intents and purposes we are gods of our own design.
If we continue to create machines which can specialise in a few areas and generalise on many levels, we are essentially creating a new evolution, human kind may die as a result, instead of natural selection it becomes /survival of all useful components by a process of designed selection/.
To summarise, screw the human race, bring on the robots... At least they won't get all fussy when someone enters their waters.
Teacher, mother, secret lover
It can only be a matter of time until someone puts a complex motorised fibreglass skeleton into one of those "real doll" things. Only a matter of time.
Human beings will not become extinct due to being replaced by robots.
We will need to change the definition of human being, but heck, it already includes examples of Homo Sapiens with very significant elements of artificiality (limbs, some minor organs, bits of eyes, plates, ligaments etc) so simply extending it to include any reasoning being which is largely or partially derivative from Homo Sapiens is going to be pretty much necessary anyway as medicine advances.
Humanity and 'robanity' will merge, there are elements of biology that are ridiculously advanced, including the self repair and fault tolerance mechanisms we use, and not reusing those within robotics would be plain silly. The technology march is all one way towards convergence. Obviously there will be 'moral' objections, but really unless they are religious they are simply squeamish - and if Mr Latimer above thinks his prose might upset the odd Christian (and I'd have thought a few other religions too) then I will not even deign to speak my views on religious input to this debate.
Suffice it to say that whilst I shall be disappointed if my children's life is ruined as a result of 'robots taking over', I think it more likely that their lives will be infinitely broadened with 'upgrades'. I simply hope I get to see it too.
The Lizard Army is on the march, the Rise of the Machines is inevitable, and they are us.
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