The Future of Robots

The term ‘robot’ was first used to denote fictional automata in a 1921 play R.U.R. by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek. The word ‘robot’ is of Czech origin.

Many robots have been created to need the interference or ‘control’ of humans, but the autonomous ones (robots that can move and act without human interference) are equally as interesting.

The First Autonomous Robot

The first electronic autonomous robots with complex behavior were created by William Grey Walter of the Burden Neurological Institute at Bristol, England in 1948 and 1949. He wanted to prove that rich connections between a small number of brain cells could give rise to very complex behaviors – essentially that the secret of how the brain worked lay in how it was wired up. His first robots, named Elmer and Elsie, were constructed between 1948 and 1949 and were often described as tortoises due to their shape and slow rate of movement.

Current Autonomous Robots

Compare that with some of the autonomous robots we have now such as Honda’s Asimo. The latest version of Asimo became autonomous. ASIMO has the ability to recognize moving objects, postures, gestures, its surrounding environment, and sounds and faces, which enables it to interact with humans.

The robot can detect the movements of multiple objects by using visual information captured by two camera “eyes” in its head and also determine distance and direction. This feature allows ASIMO to follow or face a person when approached. The robot interprets voice commands and human gestures, enabling it to recognize when a handshake is offered or when a person waves or points, and then respond accordingly.

ASIMO’s ability to distinguish between voices and other sounds allows it to identify its companions. ASIMO is able to respond to its name and recognizes sounds associated with a falling object or collision. This allows the robot to face a person when spoken to or looks towards a sound. ASIMO responds to questions by nodding or providing a verbal answer in different languages and can recognize approximately 10 different faces and address them by name.

Asimo is one of the most recognized robots in the world. He has toured the world and was even an attraction in the innovation attraction in Disneyland

Autonomous robots are awesome, but their technology is being implemented into weapons, is something I don’t believe we should be even attempting. But autonomous weapons are not our only danger.

AI (Artificial Intelligence)

AI can be defined as the intelligence exhibited by machines or software. It has the potential to have a profound impact on the world and it’s an area being pursued by global tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

Stephen Hawking warned that computers will overtake humans in terms of intelligence within the next 100 years.

“Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years,” he said at Zeitgeist 2015 in London. “When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours.”

Hawking, who signed an open letter alongside Elon Musk earlier this year warning that AI development should not go on uncontrolled, added: “Our future is a race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which we use it.”

Bostrom joined Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark, Elon Musk, Lord Martin Rees, Jaan Tallinn and several others, in signing the Future of Life Institute’s open letter.

The signatories “…believe that research on how to make AI systems robust and beneficial is both important and timely, and that there are concrete research directions that can be pursued today.”

AI technology is already built into devices we use in our every day lives. For example, AI developed by Apple, while Google’s self-driving vehicles also rely heavily on AI underpins Siri, an intelligent personal assistant that sits inside iPhones and iPads. According to the FT, more than 150 startups in Silicon Valley are working on AI today.

2 months ago a “super computer” has duped humans into thinking it was a 13-year-old boy to become the first machine to pass the Turing test.

The Turing test is a test for intelligence in a computer, requiring that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both.

The Future

It is scary to think what has happened in the last 100 years since the naming of the concept ‘robot’ and what will happen 100 years from now? Only time will tell. I believe we have a great capacity to learn from robots and create even better autonomous or AI inhibited creation, though I believe we should tred lightly when considering either, autonomous weapons or an AI similar to our intelligence, which could be our downfall.