Would you trust a robot?

In a previous post, I mentioned that people need people; one way or the other, humans will be taking care of each other even when robots have become much more useful than they are now.

Still, I do not believe it is unethical for a robot to be taking care of a human being. It could be helpful in many ways. For instance, if a carer is not the strong type and the dependent needs moving, say from a bed to a wheelchair and back. A strong load-bearing robot could help with that task.

Nevertheless, I don’t believe we are at a point where we can allow robots to make independent decisions when it comes to health care. We could have them help us make the decision, act as a guide or get them to help sorting out facts and figures. However, at the end of the day, the decision should still be up to human carers.

Robots, definitely, can help take care but that does not necessarily mean that they care themselves. That will require a much higher level of artificial intelligence. At this time, to do the jobs they can do for healthcare, they do not need to care.

As for how we will choose, I think it will ultimately depend on the level of care and the type of care that a human requires. Standards will have to be set but I don’t think this is something we can fit in a one-size-fits-all decision table. Those standards will only be there to guide us but we will still have to fit them to the needs of a patient.

The biggest issue I can see to using carer robots is resistance to technology. We can already see that the elderly will be the very first ones who could use some help from robots, when the technology markedly improves. However, it is also a fact that the elderly are not usually the first ones to adapt new technologies. So, we will have to find a way to introduce robots to healthcare in such a way that the elderly will not be repulsed by the shiny new nurse trying to take care of them.

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Robotics and the future

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Robots are still not in the form they can become. I’m sure we all acknowledge that. Since designers and engineers generally model robots after the real world, I am sure we will see some robots taking on “natural” forms and, quite likely, even surpassing the capabilities of nature.

Speaking of dangerous situations, I would not be surprised if, at some point in the future, we will have robots fighting the wars of humans for them while human soldiers stay at a safe remote location operating and commanding the soldier robots. It will also not be surprising if such robots are already in development today. The military did make a request for Iron Man-like suits for their soldiers to wear.

On a brighter side of things, robots will become more helpful to us in the future. They will be able to come up with even more accurate diagnostics for patients, maybe perform surgeries on their own. They will be able to better interpret laws so that human lawyers do not have to battle it out themselves anymore. They will be able to transport us better than human drivers can. They will help us get much deeper down the oceans and under the earth. They will help us go further out in space.

As for what my role will be in all these, I hope to be part of the groups of people which are building these things that we envision to be the future of robotics.

Privacy and Safety

  • How do you feel about the growing number and sophistication of robots in our society?

    At this time, I am not yet very concerned about them in terms of privacy and safety. On the contrary, I am actually rather excited for when robots become the norm. It’s either a far off time yet or maybe it’s soon. I can’t be certain yet but I’m looking forward to it.

  • Who should own and use robots?

    For now, I do not see any reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to own and use robots. (Unless, we’re talking about weaponized robots. That’s a different story altogether.) At some point, though, I believe it will be as important to register robots as we do now with cars and other motor vehicles.

  • Should we try to govern their production and use?

    As for production and use, we should try to regulate them. At some point. Though, I don’t believe we’re already at that point. At least, not yet.

  • What might be the consequences of misuse?

    There could be too many consequences for misuse. Too many to write down, in fact.

The Three Robot Laws

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

– From Isaac Asimov‘s Runaround (1941)

Who’s your favorite robot?

I do not know very many robots, fictional or real, so I can’t say much. I would have said WALL-e and the way WALL-e is trying to save humanity but then I remembered Baymax. It is almost scary how Baymax acts almost too human but that part is also something to look forward to.

baymax-disney-world

Image Source: Baymax and Hiro

Inevitably, we have developed a need for automation, despite the fact that humanity was able to live without it for most of history.

Today, much of the need for robots arises from the fact that humans have this need to learn more. And, in many cases, humanity wants to learn more about places we cannot yet explore on our own, i.e. the inside of a volcano or a hurricane, the surface of Mars, deep under the oceans, or even the inside of a person. We cannot get there ourselves, so we send in robots while it is yet too expensive and/or too dangerous to get there ourselves.

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Image of sloping buttes and layered rock formations in the “Murray Buttes” region on lower Mount Sharp taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover

Image Source: NASA’s Curiosity rover captures new amazing images of Mars

Whatever artificial intelligence can be built, it will be a reflection of humanity itself. Whatever a computer becomes, it is always just whatever its creators (and teachers) make it into. Whether artificial intelligence will be concerning, dangerous, or terrifying even, it will be up to us.

For instance, there was that tweetbot that turned rouge, tweeting racist and other offensive comments. We can say that the manifested behavior was not the intent of its creators. Nevertheless, it turned that way because of its teachers, those people who interacted with it.

More than AI, it’s actually the same for humans: we could teach each other peace or we could teach each other war. Human history says we’ve chosen the latter all this while.

Well, given where we’re at, AI seems pretty concerning.

Humans Need Not Apply

If you think too much, and too wrong about it, it can get plenty scary. Robots are already a reality. They have been for quite a while. Each year, robots become more capable of taking over even more jobs.

Best to learn about them now, learn not to be scared, and learn how to move forward.

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