Terrifying Humanoid Robots?
Boston Dynamics is an American engineering and robotics design company founded in 1992 and headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.
The company is a pioneer in the field of robotics and it is one of the most advanced in its domain. They have released several popular videos online that showcase some of the latest innovations in robotics.
The latest video involves the robot Atlas running and jumping outside. Atlas is a humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain. Atlas can walk bipedally leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry, and manipulate the environment.
Most headlines and comments regarding these videos seem to be focused on fear rather than the positive aspects this technology brings.
Humans often converge around massive technological shifts—around any change, really—with a flurry of anxieties.
Normally, no one fears computers. Indeed, many of us love them and can’t imagine our lives without them. But if that box sprouts mechanical arms and legs and a head, our attitude changes. The closer that robots get to a human or animal form, the more we begin to feel the mixture of fear and empathy that has defined our relationship with our fellow beings since we first began dragging our knuckles around millions of years ago.
People fear the unknown and things they depend on but don’t have any control over. Many don’t have any idea how these things actually work.
Lower levels of fear regarding technology can be beneficial, and can help people make better choices. For example, if you are fearful of your data being compromised you wouldn’t want to make your password something as simple as “password”. Higher levels of fear can be very detrimental. If you’re afraid of your data being compromised, you probably shouldn’t smash your laptop and go live in the woods.
But just because robots and AI increasingly look and act like humans, that doesn’t mean that they will gain superiority over us. We must distinguish between weak AI, which is about mimicking specific human abilities, and strong AI, which is the idea that machines will one day cross over the line to human-like consciousness.
It will be quite some time – if ever – before machines and robots become capable of thinking in the ways that humans can. Robots and machines are completely reliant upon data and algorithms supplied by humans. They can’t improvise or be creative like we can.
We are at the dawn of smart things becoming part of our lives. Like any technology, machine learning and robotics can be used for good or bad. Let’s make sure that we use these tools to free up our capacity to be human and to improve our lives.