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The Race for Artificial Intelligence

Whether you like it or not, the machines are going to take over. While a bleak Terminator “Skynet” style future most likely awaits the human race in the very distant future; scientists, robotics experts, and economists are pushing for the United States government to heavily fund research and development into robotics and artificial intelligence. The race for robots and AI is on, and according to a recent academic report, it would be nothing short of terrible if America loses.

Over 150 academics, experts and industry leaders published the 109 page U.S. Roadmap for Robotics report which details a plan for the American government to begin increasing investment into the field. The ultimate goal of the report is to ensure human safety and to promote innovation, but most importantly, to establish the United States as the global leader of technology, robotics and, perhaps the most dangerous of all, artificial intelligence.

DNA Films/Film4/Universal Pictures

DNA Films/Film4/Universal Pictures

The report makes several recommendations, all of which are pretty tame by science fiction standards:

  1. To prioritise development of robots that function in the real world, such as the “negotiation of stairs, elevators, curbs, broken concrete, cluttered environments and to go where people go.”
  2. To be easily interfaced with humans, so any person can work with robots with little training.
  3. To begin developing automated robot driven vehicles which, in 15 years, will be safer than human drivers.
  4. Perhaps most interestingly of all, for robots to be able to “estimate user’s intent” rather than simply executing commands.

There is little doubt that robots today make our life safer and easier. From medical procedures to global trade and communication, humans are already reliant on our synthetic creations. Currently, the economic and social realities of robotics and AI are basically essential to modern humans, but many experts are also examining the very real ethical considerations that they bring up. While there may be validity to fearing a future that resembles The Matrix, the real problems arise when robots have to deal with actual tragic occurrences. For example, should a vehicle controlled by AI swerve to avoid two children chasing a ball into the street, endangering the driver and passengers, or continue on its collision course? For humans, there is no easy answer. The ethical dilemma is only compounded when a robotic driver is involved.

Worse yet, the world has already seen robotics being used in warfare, such as combat drones, commonly known as UAVs. Will this technological race take the world to a darker and violent future? Artificial intelligence and robotics already play a key role in world economics. Is this report, and others like it, pushing a race humanity should stop running, or have we already run too far down the track? Much like the space and nuclear arms races during the Cold War, will the nation that owns the best robots and AI also own the world?

It isn’t all doom and gloom though. Check out Moley, the first robotic chef who, hopefully, won’t purposefully poison you when the machines do rise and become our overlords.