First, let me say that I'm excited to be writing a blog for Powell's! I happen to live a few blocks away from the Burnside store, and you can find me in there every few weeks slinking around, quietly turning my books
to face out. (Yes, Powell's employees — that was me. Sorry.) But you should know I only flip my books because the people must be warned of the coming robot menace.
Well, not really. I do it so that people will notice my books.
Personally, I don't see much evidence of a growing robot rebellion. Nevertheless, people do have a love-hate relationship with technology (especially the kind that walks, talks, and thinks) — and that's exactly what I'd like to blog about this week. Robots. Whether you love 'em, or hate 'em, or haven't really thought much about them before, they're a growing part of our lives and they're not going anywhere.
I have been learning about robots for a long time. Before I got started writing books, I went to graduate school and studied robotics and machine learning. I designed and built robots, but mostly focused on creating artificially intelligent "smart homes" that could watch over and protect elderly occupants. My thesis was called "Assistive Intelligent Environments for Automatic Health Monitoring."
And that's kind of scary, isn't it? The guy with a background in robotics is busily writing about the robot apocalypse. A lot of questions come to mind, I suppose.
For example, can we trust our technology? What robotic advances are in our lives already? Which ones are going to be here soon? Should we really fear a robot uprising?
That seems like a good place to start. My professional opinion is that we should not fear a robot uprising. Robots are tools. They can be used for good or evil, and it turns out that they're overwhelmingly used for the good of humankind. In fact, the horrifying scenario in Robopocalypse is really an outlet for a more general fear: the jolting realization that we depend on technology for our very survival — and that without it we will die.
If human beings can't live without our technology, what happens when it goes away? Or worse, what happens when it stops obeying orders and starts making decisions?
Good question. Tune in tomorrow to hear more, as we examine the relationship between robot and human as we come together in the dawn of a brave new world.