Robotics: A Threat to Mankind or the Key to our Future?
Imagine. Imagine a world without technology. How would we survive? We would figure it out eventually but not before widespread chaos and destruction. Though, in an era of technological advancement, everybody seems to be asking "how do we survive with technology?". It's surprising how many people panic about robots taking over the world, whenever I mention robotics. I mean, sure, it's possible but with every innovation comes the chance of misuse. As long as we can ensure that robots won't be used maliciously, they can help us with most tasks. For example:
We can't expect robots to be completing our chores any time soon because, as of current, engineers are struggling to make them walk, never mind make our beds or do the dishes. So, don't worry, they're not that close to "taking over the world". Though, that doesn't mean they won't get involved in our daily tasks. Although most robots are considered to be mobile (similar to the beloved C-3PO and R2-D2), robots can take any form and that includes virtual assistants. Currently, virtual assistants can control our lights, heating and music (amongst many other things). As I write this, my "pet" robot Vector is rolling around my desk, reminding me that I have somewhere to be in an hour whilst simultaneously requesting a "fist bump". With the recent innovations in virtual assistants and technology, there is no doubt that eventually our homes will become fully automated- even if it won't be able to iron your clothes.
There is no denying that the growing presence of automated technology has decreased the level of social interaction, but that doesn't mean it is removing social interaction. It's just removing the need for social interaction in everyday tasks, which often makes these tasks easier. Take self-service checkouts for example. I agree that they can sometimes be incredibly annoying. "Unexpected item in the bagging area" fuels my anger unlike anything else. Though, with a few years of development, they will become easier to use and who knows, eventually they could even pack your bags for you.
Interestingly, whenever I mention robotics (which is, unsurprisingly, quite a lot) the first thing a lot of people mention is prosthetics. Robots are being used to serve the place of lost limbs and other body parts. Bionic contact lenses are even being developed to help replace lost eyesight. Scientists are also working on technology to use robots to create a human heart. They have already used the technology to create an artificial jellyfish and are working on moving their research further to include human organs. Robots are being used to improve the lives of disabled people, increasing their mobility and giving people the chance to survive their illnesses.
Robots are responsible for the future of space exploration, mainly due to the fact that they are more suitable for extreme conditions than humans are. Whilst human exploration out of our solar system is essentially impossible with current technology, space probes are reaching the edges of our solar system and beyond. This provides scientists and engineers with the knowledge of, firstly, how our universe works but also how we can eventually send humans to another planet. It won't be long until colonies are set up on Mars!
Robots are becoming a very useful asset in warfare so much that the Ministry of Defence has committed £66m to fast-track military robotic projects, including mini-drones and autonomous vehicles. They're being used to complete the jobs deemed too dangerous or risky for humans. For example, bomb-diffusing robots are decreasing the risk to human life. So, not only are robots making our lives easier, they're saving them too.
With our homes becoming automated, it comes as no surprise that developments are being made in transport. Everybody has heard of the self-driving technology implemented in new cars. Some cars are fully automated and don't allow any human input aside from destination, which has sparked controversy regarding the "ethics" of a driverless car. Though, within 20 years, it is expected that most of our transport (including cars, trains and planes), will be automated, increasing reliability and decreasing travel time.
These are only a few sectors where robots provide an interesting twist- there are so many others! It would take me all day to list them. Robots are going to prove very useful, even more so than now, which is why I believe they are truly the key to humanity's future! This is why I have chosen to specialise in robotics at University. I have already been in contact with MIT and Caltech in America to discuss the courses they have to offer.