The notion that robots will eventually overrule humankind is widely spread throughout sci-fi movies, comics and books. This conception has developed alongside the advancement of robotics over the course of the 20th century into the 21st. Many will dismiss it as the stuff of fantasy but could it be a credible fear?
Advances in robotics are both a symbol of our development as a species and a means to develop further. From car manufacturing companies and the use of robotic arms to companies creating humanoid robots for peoples’ assistance in everyday life, robotics allows precision and accuracy to be maintained at an extremely high level, especially in the most delicate situations that can be too stressful for the human body. Consider space science as an example; we have been able to map out and explore far beyond Earth’s boundaries thanks to robotics. Where humans have been unable to cope with the environment, robotics has assisted. The rovers on the Moon and Mars allow scientists and astronomers to continue research and development with ease, bypassing the struggles and possible setbacks that would arise from using human explorers. Robotic machines do not require the costly necessities that humans do and can operate indefinitely without sustenance or a break.
However, some believe that humanity should not co-exist with humanoid robotics or robotic machines. It is true that robots have proven to be far more efficient in some tasks than humans but this does not apply to all aspects of humanity. Man-made pieces regarded as masterpieces like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci and Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh or world-renowned musical compositions such as Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan and Imagine by John Lennon cannot be created by robotics due to the absence of the ability to feel emotion. All robotics remains under the category of Artificial Intelligence. One can argue that no matter how sophisticated or advanced the creation, it will always be ‘artificial’. Simply put, robots are not a part of nature.
Films such as I-Robot and Terminator, which suggest possibilities of a robotic revolt, are expressing ideas that have existed since the 1800s. But despite these fearful premonitions, humans continue to produce much more complicated robots that, in many ways, replace human beings. In the late 18th century, Luddites protested against technological advancements out of the fear that their roles in the workplace were being taken over by machines. This fear persists today. More and more jobs, which once required manual labour from humans, have now been made redundant due to improvements in robotics. Of course the flip side is that there have been significant improvements in areas such as hygiene, efficiency, safety and the high quality production of goods. However, once we accept these fears as legitimate, it seems less farfetched to ask whether robots could develop superiority over humans in the future. There are areas such as Neuroprosthetics, where humans (or parts of humans) are being replaced with almost alarming accuracy. The progress made within this field has recently enabled amputees to not only continue through their day with ease, but also to physically feel with the prosthetic limb.
Robot skeptics can be reassured by the fact that Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, which outline the ideal behaviour of a robot to ensure humans remain safe, secure and in command, have pervaded the field of robotics and artificial intelligence since 1942. In fact, in recent years, Honda unveiled Asimo; a humanoid robotic assistant with the purpose of helping humans wherever it can. Is the naming of the robot a coincidence? Or does it hint at an underlying attempt to reassure us that it won’t run amok and slaughter its creators?
These vast contributions to humanity that have come with the aid of robotics include new and more advanced lifestyles, occupations, environments and opportunities, which show that humankind has, so far, not replaced humans with robotics but has simply used robotics for the betterment of society. Robotic creations have and are being used by humans to further explore, understand and to help improve humanity. Whether or not robots will take over in the future, only time will tell. Until then, I think I could get used to having a personal robotic assistant.
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