In a world obsessed with the antihero and robotic doomsday scenarios that bring about our end, it seems that robotics have been given a bad rap in just about every summer blockbuster from today’s Iron Man to as far back as 2001: Space Odyssey.
And those are just the ones in recent memory –one of history’s first ever silent films called The Mechanical Man was about a robot misused by a woman to commit crimes as early as 1921. And that was before the word robot was coined, before they even had a name.
So what is this human obsession with the big bad robot? I often wonder if, like everything else in our history, we’re simply opening the door for another self-fulfilling prophesy. Except I don’t believe this one has legs.
The Robot Reality Check
Yes, artificial intelligence is rapidly headed in our direction. Yes, robots make decisions. Or do they?
Just as theologians have long debated our own free will, it is this blogger’s opinion that popular culture is a little too quick to judge, and perhaps painting in too primary colors to assume the argument is open and shut on robots obtaining free will in our lifetime –only to be hell-bent on the destruction of our kind.
It is much more realistic to consider that a robotic mind will ponder what makes the perfect sports car red to a defined specification as it mixes paint hues, or what the ideal temperature would be for a human in our homes based on existing statistical knowledge.
If it bleeds, it leads; and tapping into the human guilt of our own inefficiencies is likely what drives Hollywood to cash in on the “robopacalypse“.
According to Box Office Mojo, “2001: A Space Odyssey” grossed $56,954,992 domestically in the United States (not bad for a 1968 film), and The Avengers’ most recent instalment where a robot named Ultron tried to destroy humanity grossed a whopping $459,005,868. That’s a lot of motivation to fuel a dystopian fantasy.
The first place real robots, you know, the ones not trying to kill all of mankind, have flourished for decades is the factory automation sector.
The robots in this sector don’t typically walk; they’re firmly grounded to the earth in a stationary place in many cases, however what they can do is nothing short of impressive; from start to finish, cars roll off assembly line perfectly duplicated. Even foods today come into contact with the cold yet sanitary, efficient, and knowing “hands” of robotics.
Robotics are changing the way we work, elevating the quality of our consumer products, and consuming less energy than ever before.
Today, right now as I write this, homes are also being automated by robots of all shapes and sizes with functions that range from the interesting to the mundane. If it carries out a task, aided by software which causes a physical action, that’s a robotic device, pure and simple.
Home automation surely makes tasks more convenient. From turning on the lights at just the brightness you prefer as soon as you arrive home from work, to the temperature of your shower and when to turn it on –modern robotics “think” alright; they are learning to understand context and how or when to provide comfort in an efficient way.
Both factory automation and home automation aren’t new, but they are getting better. Making leaps and bounds, year after year, there are countless ways they will improve our lives and NOT END THEM.
What do you think? Do you imagine a dystopian future where robots enslave us, or does none of that science fiction come into mind when you imagine what a future with robots will look like? Let us know in the comments.