Robots in History
- Leonardo da Vinci's knight robot
The first reference to robotics in history dates back to 270 BC when a Greek physicist and inventor made a water clock and and organ with movable figures. This very primitive invention became the first known experiment in robotic technology. The first robot ever designed and built in human form was a mechanical man created by Leonardo da Vinci in 1495. The robot could walk, sit, open and close its mouth, and even turn its head from side to side.
The word "robot," actually used for the first time in 1921 in a play titled "Rossum's Universal Robots," comes from the Czech word "robota," meaning "drudgery or slave-like labor." This illustrates man's intended use for robots.
In 1941 writer Isaac Asimov first used the word "robotics," and predicted that robotic technology could lead to a powerful robotic society that could very well overrun mankind. Isaac wrote a story about robots in 1942 called "Runaround" in which he dictated the famous three laws of robotics. They are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The birth of the industrial robot came in 1951, and in 1954 George Devol designed the first programmable robot and coined the term "automation." Artificial intelligence research laboratories were opened at M.I.T., Stanford Research Institute, Stanford University, and the University of Edinburgh in 1964, and by 1980 the robotic age exploded.
Building Robots to Power Modern Society
- Think about this: We live in a society that builds robots to build robots. We build robots to operate our assembly lines with little or no interference from human beings; we build robots that perform dangerous tasks for law enforcement and the military, such as disarming bombs; we build robots capable of exploring outer space, collecting data, and sending the information back to us. Robots are everywhere in our society, performing just about every task you can imagine.
Robot technology has advanced so dramatically that robots are being used to perform surgery on human beings, both successfully and with great benefits. Add to all of this a surge in the development of artificial intelligence, and it begs the question, just how can we push the advancement of robotic technology, and what will be the consequences of expanding those horizons?
The Benefits of Building a Robotic Future
- There are many advantages to building a future based strongly on robotics. We can program robots to perform dangerous tasks and tasks that are nearly impossible for human beings to do. We can use robots to perform mundane tasks so we can concentrate on other things. Robots can provide information valuable and even pioneering to other research. These are concrete advantages that we cannot overlook.
Potential Problems of Building a Robotic Future
- What about the downside to all of these advancements in robot technology? Is it possible for our society, even the entire world, to become so dependent on robots that we cannot function without them? We're nearly there. Stepping back away from robotic technology now would be like going back to the Stone Age. What about artificial Intelligence? Is it possible that robots could ever be designed to learn, and if so, could they begin to make decisions? These suggestions sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but we're close to making those movies a reality. Another downside to robot technology is the loss of human jobs to a machine. How is this justified? Proponents of the industrial robot say it's cheaper and more productive, and that using robots allows human beings more time to enjoy life. You get a different reaction from someone who's lost his job to a robot.
Robots Among Us
- Hello Kitty robot
How far away is the time when human beings and robots interact seamlessly? Are we heading for a world in which robots share the same rights as we do? We've already seen robots that look like human beings, capable of making facial expressions and carrying on conversations. What does the future hold? With the continued advances in robotic technology and artificial intelligence, it's likely we're on the cusp of finding out the answers to these questions.