Monday, July 20, 2009

"ROBOTICS: androids may be forever doomed to menial labor"

Androids--humanoid robots--may never pass the Turning Test whereby they are indistinguishable from humans, at least for the next 50 years, according to this research report by an engineer and a collaborating psychologist. In addition, humans may limit the ability of androids to mimic human behavior out of fear, limiting their job functions to low-level tasks that humans don't want to perform anyway. The question of whether androids dream of electric sheep may forever remain moot. R.C.J.

Humanoid robots (androids) will improve their interactions with people over the next 50 years, but even by 2060 will still be unable to detect subtle nuances of natural language, be unable to draw their own conclusions from visual evidence, and will be unable to deduce underlying motives and emotional states of people according to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign computer scientist Eyal Amir and psychologist Neal Roese. Androids will steadily improve their ability to speak in a human-like voice, will be able to precisely identify spoken words, answer questions from textual knowledge bases, will walk and run with human-like gaits, will display human-like facial expressions and will be able to detect simple human emotion. These achievements will qualify them for a wide range of menial tasks, like toll-collectors, for which a major shift will occur similar to the automation of factories in the 20th century. Androids will remain a frightening addition to the workforce, however, because they still lack human-like functions such as making eye contact. On the other hand, making androids undistinguishable from humans will also be frightening to us, making the psychological impact of human-android interaction a subject that should be explored by psychologists and engineers together over the next 50 years.