Towards a robotic society in 2020?

Towards a robotic society in 2020?

Summary: 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...

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

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...

Robots in our lives in 2020

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

You'll find related stories by following the links below.

Topic: Emerging Tech

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  • Any Asimov reader could spew this drivel

    We are more than 10 years away from the positronic brain!
    • The fact...

      .. that positrons are not special in the field of intelligence, shows you know nothing about the subject except what is seen in 'star trek' and so no one should listen to you. Super computers are going to be at human brain levels of computation, around 10 petaflops, in 2009. At that point human level AI becomes possible. We are very near to a dramatic change in the world, and almost no one realize's it. Anyone can say this stuff (or anything else) but that doesn't make it untrue.
      • Except for that one pesky little detail...

        ...that no one really knows how human intelligence works.

        We imagine that you can take a computer, throw more GFLOPS into it, give it to talented computer scientists, and then magically a human like AI will come out. Yet neuroscientists studying real human brains still can't figure it out. Trying to do it with ones and zeros is not going to be easier.
        • Bravo, you have hit the proverbial Nail.

          Any computer capable of passing the Touring Test will have to develop true machine intelligence- It will have to LEARN.

          A lot of programs have Heuristic Algorithms built in, that help the program "learn" and "remember" - Most of the time, this tech is used in Anti-Virus programs, and of you consider the life cycle of a computer and the programs installed, there is a definite life-span which can be compared directly to our life cycle.

          First there is Construction... As we are born, we develop in the Womb, and all the right parts are placed where they should be... If not, we have deformities- Just about everyone has one or two little things "different".

          When we build a Computer System: Or at least when I build one, I design it in my head, according to the purpose I wish it to serve. Then I buy the parts, and I assemble it, and then I install the base OS. Just like a human being, any home-made PC will have one or two "deformities" - a Ram stick that is not up to spec, a faulty power supply, a bad CPU, these can represent various serious birth defects.

          A computer however, can have defective parts replaced, not to easy to do with a Human Being.

          So, I have the system built, and I install the OS, and the system is officially "Born"

          As the OS "learns" - Meaning, I install Programs and start using the system for work projects, the computer will eventually develop a personality, just like a human being.

          This is reflected in the way the computer responds to commands, or, how well it runs it's installed program(s). Pretty soon, the computer will start moving away from expected responses- For example, my Media-PC (Each PC I make is for a specific part of my house, and that one controls my Entertainment subsystem) - Instead of opening an Explorer Window when Right Clicking on Explorer and hitting "Open" - It decided to start up Cyberlink PowerDVD which had somehow taken over that function of the explorer.

          This is just a minor example... When you think about it, we are not too much different. When you turn on a PC that you have just built, you are giving it Life. When you install an OS and Programs you are giving it the basic neurological system it needs, when you start using it you are teaching it- Eventually when you turn it on, it will remember what you were doing last and go to that area so that you can continue.

          The only basic difference between a PC and a Man is that you can not turn the Man "Back On" after the power has been shut off.

          Even a computer will come to the point where cascade failure occurs, and the system will fail right in front of your eyes.

          Any Robotic System is the same way, it has a life span. The problem with products made in 2008 is that they are designed to operate for such a short time... As the level of complexity in a product rises, the lifespan of that product reduces drastically: For example, the Auction Houses are full of articles of furniture and bric-a-brac that are up to 500 years old, which still perform their basic function- As the electronics industry matured through the 20's 30's 40's 50's up to the time when the first transistor was thought up, the life span of things like Radios fell drastically. There was an entire industry which supported the use of Vacuum Tubes for Televisions and electronic items... The Original Memory Element designed for Digital Computing in 1946 was the RCA Selectron Tube - which originally was to hold 4096 bits of Info and later scaled down to hold only 256 bits... This was superseded by the Williams-Kilburn tube for production and later by the first magnetic memories in the early 50's.

          My Uncle was on the team at IBM that developed the first Magnetic Memories, which held about 1 Megabyte Each on a large drum.

          Then in the 60's if you watched Lost in Space or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, you caw these huge computers that were Giant banks of blinking lights, but in one respect they got it correct: Computers in that era used 2" Tape and 16 track tape recorders. Even in 1981 when I worked for an opthalmology firm in San Francisco they had a computer that had 2" storage tape... One of the fired employees was ired for being fired, and he took the tape, which had about 5 years of data on it.

          Then when I built my first PC XT, I bought a 20 MB WD Hard Drive, which at that time was supposed to be "Small" - It was 5" by 3" thick... But the Seagate drives it was replacing were much larger- They fit in the empty bays on the PC XT.

          I bought my first 1 GB Hard Drive in 97, then in 2000 I bought about 15 Maxtor Slim-cased 20 and 30 GB Hard Drives for a special application... They all failed within 6 months, that was when I switched to WD and I have been using WD Specifically ever since. And now I have about 3 500 GB Drives, a bunch of 320s, a few 250s and about 3 160s - But now there are Terabyte Drives for relatively cheap.

          That first 20GB WD hard drive I bought cost me about 200 dollars if I remember correctly.

          That first digital computer that used Selectrons, was the size of a large house, had exactly less computing power than my Casio Scientific Calculator that I bought in 1989.

          Soon, processors and memory will be microscopic in size... And I am sure when we build a parallel computer using such hardware, if it's memory is anything close to what a human brain can hold, then if we feed it the correct Heuristic Programming, it will learn, and it will remember, and it WILL develop a true Machine Intellegence... Which is NOT to be confused with Human Intelligence.

          Human Beings are connected to that Reptilian Brainstem... And it's Three Hard-Wired urges:

          Feed - Fight - F(Reproduce)

          A machine intelligence will NOT be distracted by having to suddenly stop everything and Hunt, Kill, and Eat... and then reproduce after those activities are finished.
  • How about a free Nestor Class 5?

    And I'll use it to help me cook sweetpotato pie!

    I could JUST SEE Mr. Data cooking in Will Smith's Grama's Kitchen... Well, at least she has a Cat so He would not miss Spot too much.

    I don't think Positronics are the way to go with Robotic Brains anyway... The way things are going, it will be Nanobyte Technology...

    In Star Dreck, The Motion Picture, they came up with this idea (Kind of vomited it up, cos they had absolutely NO script and they were filming it on the fly, with their flys open) of a "mechanical" reproduction of the crewman who got Plasma-ised (In Star Dreck: TMP we get to see the special effect that represented people (And Klingons, too) getting it with V-ger Plasma...) A special effect and concept that was used and abused in Sci Fi and in Star Dreck for at least 25 years...

    But the Android "Ilea" had Nanobyte uProcessors all throughout her body, every cell was a uProcessor.

    So, Instead of having a Positronic Brain, it is more like Mr Data will have a huge amount of Parallel uP Power, and a WHOLE lot more than "4 Quadrillion Bits" in his whole memory - At that rate he would have had to start ejecting excess memory after 6 months of "life"

    When you consider the progress of Robotic Tech and the eventual marriage of flesh and computer: There are already gadgets that they are testing out on people with lost limbs: So it is actually Feasible that a guy who looks like Will Smith will have a whole robotic Hand, Wrist, Arm, Shoulder, and a few Ribs, mixed it with... Ohh! Ohh! that one's ME! - Then I do not believe that we are not too far away from doin it, doin it, doin it... Piknurnose and Chewin it, Chewin it.. Etc: I mean, people having operations like Steve Austin, getting Robotic Implants, new legs and arms that look and FEEL like real Arms and Legs... Memory Implants, Exobyte memory extensions, and interfaces to our Home PC that will eventually (Unless Mucousoft continues down their path of ultra-oversecurity) have more power than 17 Cray Supercomputers...

    I think the best boook anyone can read was written around 1982, by Vernor Vinge, if you can find it, it is called "Marooned in Realtime"

    -And this was written in the early 80's when all we had were a few Apple computers and the IBM PC-XT with its humongous 640 KB of Ram, a couple 5 1/4" Floppy, REAL floppy drives, Machine Basic interfacing with a Cassette recorder, and if you were smart you could program Basic-A to reproduce Michael Jackarse dancing around while letters popped up stating "Beat-It! Beat it! Beat on the Brat, Beat on the Brat with a Baseball Bat, oh, ho, ho oh, oh ho!- Er, no, I mean Beat it, Beat it, etc"

    And if you were real smart you could program the PC Speaker to doodle out the riff from the song Beat It. (I actually saw a guy, out of boredom, program this very thing on a little Apple PC in 1981).

    If you look at what was available in 1981, and Vernor Vinge speculates: Large amounts of computer memory, that could be swapped out, people able to choose what memory sets they needed per given day, headband interface with their computer systems, interfaces that looked like jewelry, and today?

    4 years ago I bought a SanDisk Flash Card, that looked like a little pendant, but had 512 MB of space.... But NOW, now we have larger and larger amounts of memory available on little pieces of Treated Silicon... With No moving parts... How soon before we have a few billion Exobyte memory component which is a few angstroms across?

    And anyone can predict now, when we see these developments, the road we are on includes an eventual "Singularity" of Men and Technology... Which will eventually Merge.

    How much does 4 GB of DDR2 Memory cost now? Maybe a hundred bucks if you get the cheap stuff... In 1997, you could not FIT 4 GB of Ram on a motherboard, much less Buy 4 GB of Ram Sticks for any less than 1,000 dollars.

    So, as our memory devices and "Micro" Processors, actually BECOME REAL "μProcessors" - and shrink down to almost-invisibility, and Programs, IF we can prove to Mucousoft, that OS's should NOT be huge volumes of BLOATware, and programs get smaller and use less space, and there is MORE memory Available to the comsumer... So that when we buy a PC with 4 GB of Ram, we get to USE 3.5 GB of it... And the "System Idle Process" is NOT swallowing up 99% of available RAM...

    Then, Soon, Soon, we will be able to plant Processors in our Skulls and maybe, when we get old, we can have an extension of life as a cyborg.

    Things like this are being speculated at in Science Fiction: What was Science Fiction has become Science Fact, and if anyone remembers a guy named Alvin Toffler and a book called Future Shock- The human Race is subject to Shock, just by the changes in Technology being dumped on us every year, it changes faster and faster... Why do you think so MANY people refuse to use Windows Vista? It is because they had finally become adjusted to XP after Six Years, and Vista was SO MUCH of a change, and not a friendly one.

    The people responsible for change need to realise, change has to come in a friendly fashion, cos as people we can only take so many shocks: And if any of us puts down the PC for just a matter of months... Chances are that so many things will have changed by the time they pick it back up, they would be totally unfamiliar with a basic Home PC.
  • Agent Smith is coming

    ... to extinguish all of us. Sorry there's no Neo for you.
  • RE: Towards a robotic society in 2020?

    The system idle process on my Vista x64 machine is currently using a grand total of...24KBs. Please stop spewing ignorant fud, already. It is SO not cute.
  • No Neo

    And No Agent Elrond either :p
  • Positronics and Computing?

    When I say that the Turing-Level computer might not be a Positronic Brain, is because of the fact that they already have Nano computers the size of a molecule.

    My concern is, it seems the smaller they make a μP, the larger the support system and the more heat needs to be dissipated. Now we are into liquid-cooled colling systems for PCs, will this be reflected in future robotics? The question will eventually be, "Where will we put the cooling system" and it will become a design issue.

    And if it gets that far, the developers will fall to the Human Body more and more, and copying the already-developed cooling systems that we have, that keep us at precisely 98.6˚ F.

    If they can make processors that are angstroms in width, the problem is that the support systems for such a processor may be many times larger... So the trick would be to design a fully integrated cellular system, just like what we got already.

    But the only thing we know about Positrons is that they can be made to exist. Is there any research in this day where they are developing a Positronic Brain?
  • Sexual Robots

    We need that right NOW, not in 2020!
  • This is also an economic question..

    Is it not a matter of debate that the upper tiers of society live on some form of slave labour, however you wish to label it.

    The future form that makes the most sense is certainly robotic, provided it can cost less than human serfs to accomplish the same task. I see this as the primary economic motivator for this particular innovation.