Will Future Robots & AI Take Over? | How Sci-Fi Inspired Science


Let's face it, one of the worst things about adulting is having the clean. If we can get out of it in any way, we'll do it. And since machines are made to make our lives easier, it makes sense we want a machine made to clean. 

But in sci-fi, we want to go one further. We want a robot to do it for us. In fact, the first time the word robot was even used was way back in 1920. In a Czech play called Rossum's Universal robots, which was about, you guessed it, robotic maids and butlers. 

The important thing is what was once just the play is now pretty close to becoming reality. Let's find out how the science fiction inspired science reality.

Sci-fi has long imagined a future with robots, but has often portrayed them as one-dimensional. Fully good or fully evil. Early sci-fi robots sometimes tried to destroy humanity. But often they were helpful assistants doing menial chores for humans.  

Like Rosie, The Jetsons family's housekeeper who cooked, cleaned, and helped the kids with homework. Most homes today don't yet have robot Butler's. 


But in 2002 robotics company iRobot introduced the Roomba, a robotic vacuum that could automatically clean floors. Colin Angle, founder of iRobot, cites Rosie the robot as an inspiration for the Roomba. Saying people kept asking, when do I get it Rosie. She had a huge influence on the industry. Thanks Rosie!

Robots that move more like animals or humans have long been in development. Some even exceed human abilities. Boston Dynamics robots can open doors, carry heavy objects, and do parkour.

Sci-fi has also imagined artificial intelligence inside machines, that can think and problem-solve at a human-like level. 

One of the first complex sci-fi portrayals of AI is in 2001 Space Odyssey, co-written by Arthur C Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick. Marvin Minsky, an early AI researcher at MIT, advised Kubrick on the depiction of AI computer HAL 9000. HAL 9000 could speak, play chess, and make plans (deadly plans).

Today, many of us have AI in our homes in the form of assistants Alexa and Siri, which are friendly, we hope. But as helpful as AI might become, it stops short of processing human idiosyncrasies and emotion. An issue illustrated in sci-fi by Star Trek's android, Commander Data. 

So Rosie led to Roomba and now we have Alexa. 

With innovative jumps like that, it's hard to imagine where robots and AI go from here. In sci-fi, it may be revolution, but in reality, it's whatever we have the creativity to program.

For now, stop procrastinating and go on do the laundry. It's not going to wash itself, yet. 

Transcript from National Geographic.

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