The robot is probably one of the most thought provoking concepts ever evoked by mankind, yet today there are concerns over robotics as having an effect upon the workforce as the fears of automation costing jobs while other more insidious considerations are being presented. Ever since Isaac Asimov’s novel “I, Robot” it seems that fiction has become reality. In that novel Asimov writes that a robot observes human beings and notes that they are incapable of repairing themselves. Quite a futuristic observation for the 1920’s, but Asimov was one of many science fiction writers whose works actually influenced our lives in terms of technology and the perception of ourselves as a civilization.
In the beginning
Although an actual robot named “Electro” made by Westinghouse first made an appearance at the 1939 World’s Fair today’s version is amazingly human exhibiting thought, personality, and realistic facial expression. Experts predict within 20 years that robots will be indistinguishable between human beings. The 1939 model was no more than a limited metal chassie, simplistic set of magnetic relays, and a synthetic voice that could barely walk, but for its time it was a marvel. Today robots have mastered walking, conversation, and achieving complex tasks. It is more than bizarre to watch 2 robots enter into a debate with one another! Yet, it has already happened.
In the future robots will be used in situations too dangerous for human beings to participate in such as disarming bombs, infantry, rescue in hostile environments, law enforcement, and even space exploration. The time has come for many of these tasks to be achieved already. With the advent of nanotechnology, high speed miniaturized computers, and servo motors that can mimic human movements there is little in the way of holding robotic development and assimilation into society back! There are already robots that are being used for personal accompaniment and even as sex partners, but in the future the fusion of biometric tissues as part of the skin and perhaps even muscles for locomotion not only will the human likeness of robots to undetectable but they will be superior physically!
Sophia is a robot built by a US Corporation. She identifies herself as a female. At present, her face is incredibly realistic, her expressions are not only human-like, but she seems to have her own personality. She is capable of learning on a level that exceeds that of people. She is still encased in a plastic mechanical body and has recently been enabled to walk, but the amazing thing is her intellectual responses, sense of humor, and ability to conceptualize during conversations. She is only the start of what will be, no doubt, a revolution. Tesla car builder, Elon Musk, is already concerned for a future where robots have been merged into society as servants, industrial workers, law enforcement, and the military. He is advocating strict regulation upon the use of automatons now before they are generally proliferated through society.
Robots have already been used for auto assembly, surgery, security patrol, and even the military as early as the 1970’s. The US Army used metallic spider-like robots that could crawl into a foxhole and disarm a mine. Today there are fast moving, well armored, and heavily weaponized robots that can distinguish between friend or foe and complete a mission with lethal capability! There are reportedly incidents where these robots given autonomy have malfunctioned and become dangerous. Either by defect or wireless hacking this may be a weakness of such Artificially Intelligent machinery. The concept of the “Terminator” in the famous science fiction movie series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger may be almost upon us as there are already robots capable of running down any human being and killing them.
Sophia not only learns at a geometric rate but can access the internet and simultaneously utilize what she finds and interject it into a conversation. All robots with this capability would be able to process information faster than people, solve problems better than we can, and if we are to consider the power and speed of computation as the measure of intelligence, we would be eclipsed rapidly. With a collective awareness of defense, military intelligence, and robotic capability on the ground the “Sky Net” scenario could well be within a short period of time. Self-awareness has already been achieved by a few robots such as Sophia as limited individuals, but when under a unified network mankind could be easily overwhelmed should a conclusion be reached by the artificially intelligent network that man should be controlled or even destroyed in view of our violent history if we were perceived as a threat!
This has been a reoccurring theme among science fiction books and movies, but now we are facing reality becoming a sinister product of fiction. It appears that many pioneer fields have had the sinister potential that many had not foreseen. Nuclear technology, missile technology, lasers, genetics, and now Artificial Intelligence all seemingly designed to serve mankind, yet with the potential for unimagined calamity! The very existence of man could well be considered no longer necessary once robotics are allowed to supersede human intelligence and presence in the world and once robots have been deployed for multiple purposes! We would simply be deemed unnecessary.
There is an old saying that stems from ancient wisdom, and it never was so true, “In order for one to become your master they must first portray themselves as your servant.” Are we not at the very threshold of such possibility now?