Stepping into the future with robots

With the advancement of technologies, we are experiencing miracles. Robots are taking over different works replace human labour; couple that with Artificial Intelligence, it becomes an even more competent work-horse. Hiya Islam contemplates on a future that may be dominated by robots.

downloadPicture this. It’s 7:00 am and the alarm is ringing. It shuts up when motion is detected on the floor. I am talking about ultra-futuristic alarm clocks. What a gift for people who struggle to wake up in the morning! You get ready and head to the dining table. Kylie, your personal humanoid assistant has already poached an egg, made some toast and poured a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, oh, a steaming pot of fresh brew as well. You head downstairs. You greet a few robo-friends you run into and hop in your car, or to be more specific, your self-driven car. Is this what the future looks like? Would there be cars whizzing overhead too?

So, what are robots? A robot is a machine programmed to carry out specific tasks with a pace and precision better than its human counterparts. But when infused with the magic of artificial intelligence, the result is overwhelming. We get machines that can think and learn just like us. As time goes by, improvements will make them match as close as possible to us. Would that threaten the human race? If yes, the obvious question rises, why would humans craft their own way into destruction?

These artificially intelligent machines have already replaced us in some sectors and will be taking over more jobs in the future. The use of robots is very profitable to companies. They are one-time investments that do not whine about workload, they don’t need long vacations. Robots are used to jobs that require low skill and are dull and repetitious. But with the help of AI, robots are now able to pick up new information and adapt to changes. They can execute complex function like facial recognition, decision-making and more. Soon within a decade or so, there would be emergence of automated cars. Transportation operators like pilots and drivers would be replaced. If you are not convinced, think about Google’s self-driving car that covered 100,000 miles on the streets in 2014. Although the notion of airplanes flying on their own sounds horrifying to the passengers, the plan is to equip aircraft with pilots who would take control when needed. There would also be robots as porters in offices and hospitals. Integration of emotional intelligence will certainly make them life-like. But robots as household hand are most likely to gain massive popularity. A robotic vacuum-cleaner such as the Roomba is at your service 24/7. Who wouldn’t love to litter and not worry about cleaning it up? Then comes the companion robots, there are a few inventions of ‘furry’ robot pets already. These can be a great source of comfort for the elderly who are incapable of taking care of a real pet but long for the company of one. In addition, other types of robots would monitor health conditions and remind medicine dosages too. Like an adorable Baymax in real life. Nonetheless, what is more impressive is the contribution of robotics in protecting and saving human lives. They would take up the jobs of industrial welding where toxic fumes, severe noise pollution and heat affect humans. Bomb-disposal robots and similar ones could be sent off to regions of unknown danger. Moreover, they could be used in underwater exploration too. The threat of marine predators and dangerous changes in pressure levels would no longer be an issue. Robots are already being used in space exploration. They come in handy to use as their safe return is only optional.

However, it is also predicted that restaurants would have ordering kiosks operated by robots. We have seen, recently, a Bangladeshi restaurant used server robots as their promotional strategy. And this can stretch as far as to medical surgery owing to better performance than human surgeons. But, robots with multiple purposes, for instance, a complete domestic help would take a long time to come. The varying types of tasks require more advanced AI. The more sophisticated the designated job is, the more developed the programming needs to be. As a result, their prices soar too high for common people to afford. It would take years for the cost to drop at a level to be economic. With changing times, countries could be resorting to more robot soldiers for warfare. Would that be good or bad? Nobody wants to lack in strength but advancements in weaponry and military tactics will only lead to worse wars. Besides, would robots be still as loving despite knowing they only are pretending to feel? In the far future, is it possible to imagine a human-robot marital relationships? Can emotional intelligence beat true emotions in the end?

Robots are changing our lives in glorious ways but still the fact that people are losing their jobs in this process remains unchanged. What could happen ultimately? An automated world with no real work for human, they are living on the stipends provided by the governments? Or a world where machines and humans collaborate in peace? Automation cannot be held back. If we look at history, industrial revolution had once displaced manual weavers with automatic looms. And men had always found other jobs as new systems created new opportunities. Nevertheless, it is also crucial to educate ourselves with new skills. This is where job trainings are required, and self-awareness comes into play.

There are two sides to everything — good and evil. It is our responsibility to make the best use of technology in improving lives. The rise of robots is bringing doom to a major part of workforce. But it can certainly be overcome; the creators can surely come up with solutions when their creation causes havoc.


Hiya Islam is a student of BRAC University.

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