The colonel ordered the test stopped.
Why? asked Tilden. What’s wrong?
The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.
This test, he charged, was inhumane.
(See “The Soul of the Mark III Beast” in The Mind’s I–which, incidentally, I would consider to be one of the two most influential books from my high school days, along with the previously mentioned Sirens of Titan.)
The article presents several interesting examples of people wanting to ascribe human traits to their robot assistants, and asks lots of neat philosophical questions that many of us might actually have to come up with answers to at some point in our lifetimes.
“The 2 million personal bots in use around the world in 2004 are expected to grow to 7 million next year,” it claims, but this makes me wonder: Where are all of these robots they’re talking about? They can’t all be vacuum cleaners, can they? I’d prefer to imagine 7 million ASIMOs walking around myself, as spooky at that might initially be.
Humans respond so readily to Kismet, created by Cynthia Breazeal, that graduate students working in the lab at night have been known to put up a curtain between themselves and the bot, Brooks reports. They couldn’t stand the way it seemed to gaze around and stare at them. It broke their concentration. These humans are as sophisticated about robots as anyone on Earth. Yet even they are freaked by Kismet’s lifelike behavior.
And, of course, whenever I start thinking about the topic of futuretech, I get to wondering: where the hell are the flying cars we’ve been promised in popular fiction for so long? This in turn brings to mind Avery Brooks lamenting the lack of flying cars in the early 21st century in a classic IBM commercial:
There are signs that we might actually get flying cars some day, although “as of spring 2007, no flying prototypes exist,” so we’ve probably got quite a wait still ahead of us. I expect it’ll take even longer for them to get personalities, unfortunately.