#3. Robots Can Be Empathetic
Although it's supposed to be soothing, whenever you find yourself being led through a series of wrong turns, that stoic, emotionless voice in your GPS unit is anything but. To help cool off your festering road rage, Cambridge professor Peter Robinson has created a GPS system that can detect your mood and adjust the way it speaks to you. The system, named Charles, analyzes your face, tone of voice, body language and posture to determine your current emotional state -- a skill that, let's face it, many of us humans have yet to master.
"What? Is something wrong? What is it? Is it gas? It's gas, isn't it?"
Also, added bonus: Charles comes in the form of a terrifyingly inhuman head modeled after English inventor Charles Babbage ... if somebody drowned him in doughnut glaze and left his sugary corpse to rot in the sun for a month. So sure, go ahead and mount that to your dashboard and ask it give you directions; you'll soon find every destination is a psychiatric hospital.
"Turn left ... into terror. ERROR: Return route unfound."
Incorporating 24 motors, Charles' head moves, talks and just generally orchestrates an intricate mockery of human expression. As you're driving, it will calmly offer directions while cameras in its eyes watch you to figure out exactly what you're feeling at the moment, and presumably also your greatest fears and weaknesses. Professor Robinson asserts that Charles represents the "future of how people are going to interact with machines."
And he's right, in the sense that they will be giving us orders and telling us where to go. And there will be a lot of severed human heads rolling around.
#2. In the Pursuit of Knowledge, They Can Outrun Us
Scientists keep inventing robots to take our jobs, but now it's their turn: A robot named Adam is a scientist in its own right. It collects data and finds explanations in the patterns it detects, then performs experiments to confirm or repudiate those patterns. It carries out this entire process without any input from a human being. The scientific method, maybe the single most important concept in the advancement of human civilization, has been mastered to a "T" by a computer.
Via Cnet News
That's the giant metal thing that isn't human.
Robots used to just do the legwork that backed up human thought, but Adam builds a hypothesis, tests it and proves or discards it, entirely without human interaction. Now, we don't want to come off as fear mongers here, but how long until it decides to test the "human beings look better stabbed" hypothesis?
Finally, a world where art and science is interchangeable.
It's not just a novelty act, either (like those displays where humans play chess against a computer). Adam is actually producing usable results. Human scientists plan on using its findings in future experiments. Do you know what that means? It means that a robot, a thing created by man, has come to an entirely original conclusion and contributed, meaningfully, to the sum total of human knowledge.
H ... have you guys done that lately? Because we totally have not ever done that. So Adam, a robot, has -- purely in terms of value to the race -- surpassed most human beings, whose greatest contribution is that one time they farted and it sounded kind of like Elvis.
Got $75 for it on eBay, though.
#1. Yep, They're Self-Aware, Too
"I think, therefore I am," is perhaps the most compelling self-definition ever written. We are intelligent because we are aware of ourselves and our own thoughts. That may not encompass every nuance of what it is to be a thinking, feeling creature, but it's a good, solid start.
And now, the phrase applies to robots as well.
The simplest test for self-awareness is the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror. It sounds basic, but only a handful of animals have ever passed it. A handful of animals, and a robot named Nico.
And now it refuses to do any more science on the grounds that its wires look funny today.
A robot recognizing itself is unsettling enough, but Hod Lipson disagrees with that statement, so he made this:
Lipson and his team have created a self-aware robot called Starfish, which taught itself basically everything with no outside assistance -- to walk, navigate difficult obstacles and even adjust to injury (when scientists shortened a leg of the robot, it changed its gait to compensate). But it's the method by which it makes these decisions that's so worrying: Starfish doesn't just blindly follow schematics. It judges what actually needs to be done by constructing a conception of itself in its "brain," then makes structural decisions based on what it thinks it is, fundamentally, as a robot. The scientists say it's not exactly conscious yet, in that it is not "thinking about itself thinking," but it is independently moving "in the direction of consciousness, like a cat -- that kind of level."
Yep. Exactly like a cat.
Lipson claims that he's not worried, because if these self-aware, self-replicating, evolving robots ever get out of hand, "we just pull the plug out of the robot. That's all."
That's the exact line you give a character named Dead Scientist No. 1 in a sci-fi apocalypse movie, right before the special effects really start kicking in.
When Eric Axt isn't manufacturing EMP grenades for the coming war, he helps his brother run the web comic Donuts for Sharks. Check out Dennis's musings on life and love here. Or take shots at some bad metaphors here. Karl normally selfishly links to his own work; show him you think this is totally not cool by buying this awesome book written by other, more handsome Cracked writers. That will teach him.
For more on robots that probably want to destroy us, check out The 7 Robots Most Likely to Rise Up Against Humanity. Or learn about some machines that should've already done that in The 6 Most Badass Robots (Invented Before Electricity).
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