Robots and Their Effect on Society
If you think robots are the kind of thing you hear about in science-fiction movies, think again. Right now, all over the world, robots are performing thousands of tasks. They are probing our solar system for signs of life, building cars at the General Motors plants, assembling Oreo cookies for Nabisco and defusing bombs for the SWAT team. As they grow tougher, more mobile, and more intelligent, today’s robots are doing more and more of the things that humans can’t or don’t want to do and in many cases taking away the need for human labor.
The invention of transistors and integrated circuits I the nineteen fifties and sixties, made robotics possible. Compact, reliable electronics and a growing computer industry added “intelligence” to the strength of already existing machines. In nineteen fifty-nine, researchers demonstrated the possibility of robotic manufacturing when they showed the world a computer-controlled milling machine that made ashtrays.
By the early nineteen eighties public fascination with robotics began to peak. This interest was spurred in part by movies like Star Wars, which featured robots C3-PO and R2-D2 as helpful sidekicks to human masters. But the infatuation began to wear away as people discovered that robots have a hard time doing things we think are easy–like moving across a messy room.
Today, robotic interest is on the incline. Faster and cheaper computer processors make robots able to perform more complicated actions quicker and at a less expensive price than in the past. Meanwhile, researchers are working on ways to make robots move and "think" even more efficiently. Although most robots in use today are designed for specific tasks, the goal is to make multi-tasking and even universal robots, robots that are flexible enough to do just about anything a human can do.
But with these great advantages there are always some disadvantages to weigh in to the equation. After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch and robots are no exception to this rule. There are of course a few negative aspects to robot usage. Here are some of the questions that arise: are there such kinds of robots that should not be created? Will robots put capable workers out of jobs, if so is this a justifiable action? And of course the ignorant issue of, what if some day robots become like people, in terms of thinking and acting for them selves, how would we be able to distinguish robot from human?
Hollywood blockbusters such as Terminator and Terminator Two have fueled the idea of artificial intelligence taking on humanoid characteristics and taking over the world. Let me answer the last question once and for all. It is not possible for a robot to think, feel, or act for itself, it may be programmed to mimic the actions, but not experience the real thing. We can program them to react to a certain stimulus, but a robot cannot...