Dan Smith: World changes with more active use of robotics

Aug. 20, 2013 @ 11:42 PM

This may sound like an off-beat story line this time but, this is actually factual and is taking place as we speak.

It concerns robots. There was an article in a recent issue of USA Weekend that caught my attention and reminded me of a study I did on the subject a while back.

I figured if it’s in the USA Weekend magazine, it must be somewhat important. It seems that robots are coming into their own these days. Of course over the years you’ve seen science fiction movies and TV shows that depict robots in various roles.

Some are bad robots, and some are good ones. I think we’ve all been fascinated to see them and watch them perform in these capacities.

Now they are in schools, teaching our children. One is a 2-foot-tall plastic robot named Projo. That is short for “projective agent.” They use a method where the robot will purposely make a mistake to keep kids vigilant. Their goal is to help the child self-correct by practicing on robots.

I guess kids are getting tired of regular lectures from a teacher standing in front of a chalk board.

“Projo” sits on a desk and takes turns solving math problems and other assignments. These robots are able to monitor the child’s progress and allow them to keep up with what is being taught so they don’t get behind in their studies. Students would rather talk with and communicate with this robot, than with the human teacher.

I suppose it’s kind of like learning with a computer screen or some communication device without a real person standing in front of them. Maybe students feel they can trust the robot, because it understands them and doesn’t judge them. It simply teaches without emotion.

OK, so how else will the robot world impact us?

The Chinese company Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics manufacturer. They make products for Apple, Intel, Sharp, Amazon, Dell, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola and Hewlett Packard. It has factories throughout the world in China, Brazil, India, Japan, and Mexico.

The plant in China has over 450,000 workers. The conditions there are not good. They have to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. The people there have led mutinies, strikes and there have been suicides. People were jumping off of the building to escape the working conditions.

It got so bad that the owners had to install netting around the building to prevent the suicides. Finally, the owners laid off the workers and brought in robots to replace them. The owners plan is to replace over a million workers over the next three years. This whole thing is also referred to as Robot Alchemy.

Some scientists have gone so far as to call the robots, a new species. The robots will be able to build themselves, and in doing so, will be able to install increasingly greater intelligence into the newer robots. They will learn from past mistakes and correct errors that humans have built into them.

I read a report the other day about a group of people who are working on transferring their brain waves and thought processes into an artificial robot so they will live forever. They will give up their bodies, which will die one day. Their intellects will live on. In a sense, they will achieve immortality. This was a serious article written by respected scientists.

In the scientific field there is a term that is called singularity. This is when machines (robots) are at parity, or are equal in intelligence and capability, with human beings. If this course is not reversed, the robot will go on to its destiny. It will out-think us, out-work us, and out-perform us.

DARPA, the Defense Department’s research agency, has been shoveling billions into robotic research. One of their projects is called the Human Genome Project. It will link every computer and robot in the world with humankind’s brainpower. If that kind of power gets in the wrong hands, it would be devastating.

How about this: Lethal robots already exist. Hundreds of people, in other countries, have been murdered in recent months by robotic drone aircraft. America itself will soon be inundated with tens of thousands of them overhead.

The U.S. military has developed Hunter-Killer robots that use facial recognition software to smell, and to identify, and pick a human target out of a crowd.

There is the Cheetah robot; a steel machine that can run 3 times as fast as a man. There is also the Alpha Dog; a gigantic robot that can hike 20 miles without stopping.

Your world is changing rapidly. This is not the world of our fathers any longer. We are becoming unrecognizable. I wish I could tell you that this is all false. I can’t.

— Dan M. Smith is a Cincinnati native and Gatlinburg resident. He is the author of two novels. His son is serving in the Air Force. E-mail to dan0729@yahoo.com.