On the Robot Beat: the Year in Review 2012
A robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship).
The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.
On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.
Note: this is a tongue-in-cheek post…while I do like to see robots being used more and more, I’m exaggerating that position here.
This has been a great year for robots!
While there have been a few negatives, overall, robots seem to be moving more into the mainstream of our lives.
In terms of robot rights, the most significant move has been in the area of driver’s licenses. Both Nevada and California have made steps towards giving robots the freedom to drive on our nation’s roads, making their own decisions.
While California still requires a human nanny or “humanny” (a licensed driver to sit behind the wheel who can take over), we are moving rapidly towards a faster and safer world with robot cars providing transportation for the disabled…and those who’d just rather do something else on the way to their destinations than operate the car.
On the other hand, Human Rights Watch wants to preemptively ban robots from deciding not to kill people in military situations:
I think this proposed roadblock to rationality is simply reactionary…after all, the group is “Human Rights Watch”, not “Sentients Rights Watch”, which might suggest a certain bias. How is it possibly better for a robot bomb to be prohibited from having the ability to say, “This is an unarmed child, I’m not going to explode”? Oh, HRW treats it as preventing robots from deciding to kill people, but deciding to kill unavoidably means that there is an option to decide not to kill. It’s simple logic. Of course, many geeks will be reminded of Dark Star at this point…
Robots are, though, being given new and/or better ways to contribute to society. Baxter may finally, affordably, move robots into fuller employment. This adaptable, self-learning robot may become commonplace. Baxter, or a robot like it, might also be used in the Foxconn factories, where there have been concerns expressed about human working conditions.
Robots aren’t just able to help humans. This
reported on the Knifefish robot being used to replace minesweeping dolphins.
Of course, astrobots have long been accepted. When there was a recent announcement that the Mars rover Discovery had, well, discovered something, it was readily accepted that it might have been signs of life on the red planet. While it didn’t turn out that way
the fact that the mainstream media seemed prepared to accept the analysis of a robot astronaut’s report shows that there isn’t a respect gap here.
Another astobot, Voyager 1, got coverage as it was about to leave the solar system:
This brave explorer launched in 1977…leaving the planet before James Franco arrived on it.
Speaking of Franco and the movies, portrayals of robots were largely negative this year. One can hardly consider The Avengers or Battleship as accurate representations of these hard-working members of our Earthly society.
On the other hand, Robot and Frank did see a sympathetic robot get top-billing.
Celebotties got a great shout out in this
uniting Robby, KITT, B-9 from Lost in Space, and Johnny Five.
Yes, while some people may react like the robot-shooting human in this video
we can look forward to a better future…one that involves robots and humans living together in harmony.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.