Unfolding robot revolution

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 11 Jul 2017, 13:49:24
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Unfolding robot revolution

Unfolding robot revolution
Robot Sophia is well programmed to respond to human fear of machines but many of her answers were a little clunky. What is mesmerising was her lifelike facial features. Capable of smiling, frowning, scowling, winking, Sophia is exceptional at mimicking human expressions thanks to some clever nanotechnology and artificial connective tissue, according to a global media report Tuesday.

Humanoid robots are already being used as security guards, nursing assistants, teachers and sex toys. Within 10 years such robots will surely be a lot smarter than today and in some respects may be all but indistinguishable from humans. Is this a good idea?

There is a persuasive school of thought that argues not. The line between man and machine should never be smudged because it risks dehumanising humans. Plus, as the joke runs: “You shouldn’t anthropomorphise computers because they don’t like it.”

The philosopher Daniel Dennett is an eloquent advocate of this line of reasoning. He argues that we should regard robots as nothing more than technological tools or digital slaves designed to do our express bidding. It is dangerous to endow them with human characteristics they do not possess. To kit them out with “cutesy human stuff” amounts to false advertising.

The distinctions between man and machine may be clear in a seminar room but are a lot more blurry in the outside world. Millions of people have electronic pacemakers and hip implants and so could technically be counted as cyborgs. Collaborative robots (or cobots) have been working in harmony with humans on the factory floor. Disembodied digital assistants, such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa, are “talking” with millions of us every day.

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