Rise of the Machines

While the term “robot” has been a part of the English language since 1921, and societies have been interested in various automated devices for centuries, my fascination with them didn’t begin until graduate school. And even then it was kind of by accident!

I read P.W. Singer’s Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century for one of my classes and immediately became hooked. The book, which is full of pop culture references and extremely accessible, fascinated me and I found myself really intrigued by the way different cultures see robots. In the West, for instance, automata are typically used in manufacturing or war, while humanoid robotic caregivers are more common in the East. There are a number of reasons for this discrepancy, including things like improvised explosive devices and aging populations, but I love the debates over what robots can and should do, how far we should develop their autonomy, and what it means to be human.

As my interest in robots grew, I started noticing that they are often featured in science fiction novels or movies, and usually with disastrous results (I know, I know, I’m a little late to the party!). But for all of the imagination featured in these stories, the authors do wrestle with some of the weightier questions regarding our current and future robotic counterparts. And it seems that, more and more, science fiction is becoming science fact.

Don’t get me wrong, these are really interesting questions to be following, both personally and professionally, but I guess I fall more into the “Just because we can, should we?” camp. I know there are people though, like Ray Kurzweil, eagerly awaiting the “singularity,” the moment when non-human intelligence surpasses human intelligence.

In honor of these different perspectives, I bring you Robot Week! While my posts will certainly not be all-encompassing (maybe it will just be Robot Week #1), they will all have something to do with robots, or at least how they are being depicted in today’s popular culture.

So stick around and let me know what you think: Are we more likely to get a C-3PO, an Optimus Prime, or a Terminator?

3 thoughts on “Rise of the Machines

  1. I personally don’t believe computers or robots or any type of artificial intelligence will ever truly become “smarter” than humans. I mean, we are the ones who program them, and even if things did get out of hand, humans are very adaptable. We’ve survived this long, and I think it would take a lot more to wipe us out than some homicidal robots. Speaking of which, a couple of things you might like to read that fictionalize the subject: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (all about the end-times brought about foolishly by human scientists and artificial intelligence) and Chobits (a manga set in a near-future Japan where everyone has personal robots and what happens when an extremely shy man finds one of his own). I look forward to ROBOWEEK!

    1. Thanks for the recommendations Rachael! I’ve read Robopocalypse (will be reviewing it on Wednesday) and know of Chobits from my days of shelving at B&N, but I’ve never read it. It sounds interesting though so I’ll have to check it out!

      As for the whole robots-taking-over-the world thing, I agree with you. They are made by humans and humans are fallible, ergo machines must be too. I also don’t know how you would turn binary code into more complex thoughts and actions, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping people from trying!!

      1. Especially the Japanese. They are always unveiling some new robot, and while they are capable of some cool things, they don’t seem to be anywhere near superhuman intelligence levels.

What Say You?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: