In Our Image
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Throughout 2017, the London Science Museum will be having an exhibit on the 500 year history of robots and why they were created. The idea of super-intelligent robots has enthralled, and often unsettled, people for generations. People are simultaneously fascinated by and fearful of the machines we attempt to make so lifelike, as we are constantly striving to recreate the intricate processes that make humans human.This fascination has carried through many movies over the decades, often adding to the now pervasive fear of intelligent robots.
“[Media makes robots seem scary] for the publicity. It’s created this idea and it gets people excited… It’s just a new way of making an action movie, and it definitely adds to the fear of AI and robots,” says junior Adrienne Flower.
However, with much of the public rooted in the perpetuated idea that robots become a risk when we make them too intelligent and sentient, one might ask why we continue to make more and more intelligent robots, and attempt to recreate the processes of the brain to give them artificial consciousness.
“Trying to create the robot and its ability to interact sort of gives us a lens into how we developed as a species… What took us millions of years to evolve into is something that we’re doing in a very very short time in robots, so it’s always going to be a step forward,” says Biology Teacher Brett Fleming.
Coinciding with our desire to mimic the mental processes is our desire to mimic the physical aspects, but with more limited success. Recreating the subtle movements of the face and gestures we make is currently the biggest hurdle in creating robots that people are at large more comfortable interacting with. As of now, even the more successful attempts like Hanson Robotic’s Sophia, have limited expressions and jerky movements, making them somewhat off putting to interact with.
“I don’t want to give up any hope on us humans, but I don’t think [we’ll ever successfully mimic human features]. I feel like creating such a natural and complicated system… I think it’s either going to be really really difficult or impossible,” says Flower.
With our preoccupation with creating a robot that perfectly displays human appearances and characteristics, one could liken the robotics era with a modern renaissance, comparing the scientists of today with the artists of the time striving to create the ideal human form in a celebration and glorification of ourselves.
“I think a lot of people see humans as the ultimate form of intelligence, so they think that if they create a robot that is close to humans’ intelligence or ability or exceeds that then that would the ultimate power that they could have, as far as creating a robot,” says senior Nathan Robledo.
Despite the setbacks in terms of their appearance, many advancements are constantly being made in the robotics field and more advanced robots are being created for use at home, like another of Hanson’s creations, the personal Einstein, showing how ,although we may have been conditioned to be wary, people are certainly more open to the idea of everyday robots and their potential.
“If we get a whole bunch of the robots out into the public, it’s going to be more casual in interactions…I don’t think [its something to be scared of]; I’m not intimidated by it,” says Flower.