Effect Measure

They, robot

I’ll admit I don’t keep up with what’s going on in the world of robotics, so I was pretty stunned a couple of months ago when a reader sent us this link to the promo for Boston Dynamics Big Dog robot. It’s a longish clip, but this is a pretty amazing beast (I use the word deliberately). As long as its only used to fight other robots I won’t worry too much, but I suspect that’s not the Defense Department’s plan:

It’s pretty clear the world of robotics is moving ahead pretty fast. There’s a ton of stuff on the net about some remarkable devices, including Honda’s Asimo, that walks just like a human. You can find a long clip here. It’s worth watching. Of course we aren’t quite there yet:

But I’m sure we’ll get there. Aren’t you?


  1. #1 M. Randolph Kruger
    May 2, 2008

    Okay its a question of what we want to do, where we want to go. Robots will make us more productive as a people and as long as those brain chips are intact and do what we tell them to do, then everything will be just fine.

    DoD has been funding robotics for years and this is one result. I have seen some other stuff that is equally amazing. ASIMO is one of them. A shielded ASIMO with a camera could have walked into Three Mile Island and ended the worst nuke disaster up to that time. Lots of uses. Robotic police forces and armies? To me this ensures that we would use them. People wouldnt get so pissed if the equivalent of an Escalade got killed. But it will set off a new arms race for sure.

    Coupling up a supercomputer that learns geometrically and having access to the power of a robot, there isnt much we couldnt expect. That means at sometime in the future we will have to deal with an autonomously thinking robot.

    I leave the following: “Open the pod bay doors Hal……”

  2. #2 Shannon
    May 2, 2008

    Is Asimov rolling over in his grave? Laughing hysterically? A hell of a moral dilemma and frankly, I don’t trust us.

  3. #3 Ron
    May 2, 2008

    “Okay its a question of what we want to do…”

    What who wants to do? You know, like what d’ya ‘we’ white man?

  4. #4 anon
    May 3, 2008

    and then autonomous computer civilizations,
    building their own successors and competing
    with other civilizations that have different
    “constitutions” and “ethics” once implemented
    by their human Gods

  5. #5 Arnaud
    May 3, 2008

    “Coupling up a supercomputer that learns geometrically and having access to the power of a robot, there isnt much we couldnt expect. That means at sometime in the future we will have to deal with an autonomously thinking robot.”

    Yeah right, the only problem is that, while robotics is indeed “moving ahead pretty fast”, AI is going nowhere very slowly. We are still decades, even generations, away from a computer able to emulate even a simplified version of the mammalian brain.
    Hell, even an insect’s nervous system equivalent would be a breakthrough…

  6. #6 Shannon
    May 3, 2008

    Even without a ‘mind’ that thinks anywhere close to what we are capable of, we should consider just how far we want to go with robots killing people. When robots start thinking and pursuing, we really need to think the idea through to its logical conclusion. If we are already talking about health bots that enter a human system and fix an existing problem, then what is to stop an enemy from applying the same technology to one that kills in stead of cures? What is to stop us? How long do we think we could keep something like that controlled? Anyone remember ‘ice nine’?

  7. #7 anon
    May 4, 2008

    if robots once are so much superior to humans,
    then why should we oppose them replacing us ?
    Just progress,advancement,improvement

  8. #8 K
    May 4, 2008

    Luckily the end of the age of oil affluence is upon us. The plans to control humans by a few evil overlords and their robots will come to naught. Unfortunately other plans will come to naught too. The fuel that makes modern society possible is at or near peak. Nothing else has the energy density of fossil fuels and thus nothing else will support the society and infrastructure we now have. We may have a brief Orwellian society on the downside, but it will end, as will modern civilization, modern medicine, modern science etc.

  9. #9 Bacopa
    May 5, 2008

    Anyone else wanna see Big Dog fight Asimo. Poor Asimo wouldn’t ve a chance.

  10. #10 Monica Livingstone
    May 9, 2008

    I think that this hysteria about robots is very bad. Since I was a child I heard that in the future robots would solve all the problems of the world (hollywood kind of movies). It is far, very far from the reality.