Computer Love

Robot shows human emotions
By Emma Woollacott

Waseda, Japan – They really do like their robots in Japan. Now, it seems, they want their robots to like them back. Researchers at Waseda University claim they have developed a humanoid robot which can express human emotions.

We reported on this robot a while ago, but it was formally launched yesterday,

The Emotional Humanoid Robot, also known as Kobian, can display delight, surprise, sadness, disgust and dislike, though different poses and facial movements. To show sadness, for example, it hunches over, hangs its head and holds a hand to its face. It can also walk around, perceive and interact with its environment and perform simple tasks.

The developers reckon that equipping a robot to show emotion will make it more suitable for interaction with humans – particularly important given the enthusiasm in Japan for robots that can help with the care of old people and children.

Waseda University’s Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering developed the robot in conjunction with robot manufacturer Tmsuk, which hopes it will eventually be used in nursing.

Not all the company’s robots are so friendly. It recently launched a security robot which detects intruders through their body heat and automatically alerts a human via a cellphone – and which then attempts to catch them by throwing a net.

– Taken from Wikipedia

Thinking machines and artificial beings appear in Greek myths, such as Talos of Crete, the golden robots of Hephaestus and Pygmalion’s Galatea. Human likenesses believed to have intelligence were built in many ancient societies; some of the earliest being the sacred statues worshipped in Egypt and Greece, and including the machines of Yan Shi, Hero of Alexandria, Al-Jazari or Wolfgang von Kempelen. It was widely believed that artificial beings had been created by Geber, Judah Loew and Paracelsus. Stories of these creatures and their fates discuss many of the same hopes, fears and ethical concerns that are presented by artificial intelligence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, considers a key issue in the ethics of artificial intelligence: if a machine can be created that has intelligence, could it also feel? If it can feel, does it have the same rights as a human being? The idea also appears in modern science fiction: the film Artificial Intelligence: A.I. considers a machine in the form of a small boy which has been given the ability to feel human emotions, including, tragically, the capacity to suffer. This issue, now known as “robot rights”, is currently being considered by, for example, California’s Institute for the Future, although many critics believe that the discussion is premature.

Another issue explored by both science fiction writers and futurists is the impact of artificial intelligence on society. In fiction, AI has appeared as a servant (R2D2 in Star Wars), a law enforcer (K.I.T.T. “Knight Rider”), a comrade (Lt. Commander Data in Star Trek), a conqueror (The Matrix), a dictator (With Folded Hands), an exterminator (Terminator, Battlestar Galactica), an extension to human abilities (Ghost in the Shell) and the saviour of the human race (R. Daneel Olivaw in the Foundation Series). Academic sources have considered such consequences as: a decreased demand for human labor, the enhancement of human ability or experience, and a need for redefinition of human identity and basic values.

Several futurists argue that artificial intelligence will transcend the limits of progress and fundamentally transform humanity. Ray Kurzweil has used Moore’s law (which describes the relentless exponential improvement in digital technology with uncanny accuracy) to calculate that desktop computers will have the same processing power as human brains by the year 2029, and that by 2045 artificial intelligence will reach a point where it is able to improve itself at a rate that far exceeds anything conceivable in the past, a scenario that science fiction writer Vernor Vinge named the “technological singularity”. Edward Fredkin argues that “artificial intelligence is the next stage in evolution,” an idea first proposed by Samuel Butler’s “Darwin among the Machines” (1863), and expanded upon by George Dyson in his book of the same name in 1998. Several futurists and science fiction writers have predicted that human beings and machines will merge in the future into cyborgs that are more capable and powerful than either. This idea, called transhumanism, which has roots in Aldous Huxley and Robert Ettinger, is now associated with robot designer Hans Moravec, cyberneticist Kevin Warwick and inventor Ray Kurzweil. Transhumanism has been illustrated in fiction as well, for example in the manga Ghost in the Shell and the science fiction series Dune. Pamela McCorduck writes that these scenarios are expressions of an ancient human desire to, as she calls it, “forge the gods.”

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