Belue 1 Michele Belue Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English 1103 November 6, 2012

Will Robots Ever Replace Humans? Robot. What is the first image that comes to mind? A cosmic machine that builds cars? R2D2 or C-P3O from the infamous Star Wars film series? Or maybe Sonny, the realistic humanoid robot that is featured in the movie I, Robot? Whether we like it or not, “robot” is a term that everyone is familiar with in our generation. Robots have been slowly integrated into our media, entertainment, and daily lives, beginning in our childhood. Movies like The Iron Giant, Robots, The Incredibles, Wall-E, and Meet The Robinsons and TV shows including The Jetsons, Little Robots, and Astroboy all involve robotic characters who naturally interact with humans and are targeted toward young children. The majority of these characters are personified as friendly, smart, harmless, and beneficial to society. As we get older, our interests in entertainment shift to a more mature genre. The Terminator, I, Robot, Star Wars, Robocop, and Transformers are examples of futuristic films that depict robots as extremely intelligent, humanlike, and sometimes threating to our society. These conflicting portrayals of robots existing in society just as humans do cause mixed feelings, huge controversies, and many questions. When will robots begin to appear in our world? What will they look like? Will these robots be beneficial or detrimental to society? Could these robots potentially replace humans? To answer the first question, they are already here. In the past few years, our world of technology has rapidly evolved. In particular, our methods of communication have changed tremendously. Pagers, what the heck are those?

Belue 2 Writing letters the old fashioned way? Forget it. Our generation is all about shooting quick emails and texts or networking with friends on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Smart phones are designed to help people interact quickly with others while multitasking so they do not miss a beat. It is impossible to walk down a street and not see at least one businessman, teenage girl, or regular Joe glued to their smart phone. IPhones, especially, have taken over the cell phone industry, as well as our lives. In 2011, Apple Inc. launched the iPhone 4S. As if the previous iPhone 4 was not already capable of virtually anything and everything, this improved device came with an intelligent personal assistant named Siri. Anyone familiar with this application knows that it, or should I say “she,” can tell you anything you need to know. Siri is designed to learn the language and voice of the iPhone owner, listen to his request, and quickly respond. If your request is to find the current score of a football game, what the weather will be like in Boston tomorrow, or what you have scheduled in your calendar that day, just ask Siri. You can even command her to call you by a certain name. Dictionary.com states that the term robot is defined as “any machine or mechanical device that operates automatically with humanlike skill” (“Dictionary.com”). Siri can listen, process given information, and talk just as humans do. Whether you want to come to the realization or not, millions of iPhone owners around the world have little robots tucked in their pockets. Since our generation typically pictures robots to be 5 feet tall with two arms, two legs, a torso, and a face, viewing Siri as a robot might be a stretch. However, Rodney Brooks, cofounder of the company iRobot, who created the Roomba vacuuming robot, and founder of his company Rethink Robots, has been working on building a robot similar to the ones imagined by most people. According to “The Rise of the Robotic Work Force,” an article written by David

Belue 3 H. Freedman, this humanoid robot, with a physical appearance strongly resembling that of a human, goes by the name Baxter. Unlike other ginormous, bulky robots that are designed to do labor for manufacturing companies, Baxter is “powerful, cheap, versatile, and easy-to-set-up” (Freedman). This friendly helper has two arms with fingerlike grippers, a torso, and a head consisting of a computer screen that displays a line drawing of a face. This screen-based face goes through a range of emotions, such as asleep, neutral, concentrated, focused, surprised, confused, and sad. If Baxter is calmly working, its “face” shows the focused expression. If someone suddenly approaches, the eyes open in surprise. Baxter was designed to work right alongside employees, so, as a safety feature, sensors were placed throughout its body to detect when an employee is approaching. If someone gets too close to Baxter, he will automatically stop performing his task and shut off. While most robots are programmed to perform one simple, repetitive task, Baxter is capable of being “taught” multiple tasks just as humans do, learning each in just minutes. Baxter’s arms were intended to be guidable by hand. This design allows the robot to learn a task’s motion with the help of a human, spot the object, “feel” its way through gripping and maneuvering the object, and repeat the motion slightly different each time until it has mastered the technique (Freedman). So, here we have a robot that looks like a human, learns and performs tasks efficiently and possibly better than a human, and is safe to work alongside humans. Is it safe to say this robot can think like a human, too? Not quite, but after all, that is a main goal humanoid robotics engineers are trying to achieve. In addition, Brooks says, “Baxter can be taken out of the box, set up, trained, and put to work in about one hour. At $22,000 each—less than the price of a minivan—it could easily pay for itself in months, saving a company $30,000 a year or more in labor costs per robot” (Freedman). This game-changing robot for manufacturing companies is

Belue 4 the definition of a dream employee. But could one man’s dream be another man’s nightmare? If Brook’s ambitious plan for Baxter is carried out as he hopes, these robots will replace humans in millions of jobs in the U.S. alone. Implementing these robots in the shoes of human workers would cut out costs of insurance, sick pay, and vacation pay. However, would the boost in manufacturing industries and massive unemployment rate of U.S. citizens cause economic miracle or mishap? Can these robots replace humans in ways other than manufacturing jobs? How will people react to robots as they start integrating into our world? While some welcome the growing age of robotic technology, Sherry Turkle, an ethnographer and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warns against it. Turkle specifically studies the impact of technology on society. She shares with Jeffery Young, author of the article “Programmed for Love,” that one summer in the lab at MIT she experienced an emotional connection with a metallic robot named Cog. Made to resemble a human, with two moving arms and a head, this robot was programmed to turn toward whoever was speaking, suggesting that it understood what was being said. Surprisingly, “[Turkle] found that she deeply wanted Cog to interact with her rather than with a colleague who was there that day. She realized this human-looking machine was tapping into a deep human desire to see it as alive—as good a companion as any human” (Young). Sherry snapped out of the emotional attachment to the machine and quickly realized the spell Cog had over her was quite serious. After spending fifteen years since that day studying the emerging breed of “sociable robots,” Turkle believes the growing trend of creating machines to act as if they were alive and human could be detrimental to our society. These seductive robots posing as humans could lead people to place machines in roles only humans should occupy. Sherry predicts that soon robots will be designed to replace workers in nursing homes, baby-sit children, and serve as companions for people. Could this

Belue 5 become a social norm? Turkle goes on to share human to robot interactions she encountered in her field research (Young). In 2001, robotics researchers in the MIT artificial-intelligence laboratory created a robot named Kismet. This humanoid character had a metal face with large eyes, wide eyebrows, and a mouth that depicted emotions of surprise, disgust, delight, and several more. When Kismet encountered its first human subject, the interaction was a huge success. A 9-year-old girl who met Kismet displayed a liking to the kind-looking robot by showing it her toys, trying to dress it with clothes, and attempting to clip a microphone to it. In fact, most of the children in the study loved Kismet, and they described the robot as a friend that liked them back. Although young children have imaginary friends and pretend their dolls are alive, Turkle argues that “a huge shift occurs when dolls are programmed so that they seem to have minds of their own” (Young). She rises a valid point: if children now have the ability to play with robots that actually interact with them, how emotionally attached will they become? If a robot malfunctions, can it break a child’s heart? Will children begin to choose making friends with robots over other children? If these sociable robots become instilled in our society, there will be a loss of human-to-human reaction. Patients may feel more comfortable disclosing personal information to robots rather to their doctors, socially awkward people might resort to spending time with robots instead of humans, and individuals may choose to have intimate relationships with robots; after all, computers can not commit crimes or have emotional breakdowns (Young). Although many of us view the idea of robots eventually walking our streets and being accepted by the world as crazy and impossible, we forget how cozy and comfortable we have become with our smartphones and laptops. Instead of meditating in our own thoughts or simply taking in the intriguing world around us, we turn to our smart devices to play games and compete

Belue 6 with computer opponents, see what is trending on Twitter, and check in with Siri to hear what we have planned for the day. Although we have not reached the point of physically interacting with human-like robots, we have already accepted robots in cyberspace. Perhaps the idea of walking, talking machines one day being integrated into our society is not so far-fetched. As artificial intelligence advances, the era of humanoid robots becoming a social norm in our society gets closer. While many robotics researchers are confident in the integration of robots in our world, a huge question still remains: will humans actually accept these robots as friends, co-workers, protectors, or other people? Which leads to a larger inquiry: are robots capable of replacing humans? Mark Halpern, an artificial intelligence and computer expert, believes robots should not and will not be assimilated into our culture. In his article “Military Robots and the Redefinition of “Autonomy,”” he explains the social and ethical issues that would rise if that possibility were to become reality. He first examines the fictional, yet seemingly real, interpretation of robotics. In the mid 1900’s, Isaac Asimov, author of imaginative literature on robots, began writing science-fiction novels about future civilizations in which humanoid robots play a central role. In one of his infamous short stories, Runaround, Asimov introduces the “Three Laws of Robotics,” which include the following: First law: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, Second law: A robot must obey orders given it by a human being except where such orders would conflict with the First law, and Third law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second law (Halpern).

Belue 7 These three laws have been repeated and implemented in countless works of literature and movies involving sociable robots, and therefore have become implanted in our minds. By giving robots the right to theoretically protect humans, we are granting them a sense of autonomy. If robots were to actually become established in our lives, would we give them the same rights we humans have? Halpern argues that even if robots become prevalent in society, humans would not consent to robots watching their children, protecting them with armed weapons, or driving vehicles in traffic. He also adds that humans are too practical to trust a brainless machine with the lives of their loved ones (Halpern). However, advanced AI researchers have been working on robots that are not brainless at all. A massive obstacle that has been starring humanoid robotics engineers in the face for a long time is the uncertainty of human acceptance. In order for a human to accept a robot as an individual, it must strongly resemble humans and be able to interact with humans in natural, meaningful ways. According to Inlportal.inl.gov, the official site of the Idaho National Laboratory, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, such robots are on their way to existence. In their article “Humanoid Robots,” they identify the following areas of research that are essential to create the perfect humanoid robot: perception, the robot’s ability to see, taste, hear, and smell; human-robot interaction, which deals with how the robot will efficiently and accurately communicate with humans; learning and adapting behavior, the way robots will be useful in everyday settings and how well they adapt to environmental changes; legged locomotion, the robot’s ability to walk up stairs, steep inclines, and over uneven terrain; and arm control, the robot’s aptitude to manipulate its arms and hands to perform tasks such as writing, pouring coffee, or performing surgery. Researchers believe if they design a robot that excels in all of these areas, people will have no choice but to accept them into society. The article shares

Belue 8 information on a few robots that have already been built and tested that are already progressing to reach this ideal stage (“Humanoid Robots”). WABOT-1, a humanoid robot that was designed at the Waseda University in Tokyo, had limb-control system, vision system, and conversation system. “WABOT-1 was able to communicate with a person in Japanese and measure distances and directions to objects using receptors, artificial ears and eyes, and an artificial mouth. The WABOT-1 walked with its lower limbs and was able to grip and transport objects with touch sensitive hands. At the time, it was estimated that the WABOT-1 had the mental faculty of a one-and-half-year-old child” (“Humanoid Robots”). Other impressive robots have been programmed to walk over rough, uneven terrain, kick a soccer ball, climb a flight of stairs, use a screwdriver, juggle, and refer to people by their names. Is it possible that we will eventually find ourselves surpassed or displaced by our own creations? If the rate of advanced artificial intelligence continues to increase, these dream robots will soon become reality (“Humanoid Robots”). For generations, the idea of futuristic robots living and interacting with humans has been instilled in movies and literature. Some view it as a sci-fi fantasy that our society will never reach, while others realize it is inevitable and quickly approaching. The more our daily technology advances, the more comfortable we get with spending time with devices rather than other human beings. In our generation, if you do not have a smart phone, laptop, or up-to-date electronic device, you will not stay caught up in the world. Our media, education, and social lives depend on devices that are efficient, fast, and adaptable to our daily lives. Although these sociable, humanoid robots are created as a new kind of “tool” for humans, rather than replacing them, their motives, abilities, and potential future in our society remain a mystery.

Belue 9 Works Cited Freedman, David H. "The Rise Of The Robotic Work Force." Inc 34.8 (2012): 76. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. Halpern, Mark. "Military Robots And The Redefinition Of "Autonomy." Vocabula Review 11.12 (2009): 1-12. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. "Humanoid Robotics." Idaho National Library. U.S. Department of Energy. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. "Robot Define Robot at Dictionary.com." Dictionary.com Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. Young, Jeffrey R. "Programmed for Love." The Chronicle of Higher Education. 14 Jan. 2011. Web. 7 Oct. 2012.

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