Modern Robotics is all Dreams and Fears

Long have passed those times when science fiction imagined robots as bulky walking machines bearing heavy weapons and slowly lumbering through urban areas. Real robots are far more subtle; they can even not have exact human or machine shape, like great automatic dams of Rotterdam, or not have mechanical body at all like AI algorithms that solve mathematical tasks – on their own. We could say that our life gets easier and better, but we are to ask ourselves different question:

Are the days of humanity counted, or would our new cybernetic masters let us live and be useful?

Err, just kidding. For now. But, what’s serious is the fact that recent achievements in AI and hardware robotics seem to change world forever, as much as industrialization did in its time and digital era in its respective time, as well. Which means, many jobs would be really replaced by reliable and fast-calculating robots, even qualified ones for now.


The biggest robot of the world is a dam


At the end of XX century, Port of Rotterdam (Netherlands) was the most dynamic port of the earth. It is also situated in a stormy region, and with time the danger of cold wind and water masses destroying ships and buildings. All old-school operations were estimated to take decades of construction and cosmic expenses. So, a high-tech project was proposed and performed instead – in 1991-1997 a whole system of dams with gates, controlled by computer, had been built (named Europoortkering, consisting of three levels: Maeslantkering gates and Hartelkering wall, as well, as set of inland dykes). It does not have a human operator, but a set of sensor and analytic software that decides in case of storm to close the gates, in particular, those two giant arc “hands” guarding entrance to the harbour [1]. Quite the same way Oosterscheldekering gated wall is arranged. First usage happened actually in 2007, until then, there were no considerable storms, but Hollanders are predicting rising need for those dams in 50 years’ time.

Robot merged with human makes him walk again


We aren’t talking about just an exoskeleton [2] here, but of a computer that reads brain waves and transmits them into very legs of same human’s body [3]. If before bionics companies offered robotized crutch systems, now they have passed a milestone to create actual personal cyber-implants that would revive parts of human bodies, “unplugged” by a heavy trauma. Possibilities are endless: from recovery to growing additional arms, legs and even mechanical octopus bodies! Or, maybe, transmitting our minds’ impulses via distances not having to walk to job anymore? Or travelling by usage of body rental? Or, or…

AI goes to school

Allen institute for Artificial intelligence and University of Washington researcher group has proclaimed that they had managed to create AI able to solve geometry tests for 11 grade students [4], [5]. Not meaning to calculate given data, but to perceive such data by reading text from paper, define what’s important of it for solution, analyze picture and type out the result. Aim of the test was to understand machine’s ability to reason, to connect text and graphics and to compare this ability to that of human’s. Conclusions are miraculous and frightening: AI can replace man even at such cognition tasks. This means, that in some more time, machines would be able to solve more complicated ones. Good thing is, we are going to be actually able to replace politicians and government clerks with robots. Bad thing is, are we not all to be replaced by the machines someday?

Dr Hex will attend to you

All of that is good, you might say, but still, a robot (or AI) is still not able to feel, to compassion. Aw, really? Can all humans of flesh and blood do it? Technology called multimodal machine learning recognizes mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder through the non-verbal communication of the patient, that is, mimics and facial expressions. See, we all emit some “code” and it could be read not only by NLP-skilled people, but by robots [6]. It took about 5-10 years to go from concept to working samples, but in near future robotic assistants would be able to diagnose humans, thus easing doctors’ work – but not replacing them. For now.


And, for the epilogue, have a look at some robots of some obscure, probably sinister, purpose [7].

robotics-1 robotics-2
robotics-3 robotics-4
  1. Maeslantkering
  2. Exoskeleton
  3. Paraplegic walks with mind control/
  4. AI solves geometry {in Russian}
  5. AI solves geometry (Original)
  6. The robot will see you now
  7. Robot photos collection

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