Thursday, January 24, 2008

All My Circuits

Our Roomba “died” a few months ago and my daughter was devastated. As she cried and caressed the little robot as it lay in the box waiting to go back to the store for a replacement she asked why it had died. We explained that it just stopped working and that we were going to get a new one. She said she did not want a new one; she wanted her “Cutie” (she had named it) and didn’t want to lose him. We replaced the robot with a new better model and my daughter does not want anything to do with it.

This makes me wonder as the robot industry grows and pervades our lives as projected will the younger generations see these mere machines as being as worthy as the family pet? Will they eventually see them as being better than us? Will the line blur separating organic and silicon\plastic faster than anticipated by leading futurists? If the next or future generations find robots to be living sentient beings and raise them up to that level, will organic life be brought down in any way to meet them during their rise in status? It is very plausible that as the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics continue to grow these machines will continue to rise in intelligence and abilities and could quickly, according to moore’s law, well surpass our level of understanding and intelligence within the next 20 years by thousands of times.

You can now see complex movements thought to be only the domain of human beings performed by robots such as the Honda “Asimo”. Robotic vehicles are now able to drive themselves through complex courses in the real world in challenges put on by the military. The NASA Mars rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity" are able to make decisions on their own to allow them to better survive the harsh environment of the red planet. The company Ugobe has created an amazing “pet replacing” dinosaur pet robot named "Pleo" which is one of the most complex and emotional consumer robots available. And of course, the most successful robots sold by iRobot are capable of doing a pretty good job vacuuming your floors and scrubbing them as well.

The robots are coming and we need to start thinking of what we are going to do when they become smarter than us and start making decisions for us. We already rely on computers to make life and death decisions in various fields, but we still have control. One day we just may give it up all together and create the gods that we seem so desperate to have.

*Moore’s law: The power of microprocessor technology doubles and its costs of production fall in half every 18 months.

Roomba technology in the past:

No More Tears

Honda’s Asimo:

Ugobe Pleo:

Darpa’s challenge:

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