Robot takeover hooray!

Leave a comment
Singularity University GSP13

In the last.. thousand yeats our biological hard drive, or the brain, has not seen a huge upgrade. At the same time, information flood is ever increasing and exponentially growing. Artificial General Intelligence, or Strong AI is being researched with the aim to lift the problem solving capacity and information processing up to the next levels.

Ben Goertzel, one of the worlds most well-known AGI researchers told us about his dream – “When a robot can walk into any given average home and cook coffee, we’ve reached our goal”. AGI is not naturally evil and we should not be terrified by the prospect of it nearing in the future. I hope Artificial Intelligence first and then AGI can help us i.e. in medical diagnostics or space exploration, as the intelligence could process more info and understand it better than anyone on the planet. Neil Jacobstein reminded me that it could be used for making incredibly well structured designs. Designs for anything from a nanorobot to a city structure to a Mars inhabitation center.

Think about infrastructural changes due to robotics booming. Robots are going to take care of a significant part of work – the tedious, dangerous, difficult, unpleasant, automated work. Society needs to adapt to this. Governments get ready to a significant drop in employment rates, and for legal and ethical questions that arise as robotics increase in our daily life. This is not a far away scenario. I’ll try to describe why and how this will take place in the next five years.

Not to fear – the whole planet will soon get educated (probably the first of the UN Millenium Development Goals to come true), population growth will stop before 10 BN, we will live off Earth soon at other planets and so ensure the continuity of human species, we’ll finally learn how to use the Sun – the infinite source of energy more effectively in abundance of energy.. So we have enough to work on even though robots would take care of freeing our hands for more important things to do.

The Robots are here already, in fact. You’ve probably heard of the vacuum cleaner robots (which some people take with on holidays and give names to, true story). The robotics industry has exploded for all purposes. A certain CEO even went to a cocktail party through a telepresence robot, as he could not physically be there. (And all the cool people wanted to speak to him of course 😉 )

Here are a few new lovely aquaintances!

This January, the FDA approved the telepresence robot RP Vita. They come in handy, as doctors have access to patients far away, and a robot has a vastly greater knowledge bank around than a doctor does.

iRobot’s RP Vita

Paro is an empatic robot, wich is used in i.e. dementia patients care. AI can not yet hold up a regular conversation or make suitable expressions, but we do know how to make creatures to easily attach to, or what need our care. Paro can learn the behavior wished by its owner and how to recognize its new name.

Photo courtesy NY times. Paro, therapy for ones with dementia.

Nao Robots can be programmed to simulate human-like behavior.

Baxter costs a mere $22,000 and you don’t need to program it – anyone can teach it by showing what to do. For example, you can teach a simple task and have it do the monotonous work after that. Quite handy at a factory, think about what this would have costed some years back! And no labor unions to ask for pay raise.

Boston Dynamicsin LS3 Big Dog starts getting scary – would not want to run into that in the woods. What’s your reaction after the kicking?

Robots are made for all sorts of things – helping people in heavy and dangerous work, bomb squads and hazardous sites, space exploration, nano scale surgery, and helping people walk again, but it comes as no wonder that robots too, started to be heavily developed by the military first, for their purposes.

Would it be right for a robot to kill a human being? I do not think so. But still, every day, unmanned drones are flying and killing. Where do we draw a line? If a robot fires to threat, who is responsible?
Legislation needs to up its game to stay on track of new innovations – who does the new health monitor device data belong to and what can it be used for? After the Google self driving cars make (and record) history in capturing a continuous video of our streets, that can be traced back to in time in an instant, can Google use it freely for their own purposes?
May we prevent the unborn child from having Down syndrome by altering its DNA? What about proneness to obesity? What about choosing a height?

The scary part should not be the technology that people invent, but the use for the technology that we invent.
You can use drones to monitor forest fires, or espionage. You can make viruses for good of for epidemics. We have always had a variety of things to use in good or bad. Most of us choose the good and mutually beneficial usage. Robotics will free us from the labor we know now to the new kinds of tasks and pursuits we feel are the new important!

As we learn more about space and our planet, and as we communicate in a free, global manner, our children will not understand why anyone ever wanted to go to war. We will hopefully soon understand that whatever we do has a global impact. Air pollution is democratic. The lungs of our world are being chopped up in search of cheaper wood. There are no more excuses to use or ways to look the other way. What’s the supply chain of your company?

My favourite phrase cited from Nancy Ellen Abrams: Eat local, think global, act universal, be cosmical.


The Author

Building useful things. From Helsinki, Finland.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s