Once, robots were the stuff of science fiction. No more. The Economist has released a Special Report on Robots. The Guardian reports that since Ray Kurzweil joined Google, that company has been snapping up artificial intelligence and robotics companies.
Robots have already generated major changes in manufacturing. Roomba, the vacuum cleaning robot is cleaning floors in more homes every day. OK, maybe it can’t clean the bathroom yet and it’s sure not up to the standard of Rosie from the Jetsons, but change is afoot.
The question is “What kind of change?” Technology forecasters and robot manufacturers say that all will be rosy. Science fiction writers have a different idea. Remember that the term “robot” was coined by science fiction writer Karel Capek. It’s based on the Czech word for “serf labor.”
In most science fiction, the robots aren’t content with serf labor. They take over and things don’t turn out well for human beings.
Here are some resources to help you figure out what robots and their kin mean for us all in the future.
“Discomfort about “botsourcing” can be reduced by manipulating the human-like attributes of machines.”
“A humanoid fire-fighting robot is to be tested by the US Navy as the latest move towards a more robotic military.”
“Crowdworking platforms are advancing the speed at which robots can do anything — and everything — better than humans.”
“There is another seemingly mundane but profoundly important application of this technology: to better managers ourselves and our time. The future of productivity is coming, and it will rely on Artificial Intelligence.”
“Robots are starting to enter homes as automatic cleaners, work in urban search and rescue as pseudo teammates that perform reconnaissance and dangerous jobs, and even to serve as pet-like companions. People have a tendency to treat such robots that they work closely with as if they were living, social beings, and attribute to them emotions, intentions, and personalities. Robot designers have been leveraging this, developing social robots that interact with people naturally, using advanced human communication skills such as speech, gestures, and even eye gaze. Unlike the mechanical, factory robots of the past, these social robots become a unique member of our social groups.”
“When an earthquake hit Los Angeles recently, Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was first to get the news out. Woken up by the tremors at 6:25 a.m. on Monday, March 17, he went to his computer and found a brief story already waiting, courtesy of a robot — an algorithm he developed and named Quakebot.”
“Toyota has always seen robotics as a way to enhance what staff can do. Many USA executives think of robotics as a way to reduce personnel. Toyota wants to use the brainpower of employees to continually improve the organization. Toyota wants to free people for monotonous or dangerous work to let them use their minds.”