The Human Robot

Da Vinci's sketches for the
 inner-workings of his Robotic Knight
The idea of "Robots" or a mechanical man - or a non-living thing that could move have been around for thousands of years. Aristotle mentioned them as a way to end slavery. The 6th Century Chinese experimented with water clocks which could be considered the first type of "Robotics" There are other myths and legends of mechanical devices but not really any direct evidence that they actually existed or were built. 

A rare exception is not surprisingly from Leonardo da Vinci. Although he probably didn't conceive of the idea he did, supposedly, design and create a working robotic man. It wore knight armor and could walk, sit, move it's arms, and head! The greatest limiting factor to a robot of that time, and other Leonardo's designs was the lack of a power source. He pushed the technology of his time to it's limits but there is still only so much you can do with springs, heavy metals, and wood. Electric power and plastics as well as computer processors are the precursors for more advanced robotics. 

Today we have robots that can walk and talk and even solve problems. I think the reason that robots haven't really been more prevalent is that they have not advanced to the level of practical uses. When they are able to clean our houses or build houses or mine or bring us a beer - then there would be a huge progression in the technology. Until then they are just expensive toys. The other advancement that has to happen first is their artificial intelligence. We have the processors and the technology for them to process information but the learning and software required to adapt and do more advanced tasks is still lacking. You can have a perfect robot that is capable of doing anything a real man could do but until it's "mind" is able to use it's body independently they won't be of much use. BUT when they do reach that level, which could be anytime in the next 10 years there is going to be a huge change in the world. 

There will be a lot of other considerations - what would people do when their jobs could be done by a robot? What would war become with soldiers that could be built? Then as the robot's mind evolves and it could become advanced enough to be self aware or considered "Alive" a whole new set of problems would happen. Does it have rights? Should it be considered a person? If a robot were to look and act and think exactly like a human - would it be a human? Would it be as real as something biologically based? 

These potential and probably inevitable problems have been explored in movies and fiction for years. Ai (I wish Stanley Kubrick would have Directed it!), The Matrix, IRobot, Terminator, and especially Blade Runner. The most interesting part of all of this fiction is that it's probably, actually, going to happen! 

I don't know about you but I would totally want a robot friend! I think the coolest part of it will be the Ai. With all of the wireless technologies the "home base" or where the memories and processors are (It's brain) could be anywhere. Then all it would take for a very highly advanced Ai to be on a small phone, or in your car, or in your tv, would be for it to be sent' there. That would mean that you could talk to it, or whatever you would do with it, anywhere even if it's core is located somewhere else! I think that is going to be the future of household electronics anyways. One central computer that does everything - then all it does is send a signal to a screen anywhere in the house. The technology for that is already here, but we haven't really implemented it - yet!

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