Thursday, February 28, 2008

I, Spotbot

I read two robot-related news stories on Reuters this morning, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing.
  • Story onescary robots. Robotics/AI expert Noel Sharkey, among others, has warned that GPS-guided robots are already cheap and easy to build, and it’s just a matter of time before terrorists use them to launch remote attacks. The robot tech is out there, easy to get and easy to copy. Toy plane + GPS device + grenade = …You get the [ugly] picture.
  • Story twocute robots. A study released this month says that elderly in nursing homes were equally comforted by a trained therapy dog and a robotic dog. That’s right. "They worked almost equally well in terms of alleviating loneliness and causing residents to form attachments.”
OK, I have a question: Why did they do that experiment?

Are they looking into cost-cutting? Saving on kibble? Who was sitting around one day and suddenly thought, Hey, I wonder if those old folks would be just as happy with a robot dog? I realize the story addresses those questions, sort of, but still...

What solution would the heuristics of Electronic Jesus yield?

One of my favorite Douglas Adams creations is the Electric Monk, introduced in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Just like other labor-saving devices that took over tedious tasks for us, “Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.”

Will aging robots be just as happy with live dogs?


Anonymous said...

Along the same lines of absurdity, the story "Why we like babies" caught my eye. Maybe robot babies are next. After all, we're already wired.

Don said...

Thanks for that. Your link got cut off, so here it is.

tofu-powered art-chick said...

Instead of giving something up for Lent, I opted to make a rigorous commitment to positive thinking. It has been working marvelously so far, but this new post is putting me to the test. If robotic dogs for the elderly is supposed to be the good news lift, it's NOT! It does have that sci-fi twistedness quality, though, so "A" for "appropriate". Make that "A+" for the sake of positivity. Where can I get the Monk robot?

Don said...

Yeah - I don't think anyone reported that nursing home story as positive. It's a little disturbing, to be sure.