Thursday, February 24, 2011

Will robots take over the world?

In London. To a
UCL lunchtime lecture entitled ‘Will robots take over the world?’ 

Kathleen Richardson says no. She’s an anthropologist.  Who’s better placed to answer such a question? An anthropologist or a roboticist?  Surely the answer’s obvious!  Or is it?

Another thought.  Computers habitually do things they shouldn’t.  So even if we programme them with Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics (of which number 1 is harm no humans) might they flout the laws? 

Must see 2001 A Space Odyssey again. Last watched it in the 1970’s I suppose (it came out in 1968 – blimey!).  Did HAL the rougue computer flout the Asimov laws?  Or did HAL conform to the laws in ways the humans failed to foresee?  Here's the offcial trailer to the film, 3:32 mins.  For the famous sequence "open the pod bay doors HAL", jump to 1:45.

On the question of computers doing things they shouldn’t.  You can say that, when you look into it, it’s always a human’s fault. But I don’t think that alters the case. Then of course if artificial intelligence is possible (which is disputed but say it is) then artificial malevolence is possible.  And then there’s this: there are already malevolent robots, designed to be so.  They’re called military robots. Yes they have built in protocols. But this brings us back to computers doing things they shouldn’t …

Lastly a bit of history. Čapek conceived the first robots in 1921, as humans, assembled from parts, like a Ford car. So if you’ve read my post Robot : a Czech Serf, I got that wrong.  The metal man I've illustrated came a few years later.  More of this when I’ve made sense of my notes.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting question there about HAL and robot intelligence. My brain can't contemplate robot intelligence though. As I see it, the processing power of a robot's internal computer (it's nearest equivalent to, but never equal to, a brain) will grow, but no matter how sophisticated this gets, it's 'decision's will still be based purely on ever-increasingly complex "if then else" formulas.