Dear friends of Technical English,
Robots are another technical topic very suitable for discussion. For those, who doesn´t remember the origin of the word „robot“, I remind that the word was firstly introduced by the Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play Rossum´s Universal Robots (R.U.R.) in 1921. Now around two million robots “live” in the world and they are used almost in all spheres of human activities (industry, medicine, education etc.) – see the page Statistics on robots at the site. Many ethical problems arose in connection with it. The problems above all else concern relationships between humans and robots, permissible or acceptable robots´ behaviour and many others. I believe people gradually will cope with these issues and reach some kind of agreement.
However, there is one area where robots can be very dangerous. It deals with military robots, war robots (don´t confuse with a war of robots), battlefield robots. They are true robots operating autonomously, on their own. Nowadays such robots are being developed for Pentagon in the US. Scientists working in this area claim that making lethal autonomous robots is inexpensive and proliferating, that coming such robots on the battlefield is only a matter of time. It isn´t science fiction but grim reality they add. Moreover, they affirm “it is time for people to start talking about whether this technology is something they want to embrace”. And they continue “The important thing is not to be blind to it,”
In this case the ethical problems are very serious and urgently should be resolved or at least discussed before these robots will be a component of a regular army.
The capabilities of modern intelligent robots are practically unlimited. In order to have the inkling of modern robots aptitudes read and enjoy my students´ essays narrating stories about such robots.
Military robots of the same level of intelligence equipped with ability of making decision about humans´ life or death are the great threat for mankind. I think the main topic of our discussion might be military robots. The proposed issues for the discussion are as follows:
“It is not my belief that an unmanned system will be able to be perfectly ethical in the battlefield” Dr. Arkin, the main author in developing such systems, wrote in his report (PDF) and I share this opinion. Moreover, I am convinced such robots should be banned.
I would like to describe my beloved kind of robots. They are marked as R2D2. These are robots that serve all over the world in many different roles. We can meet them as waiters and we can also see them helping on farms. But they are mostly used as technicians at spaceships because of their exact way of operating and ability to stay operational in outer space. They are also used as co-pilots in many kinds of air-fighters.
These robots look a bit like a white can with blue dots and stripes. They also have a variety of sensors on them and for movement they use three flexible legs. On top they have an opening artificial arm. See the R2D2 picture on belovedrobot.
They are very useful and very practical, but they have one big disadvantage and that is communication. They are only able to pipe and communicate with other machines. Making them able to communicate with people would be a huge improvement.
AIBO (Artificial Intelligence roBOt, homonymous with “pal” in Japanese) was one of several types of robotic pets designed and manufactured by Sony. There have been several different models since their introduction in 1999. Able to walk, “see” its environment with the build-in camera, and recognize spoken commands, AIBOs are considered to be autonomous robots. The robots are able to learn and mature based on external incentive from their owner or environment, or from other AIBOs. The artist Hajime Sorayama created the initial designs for this robot.
AIBO runs on software called AIBOware. The Life AIBOware allows the robot to be raised from a pup to a fully-grown adult while going through various stages of development as its owner interacts with it. The Explorer AIBOware allows the owner to interact with a fully mature robot able to understand (though not necessarily willing to obey) 100 voice commands. Without the AIBOware, the AIBO will run in what is called a “clinic mode” and can only perform basic actions. Many AIBO owners enjoy teaching their pets new behaviours by reprogramming them (in Sony’s special ‘R-CODE’ language).
The AIBO has seen use as an inexpensive platform for artificial intelligence research.The reason is that it integrates a computer, vision system, and articulators in a package vastly cheaper than conventional research robots.
The RoboCup autonomous soccer competition had a “RoboCup Four-Legged Robot Soccer League” in which numerous institutions from around the world would participate. Competitors would program a team of AIBO robots to play games of the autonomous robot soccer against other competing teams.
On January 26, 2006 Sony announced that it would discontinue AIBO and several other products as of March, 2006. AIBO will still be supported until 2013 (ERS7 model), however, and AIBO technology will continue to be developed for use in other consumer products. That is because of the weak consumer’s interest in my opinion.
So, the AIBO robot is certainly a great invention, but I think it is still void of some use, and the consumer’s interest is low. In my opinion, having a real dog is by far interesting and may not be so boring in future because when having a real dog, you’re never sure of what could happen, so it might be more exciting.
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