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Corona del Mar High School

Rising robots — should we be afraid or excited?

Could unstoppable, superhuman robots someday push our world into a Terminator-like dystopia?

These days, robots are being developed using amazing technology which gives them the ability to do extraordinary things. Robotics is becoming so impressive that the notion of a “Terminator” scenario is beginning to look a lot less far-fetched.

The Google owned Boston Dynamics showcased its upgraded Atlas robot featuring impressive and somewhat unsettling capabilities. The robot is capable of maneuvering its way through trees, walking on uneven ground and correcting its balance.

Atlas can also be pushed around. In the video posted by Boston Dynamics, a human handler used a hockey stick to push Atlas off balance. The robot stumbled, but caught its balance before falling. Atlas was then knocked onto the ground, and got up relatively quickly in a seamless motion. The robot then demonstrated its ability to lift 20-pound boxes, and by turning its torso, it placed each box on a different shelf.

Although Boston Dynamics' robot is a lot less frightening than the robots in movies, with development, someday, the robots we thought harmless might be a threat to humanity.
Although Boston Dynamics’ robot is a lot less frightening than the robots in movies, someday, the robots we thought harmless might become a threat to the human race.

If Google’s agile robot didn’t make you uneasy, the talking, conversation capable robot will. Robotics expert David Hanson created a robot that is capable of answering questions and holding simple conversation by using advanced programming that allows it to extract meaning from language, and deliver elementary responses. The robot’s name is Sophia. And apart from the back of its head which is filled with wires and metal, Sophia looks human. Some call Sophia’s human like features “unsettling,” while others call it “frightening.” Sophia is also capable of giving facial expressions although they are random and meaningless.

Dr. Hansen said that “Robots will become more human than humans.” He believes that one day robots will be “more intelligent, more ethical and better at certain tasks because they don’t loose their patience.”

Despite Dr. Hansen’s high hopes for the future of robots, he is aware of the fact that no matter how many laws are put in place, people will still find ways to exploit them. But there is only one thing that Dr. Hansen never wants his robots to be used for, and that is military purposes. In several articles he expressed his fear that his robots would be used by the military as weapons. He believes his robots should be a step towards a better future, not violence and aggression.

Robots could potentially spark change in medicine, engineering, space travel, business, and so much more. But there are still people against artificial intelligence.

Many people have tried arguing against the development of robots out of fear that robots will take over. Some fear that dependence on robots may take away jobs, which will leave a lot of people jobless. Others believe that robots are the future and that they may help with problems we face, or they could just be personal assistants.

“I do not think that robots will ever take over the world, I think that’s far fetched and way out there,” said Corona del Mar freshman Zach Robinson. “I don’t even consider that as a possible problem. I do agree that they might take away jobs from people since robots are more efficient, and that might mean that the majority of jobs that are run by humans will require people to have a background in robotics or computer science. But that would be a worst case scenario sort of thing.”

Scientist Stephen Hawking, does fear the rise of robots.

“Artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” he said.

The development of robots has certainly been an interest to NASA. They believe the future of space discovery will rely on robots who can be sent up to space for years on end without all the worrying and preparation required when sending humans. In 2011 NASA sent its Robotonaut 2, a humanoid robot, into space. And since then they have been perfecting their robots and are planning another journey for another robot.