Future robots: capable of thinking, reasoning; even falling in love

March 18 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 19

By Dick Pelletier

Humans have always been fascinated by robots, a fascination fueled in part by science-fiction renderings of such characters as R2D2, C3PO, HAL, The Terminator, and Data.

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”!

Would you be willing to allow a machine to make love to you?

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Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. I find Moravec’s statement on how to prevent disruption very much flawed. If you pay everyone a social security regardless if they work or not, who would choose to work? And if no one worked, how would you spur growth? And trying to cover this enormous expense by taxing robot-operated businesses interferes with the market and discourages productivity, growth, development, and the expansion of a business sector that could be very positive for our society—very similar to why Communism fails to work.

    Robots will surely be a wonderful asset to society, but I don’t think we’ll get to start living like kings on pensions starting at age 30 and do whatever we want – markets (that are free) will continue to be needed in order to promote growth and expansion of ideas and the development of our system. I’m sure the way we work and what is considered work will change, but I think for a long time, this cornerstone of a growing economy will have to remain in tact.

    That being said, I am super stoked about the robot that’s going to keep my house of the future spotless and my garden tended….. : )

    Posted by: Marisa Vitols   March 18, 2008
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  2. Re Moravec’s solution flawed. As automated systems increase their efficiency, they will take over more and more work performed by humans. In the beginning, most of these services will be aimed at boring, repetitive, and labor-intensive jobs that are not attractive to humans.

    But eventually, no job will be safe. Whether it’s an executive position, research scientist; or even entrepreneurial pursuits; every job now performed by humans will eventually be lost to automated systems.

    Granted, the Moravec solution stated in the article may seem illogical, but the basic concept is well supported by growing interest from around the world.

    At a recent Barcelona conference, the Basic Income European Network (BIEN), supported by nearly every member of the European Union changed their name to the Basic Income Earth Network with a goal of attracting states from around the world to join in their efforts to eliminate poverty and prepare for the coming automation era.

    In 2004, Brazil launched the Citizens Basic Income program with a goal of making it available to all of their 190 million people. They now have over one third of their population in the program and hope to get everyone signed up within the next couple of years.

    Basic Income programs call for everyone to be well educated (children are forced to attend school in order to stay on the program), well fed, and with all the basic needs met. No more government burdens like welfare payments, Income Tax Credits, or other state payouts.

    Costs for Basic Income range from 5 to 6 percent of GDP for most developed countries and can be paid for by a variety of funding sources: Taxes on income, sales, capital gains, wealth, property, luxury, sins, and other areas.

    Nearly every Nobel Prize in Economics winner advocates Basic Income Guaranty programs. And Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”

    When you add to this, a nanotech future that promises household goods and essentials at greatly reduced costs (many items even free), it is easy for this writer to envision a future that does not include the necessity of humans to perform any kind of unwanted duties.

    What will we do with our time in this utopian future? I’ll let you know when I receive my first neuron enhancement job. At that time, my desires will form a clearer picture in my mind.

    Posted by: futuretalk   March 18, 2008
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