Robots

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I want to explain the future of robots by 2 examples. Data from Star Trek and Asimov s I Robot: Data has 100, 000 terabytes of memory (equiv to 100, 000, 000 one-GB hard drives). When on trial, he stated that he had a storage capacity of 800 quadrillion bits (100 quadrillion bytes). Data processes 60 trillion computations per second. If youd like to compare Datas 100, 000 terabytes of storage capacity to something real-world, someone mentioned a chart that set the maximum storage capacity of the human brain to approximately 3 teraBITS, which would mean that Datas brain could contain everything from over 260, 000 human brains. The television program Star Trek: The Next Generation included an android character, Data, who we are specifically told (in the episode Datalore) was created in an attempt to bring Asimovs dream of a positronic robot to life. Unfortunately, the producers of the show locked onto the positronic aspect as if that were the key quality to Asimovs robots. Asimovs view was exactly the opposite - his robots are positronic because positrons had just been discovered when he started writing robot stories and the word had a nice science-fictiony ring to it. The use of positrons was just an engineering detail and relatively unimportant to him. Asimovs key insight was that, inasmuch as we engineer our tools to be safe to use, we would do the same with robots once we start making them - and that the main safeguards for an intelligent being are its ethics. We would, therefore, build ethics into our robots to keep them going off on uncontrollable killing sprees. In some sense, the specific Three (Four) Laws are themselves an engineering detail, the robotic equivalent of the Ten Commandments - it is a specific ethical system but not the only one possible. In Asimovs universe, they are the basis for robotic ethics and so absolutely fundamental to robotic design that it is virtually impossible to build a robot without them. Asimov tended not to let other people use his specific Laws of Robotics, but his essential insight - that robots will have in-built ethical systems - is freely used. In particular, Data is an Asimovian robot because he does have an in-built ethical system. He does not have the Three Laws, however (witness the episode Measure of Man in which he refuses to follow a direct order from a superior officer [Second Law] without invoking either danger to a specific human [First Law] or the higher needs of all of humanity [Zeroth Law]). Moreover, his ethical programming is not fundamental to his design (his prototype, Lore, lacks it altogether, and Datas ethical program is turned off for much of Descent, part II). What are the Laws of Robotics, anyway? The Three Laws of Robotics are: 1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the ...


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