A world in transition to robotic heaven?

27 Feb

The world is now at another major turning point.

You’ve heard that before, no doubt. But it’s true: robotics and all forms of automation are poised to totally permeate most – perhaps all, ultimately – facets of all modern societies. Robotic technology has been improving for over half a century, beginning with the use of an industrial robot in the auto industry, in 1961 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unimate).

Many before me have warned against the rise of the machines, in fact and fiction. As technology improves, those warnings are now more relevant, even urgent.

Automation and robotics are here to stay, of course. We have all benefited in many obvious ways. What are not always so obvious are the probable negative outcomes. We must deal with those issues sooner or later – preferably sooner. The fate of our humanity, and even our collective identity, may be in jeopardy if we don’t.

Over forty-five years ago, when I started my long career in and association with the IT industry, I could dimly foresee the extent to which computers would change the world. At that time, I could definitely see the benefits; but I was unaware or unsure of the downsides. That gradually changed as I became more attuned to and knowledgeable about the development of robotics, the computer revolution of the 1980s, the accelerating quest for artificial intelligence (AI), and the inevitable convergence of all three areas.  

Hence, at this site, I track and comment upon the robotics industry as a whole, but with emphasis upon the impact and implications of androids – robots built to look like you and me. At present, android technology is relatively primitive; but it’s workable to a point and improving rapidly. Given enough time and resources, eventually a robotics company will produce and market a perfect android indistinguishable from real humans, and just as clever, if not more so.

Before that day comes – sometime this century, probably – humanity must set the agenda for the real human/machine android mix: in effect, establish the terms of engagement.

And the place to start, in my opinion, is to precisely define the image of all androids. I’ll discuss that issue in my next comment.




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