Spanish researchers have published a study about the potential future impact of robots on society. They think that the potentially widening gap between the first and third worlds will cause a technological imbalance over the next 12 years. One of the researchers said that 'just as we depend upon mobile phones and cars in our daily lives today, the next 15 years will see mass hybridization between humans and robots.' So they predict that robots will be around -- and inside -- us. But read more...
You can see on the left how robots will be incorporated into our domestic tasks according to the researchers. (Credit: SINC) Here is a link to a much larger version of this photo (1,467 x 2,200 pixels, 681 KB).
This research project has been led by António López Peláez of the Spain's National Distance Learning University (UNED) and by Dimitris Kyriakou of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), one of the seven scientific institutes of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) located in Seville, Spain.
The two researchers interviewed international experts for their study. "All agreed on 2020 as a technological inflection point, because by then robots “will be able to see, act, speak, manage natural language and have intelligence, and our relationship with them will have become more constant and commonplace”, said López Peláez. This will follow a revolution in robotics after which they will no longer be sophisticated machines, but tools to be used on a daily basis, helping us with a large number of work and social activities."
So what will robots do for us in 2020? "Automation currently exists in areas such as water management or unmanned aircraft that fly and shoot missiles, but whole new areas of robot use will open up in future. One such use will be in a medical context, as exoskeletons to help disabled people move, helping to make them less dependent on others. Even more significant will be the insertion of robots into our bodies, such as intelligent implants in the brain, which will improve our rational thought, and nanorobots to be released into the blood to clean our arteries. Another important role will be the replacement of people working in the areas of security, surveillance or defence. According to Professor López Peláez, it is predicted that 40% of armies will be automated with robot soldiers by 2020 'just as a car factory is today, which will result in less human deaths during violent conflicts.'"
And as it was predicted several decades ago, the robots of 2020 will be 'intelligent.' "The most striking feature of this technological revolution are social robots, machines with artificial intelligence, and with which we will have emotional and even intimate interactions. 'A robot might be a more effective partner and a better person than the humans we actually have in our immediate lives: just as you can see dog owners talking to their pets today, soon we will be talking to robots,' says López Peláez -- to such an extent that sexual robots are currently being designed to carry out pleasurable personal interactions. These will be equipped with the required sensorial abilities, such as touch. 'Since they will be used as objects, sexual robots may be able to act as a future substitute for prostitution or pornography.'"
Of course, this is old news. Please read a 2007 post, "Will you one day marry a robot?" for example.
This research work has been published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, an Elsevier journal, under the name "Robots, genes, and bytes: technology development and social changes towards the year 2020" (Volume 75, Issue 8, Pages 1176-1201, October 2008). Here is a link to the abstract. "Scientific and technological policy has become a key activity in contemporary societies. In this context we present different projections about the evolution of science and technology in the area of robotics and advanced automation, which in turn shapes the new possibilities and risks emerging in this area in the future. This goes hand-in-hand with an analysis of the interaction of such trajectories with the social context from which they emanate. This interaction reinforces the need for establishing the probable sequence of technological innovation; analysing the impacts on economy and society; and providing qualified information for decision-making, both in policy and business. In this article, we present the results of the prospective research carried out in the field of robotics and advanced automation, paying special attention to the transformation trends of organizations, and the integration of robots in daily life and leisure, and underscoring potential repercussions which may deserve more attention and further research."
The page mentioned above also describes the contents of the article, but if you want to read it, you'll have to pay US$31.50.
Sources: Scientific Information and News Service (Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas - SINC) news release, December 5, 2008; and various websites
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