Archives for posts with tag: robots

Reality and science fiction are in danger of merging…emphasis on danger. When I read this Endgadget article , my “Danger, Will Robinson!” mental alarm went off. When I saw the image of the new kind of robot, my mental hand-wringing Doctor Smith snickered diabolically…knowingly…I feel ill.

But, seriously, folks…we live in amazing, and potentially terrifying, times. I love geekery of all sorts, but there really is a little voice in the back of my head that gasps sometimes at the speed with which we slouch toward Babylon 5. On the one hand it’s all so exciting and presently futuristic. Every day there’s new news about ways we’re beginning to move beyond our dreams, beyond the things we even knew to dream of such a short while ago. 

I read recently that people on Mars will need to be able to 3D print their food. That an EM engine that shouldn’t exist actually does…or may soon. Images of the rings of Saturn have become an everyday Twitter occurance. Voyager, like Elvis, has left the building, only Voyager’s building is the Solar System. And now people, brilliant people, are creating robots that are very much like us. Even to the extent of inperfections in their robotty way. How better to emulate humanity than by being inevitably flawed?

Cool, right? 

So, where does the danger part come in? On the surface, perhaps not at all. But that’s the other hand. If I think too much, just a little, allow my mind to look around its own corners, consider the ubiquitous what ifs that come with scientific advancement…the what ifs become as dominant as the cool factor.

Yes, we all want 3D printed pizza, to have Saturn’s glorious rings photobomb our selfies, and to go out in Voyager’s wake, able to turn around at every planet passed and watch where we came from roll out like a carpet of orbs and stars behind us as we venture forth. But even those desires would be fraught with fear of dangers known and unknown, as Earth faded into our past.

And, back here on Earth, in the almost here and nearly now, we may soon walk a crowded street and not know if the person hurrying along on our periphery is a person at all. Soon, we’ll be worrying about whether even the artificial people among us are actually people too. Does the word artificial make intelligence any less real? Will they be we too, or will life be divided between us and them? How will we know? Who will decide? Will the decision makers be divided equally between our kind and theirs? Mustn’t it? It would be very easy for artificial intelligence to call superiority and subjucate those only intelligent enough to unleash the unthinkable, when all their creators really wanted may have been to outcool all the other kids on the scientific marvel playground. With the great thinkers and inventors of our time groping blindly toward caution, we all need to be a little more cautious in our enthusiasm for innovation at breakneck pace.

Who am I kidding? Those of us who hunger for the stars and all that implies are dreamers. That even scientists can be both pragmatist and dreamer is in itself a miracle. The greatest miracle I know is the way we are held on our planet by gravity as we are hurled through space, yet have no sensation of such a feat. We are all human space ships, with only the exoskeleton of our atmosphere standing between us and ruin every single second of our lives. In that, we are all super heroes. We all fly. All the time. We fly on a grander scale than Superman, past a speeding asteroid here, a powerful comet there. Alas, if we were to become aware of our adventures on a meta scale, pulling back the curtain as it were would most likely lead to mass hysteria, insanity, or perhaps simply a state of permanent abject fear. 

In the face of what life on Earth truly is, maybe the potential danger of all invention is immaterial. For all we know the not us with our face may evolve emotion apace with intelligence. Empathy. Compassion. Love. These things can change the world. The danger of the unknown is very real, but so is the potential of what we just don’t know. Yet.

Just when you think the urge to technologize screenwriting peaked with the idea of using algorithms to churn out blockbusters is as bad as it gets and a product of the 21st century need for more of everything now, you find out the general idea was around before most screenwriters alive today were. And using a robot, no less. This article tells of a handy dandy invention that intended to set the emerging filmmaking world on fire. Call me a purist of sorts, but I don’t even like the idea of software that generates plot, and practically writes everything for the budding word wrangler with visions of blockbusting movies or best selling novels dancing across the bank vaults in their heads. I adore words and creativity and art. Too much technological intervention seems to me tantamount to sucking the soul out of the magic of storytelling. Of course, not even Amazon sells the Plot Robot, so we don’t have to worry about that writing tin can “helping” our creative efforts as much as autocorrect does. It would be intriguing though, to find out what the Plot Robot and autocorrect could produce in a collaboration made in budding AI heaven. Why, sure, I’d go see a many decades later sequel titled Goodnight, Mrs. Potato Chips 2…wouldn’t you?

As someone who has been interested in science fiction and facts since wondering as a little kid how electricity got into the house and looking up into a sky full of stars wondering what kinds of worlds and people were among them, I’m surprised I never knew about the early robots described in this article . The accompanying slide show has images ranging from unintentionally amusing to a little scary to cool potential.

I mean, sure it would be cool to have a robot that could whistle… for a half hour. After a while, though, such a feat would lose the novelty factor and you’d be left with essentially a tea kettle…that can’t make tea. There is no doubt that there are a lot of people who would love a robot touted for its ability to shoot a gun. Maybe it could be trained…er,  programmed to go out to the woods and shoot dinner for the automatic housewife to prepare to most likely imperfection. The article did say the robotic shooter’s weapon of choice was a revolver, which would have come in handy back then to certain quarters of society.  Especially if it had a partner adept at making cement shoes.

I think waiting around through the decades for Harrison Ford to dream of electric sheep is still the best plan for those with both illusions and delusions of humanoid robotics. Much cooler, though I’m sure more world weary. Of course who knew back in the day of experimental robot making that in a galaxy long ago and far away a man with a Ranch would someday give the world a kind of artificial man that would become a beloved icon of the future, a golden paragon of linguistic prowess, friendship, loyalty, and Nervous Nelly nagging? Anything is possible, and that’s proven every day by the ones who dream in futuristic sleep.