Thursday, April 21, 2016

A-Z Blog Challenge: R is for Robots

I'm old enough to remember when robots were strictly the province of science fiction. My favourites are the robot in the often and still repeated 1960s TV series Lost in Space with its frantically waving 'arms' and panicked warning of 'Danger, Will Robinson' and Robbie the Robot which first appeared in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet. This movie is often repeated, too - I watched it again last year - and is acknowledged as one of the important early science fiction movies. If you have a chance to see it I recommend it highly.

But much has changed since these movies were made. Automation has expanded enormously with the development of ever more powerful computers and machines are becoming increasingly autonomous. Who'd have thought just a few years ago that we would have cars that can park themselves and, even more startling, that there are experimental driverless cars being tested. I noticed in today's newspaper that a fleet of driverless trucks has just been tested in Europe. How disconcerting it must be to pull up alongside something like that. There are even humanoid robots being developed in Japan that look human and are being programmed to interact in ways that are very like people.

The level of complexity required for these innovations is enormous. They must be able to make decisions based on more than static and unchanging conditions such as those in a factory. They must react to - and I suspect will also need to anticipate - what may happen. This is mind boggling but, if things continue as they are, I see us in a few years hopping into an autonomous vehicle which we call to our door with a phone app and being delivered to where we want to go without us even having to think - and I'm not sure whether this is frightening or liberating.


Liz said...

Definitely frightening! I remember those programmes, too! ~Liz

Helen V. said...

Hi Liz. Thanks for dropping by. That almost primal fear of robots taking over the world and doing away with our human rights does tend to surface, doesn't it.