The Future of Intelligent Robots
Posted 14 Feb 2004 at 19:01 UTC by steve
There's a new CNET news
article that gives a concise overview of the state of the robotics
industry today. Nothing new or unexpected here - more robots than ever
being used; Japan is the world leader in robotics with the US a distant
second; military and space robotics are the highest profile right now;
robots still aren't smart enough to replace humans.
which robots?, posted 14 Feb 2004 at 19:42 UTC by outsider »
I must say that most of the things that are called robots, are not. The
'robots' that build cars are not robots. The police 'robots' are not
robots. They are just excavators!. If some one says that the previous
examples are robots, then he must agree that the vacuum cleaner is too.
And my car is also a robot!, And my calculator, my clock... they are
not, they are just machines!.
R2-D2 is a robot. The Mars express robot is a robot. Aibo and Qrio are
robots. Robots must exhibit a reactive behavior and intelligence in some
sense and not stay rigid without intelligence.
To understand this took me a long time and made me left IA for a long
1) I agree with outsider about most robots you hear
about, really being just complex machines.
On a lighter note, I sure wish that a TV show, at the level of
popularity and broadcast frequency of "Robot Wars", would come along and
cover more of the true robot competitions. Tech TV'S "Robot Wars"
robots are pretty much remote controlled cars that bash into each
2) From the article:
"but robots replace jobs that are the kind of jobs that
nobody wants to do or are good at doing."
The bigger threat to jobs isn't robots but advancements in AI in
general. There are more jobs that aren't dangerous that could be
replaced by more advanced computers with better problem solving
capacity, then those that could be replaced by a more capable machine.
The fly in the ointment to this discussion is of course a full-fledged
sci-fi type android that could replace us all, but that is not an
immediate threat, where better A.I. is. Remember the considerable
damage computers did, with just a handful of useful algorithms and
simulations, to the middle manager job demographic.
Job loss II, posted 14 Feb 2004 at 22:08 UTC by roschler »
Lo and behold, I jump over to Slashdot.org and there is a story on how
the stage production Les Miserables, is replacing half it's musician
staff with computer based synthesizers. This is being done to save
about $5000 a week. Here's a link to the article.
From the above definition of "a robot" the current mars rovers cited in
the article would hardly qualify for the term, and are far more closely
allied to the radio controlled car-bots of robot wars. The NASA rovers
so far are extremely heavily teleoperated by human intelligences from
another planet (sounds a bit X-files, huh). It took the best part of a
week for both rovers to even roll off their own landing pads, and that's
not because they're just dim-witted it's because every decision and
action is being specifically requested by NASA engineers.
Actually the word "robot" doesn't imply any intelligence or autonomous
ability. It was just taken from a Czech word meaning "forced labour".
Robots, posted 15 Feb 2004 at 00:29 UTC by steve »
The problem with arguments over what's a robot and what isn't, is that
"robot" doesn't seem to have any single, agreed upon definition. By most
dictionary definitions, industrial robots found in car factories and
even the radio-controlled "battlebots" would qualify. But few actual
robot builders would agree with most dictionary definitions of the term,
prefering instead to use a sort of Platonic, science-fiction ideal of
the robot like R2-D2 or Mr. Data.
At a recent DPRG get together where this topic came up, the point was
made that one of the problems with defining the term "robot" is that it
essentially is a science fiction term with which reality is slowly
catching up. It was coined as part of a science fiction story (as was
"robotics", as a term for the science of robots, some time later by
Isaac Asimov in another story).
And, to make things worse, it seems that over time, the word robot has
evolved a lot of different meanings to different people. To someone
participating in Robot Wars, a robot is anything that looks a certain way
regardless of its behavior. To a business, a robot may be any machine
that can do work a human used to do. To a lot of us, it's an autonomous,
if not sentient form of life. (if we have any students of General
there, robot would qualify for what Korzybski called a "multi-ordinal"
term. He believed
multi-ordinal terms could usually found as the root cause of most human
arguments and disagreements).
I gave it some thought and I came to the same conclusion as
steve. To me, a complex machine that has the ability
to function autonomously, is a robot in my mind. Even if it
communicates with a human, as long as the human is not responsible for
dictating every low-level aspect of the machine's (robot) actions and
At some point of complexity we cross from robot into android, but
there's a whole lot of sensor technology and lower level A.I. that
comes before that threshold is reached. In addition, the term android
has a heavy anthropomorphic connotation, and therefore many robots will
never be considered androids because they're appearance and function
will be very different from humans, even if they have superior A.I to
other machines that are considered androids.