Remember the movie IRobot? Its 2035 and Detective Del Spooner (or Will Smith as he is more commonly known) is saving the world from thousands of rampant evil robots who have gained not only super strength, but an innate consciousness… along with a burning desire to destroy all humanity. We all think that this scenario is a mere sci-fi fantasy, however as technology is advancing at a rapid rate, real life robotics is not being left behind.
From use in the military, to self-help androids – Robots are being developed for a number of different needs, roles and environments. Currently, most of us can’t imagine a world where robots will adapt into society to a level somewhat parallel to humans – the majority of us, including me, have still got images like the infamous robot vs. banana peel viral video in our heads. However, robotics is to be taken very seriously. In fact, MEPs have called for the adoption of EU-wide rules on how humans and robots interact.
The European Parliament has examined in a new draft report if robots have rights such as an official legal status of ‘‘electronic persons”, as well as investigating whether they can be held liable for accidents. There are also demands for designers to make sure that robots have a so-called ‘kill switch’ in order that such technology could be shut down if required (ring any IRobot bells?).
The report stresses the necessity of a modern legal framework to match the current advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) taking place, with MEPs insisting that outlined rules are vital, to ensure that robots are not exploited for their economic potential and also guarantee the safety and security of EU citizens.
This begs the question, where do we really see robotics heading? The report asks whether Artificial Intelligence could overtake human intelligence within the next few decades, is that really a possibility? We are at the dawn of a new industrial revolution when it comes to robotics, so surely it’s the best time to set some ground rules.
The word that always creeps up when discussing the future of robotics is the ability to gain ‘consciousness’- that is as the end of the day what makes a human, human. However, there is still so much we don’t know about our own human consciousness, which makes it difficult to believe that programmers and computer scientists could develop technology and create algorithms to simulate that process on a superficial level. It will still take years of medical practice and investigation to truly crack what happens in the human brain, before the experts can create the code necessary to give consciousness to a machine.
Assistance robots will more than likely make their way into our homes eventually. After all we’re seeing increasing popularity of technologies such as Amazon Alexa, so surely you’ve just got to pop legs on that to make a robot? No, of course not. Inviting a robot into your home will never be as simple as that. In this day and age a lot of people still put tape over their laptop cameras over fear of being spied on, so imagine the paranoia people will face when a walking, talking human looking machine is doing your dishes and cleaning your car? But it’s not only that. Legislators and creators of this technology will have to craft extremely strict laws and barriers to keep the public from getting into danger. Think back to our movie reference at the start, a whole gang of robots linked together that can all be simultaneously corrupted is a rather bad national security problem, one that most countries aren’t going to want to ignore.
You’ve also got to think of the moral implications of essentially creating a form of life artificially. The idea of cloning is still that of a very dark topic of discussion and it is likely that advanced robotics will be likened to this and ultimately be unable to progress past a certain point. Human nature makes us untrusting beings and the wiliness to allow robots to integrate into society and function alongside humans day to day is highly unlikely.
People are concerned that as we further AI technology, it will become able to develop on its own – however I for one will not be holding my breath for the Robot vs. Humans World War 3. I doubt future scientists are going to programme robots with any negative thoughts or desires, and even if robots do develop the ability to alter their own programming, why would it want to?
It’s fantastic that government bodies are recognising the advancement of intelligent technologies. Even though these might seem like a pipe dream away, we of course cannot predict the future. By investigating and outlining what could be in regards to AI tech, it’s best to failsafe any scenario, even if means being a little extreme. Human concerns are, after all, human nature, however we shouldn’t cloud our minds with ideas led from a dramatized Hollywood movie. To summarise we can all reflect on the words of IRobot’s main protagonists, Detective Del Spooner and Sonny the Robot. “I thought you were dead” says Spooner, “Technically I was never alive, but I appreciate your concern,” Sonny responds.