March 18 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology Year: Beyond Rating: 19
By Dick Pelletier
However, a world run by robots is no longer science-fiction. Today, robotic systems work on assembly lines; clean floors; monitor kids; help the disabled; explore Mars; and assist in our security.
IRobot CEO, Rodney Brooks says the robotics industry is undergoing huge changes with major focus now on personal robots. Industry consultant Dr. Joanne Pransky agrees. In 10 years, Pransky expects to purchase a robot that can clean house, prepare and serve meals, and help her become more efficient with tomorrow’s technologies.
Much impetus for robot development comes from Japan, where demographic trends and labor costs have created a growing market for machines that replace humans. Hitachi’s EMIEW can perform any number of factory and office jobs.
“Hold on”, say opponents. Though robots perform many mundane and physical jobs that humans don’t want, the net result is that millions become unemployed. Seegrid chief scientist, Hans Moravec agrees that future robotic development could be disruptive to the economy.
However, Moravec has a radical vision of how he thinks the government could prevent this disruption. “We need to expand Social Security; introduce it at lower ages and provide everyone with a comfortable income to cover living expenses, even if they are without a traditional job. This money could be recaptured by taxing robot-operated businesses. Humans would then be free to create ideas on how to spend all their extra leisure time”.
As machines become more humanoid – in appearance, personality, and thinking – how might their relationship with humans unfold? Would mutual attraction become part of the mix? Americans easily get emotional with their pets, so why not with robots? Could a robo-human relationship actually turn to love?
Pransky believes it would not be wrong for people to fall in love with robots. “We have loved non-human objects for years – cars, boats, and computers. Imagine how we’ll feel when the face of our dreams, with its soft, flesh-like robotic body interacts with us in our home”.
“Robots could provide companionship to the lonely”, Pransky, adds; “falling in love could easily happen when we coexist in close quarters with our silicon friends”. But what about the robot’s feelings – will it still love us in the morning? It could love in terms of being loyal, subservient, or trustworthy, but it may never experience what we call falling in love.
Robot development is rapidly pushing ahead. The Japanese are investing billions each year on domestic ‘bots aimed at improving everyday life. South Korea recently announced an initiative to put robots in every home by 2020.
Experts believe that robotics will create a stronger impact in our lives than the automobile, PC, and Internet combined. This writer believes that robots performing menial tasks, and displaced workers receiving adequate compensation, will create a positive and enjoyable future for all.
However, ‘falling in love’ with machines may be pushing the envelope a bit too far for this writer. I don’t know about robo-love, but I wouldn’t mind a robot servant helping me around the house. And at night when I’m sleeping, I’ll probably farm it out on a job somewhere and generate a little extra revenue; can’t go wrong there. Tomorrow’s robots will certainly make life more interesting. Go “magical future”!