Robotic technology continues to make
headlines, as artificial intelligence and innovative hardware converge in
clever and surprising ways. From mechanical factory workers and robotic
surgeons through to moving sex dolls and robotic vacuum cleaners, automation
has become a big part of our everyday life. The rise of the robots is not
without its problems, however, as experts warn of job losses, moral
uncertainty, and the unintended consequences of emergent systems.
Artificial intelligence has given robots a
new sense of life, from yesterday's vision of the future to something that will
impact us all. Systems such as IBM's Watson and Google's Alpha project equip
artificial neural networks with enormous computing power, allowing them to
solve complex engineering problems, defeat Go masters, and accomplish other
impressive feats. While they may not be making world-changing decisions just
yet, intelligent systems are beginning to impact the world one calculation at a
Robotic technology depends on the integration
of intelligent software systems with robust hardware solutions. While everyday
people do not have access to the supercomputers used by IBM and Google, this
same technology is starting to filter down to smaller hardware devices like
robotic vacuum cleaners and home security systems. Some of the hardware
advances seen over the last few years include 3D silicon logic stacks,
resistive RAM, nanotube circuits, and sensors designed to interact with every
part of the environment. Some of the more famous robots to utilise this
technology include the dual-arm collaborative robot YuMi, the service robot
REEM, and Kodomoroid the communications droid.
The rise of the robots will affect the way
we work, with greater automation slowing hiring in some areas and creating jobs
in others according to ManpowerGroup in 'The Skills Revolution' report. Ongoing
training and education are more essential than ever, with 65% of Gen Z jobs not
even existing yet and skills cycles becoming shorter than ever before.
"Creativity, emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility are skills
that will tap human potential and allow people to augment robots, rather than
be replaced by them." said the report, which also warned of an increasing
gulf between the Haves and Have Nots based on access to skills and technology.
As robotic artificial intelligence begins
to replace human decision making, we may also be faced with a number of moral
challenges. For example, AI can be inherently racist and sexist when it uses
historical data to make decisions. While humans are good at being creative in
order to challenge unwanted social norms, platforms that use big data are often
unable to do anything other than reflect pre-existing biases and inequalities.
According to Maxine Mackintosh, a leading expert in health data, the problem is
mainly the fault of skewed data being used by robotic platforms: “If you want
to take steps towards changing that you can’t just use historical information.”
While robots will improve efficiency and control, steps need to be taken to
help guide this technology for the benefit of human society.
Image source: Willyam Bradberry/Shutterstock