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    Connecting the Pieces

    Does Technology Ultimately Benefit Mankind?

    Connecting The Pieces
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    Society is fascinated by movies with killer robots. However, the line between fantasy and fiction is becoming blurred as autonomous robots are quickly becoming real. Not only will the Terminators rise, but the robots are doing regular work that humans used to do.

    The man, exasperated by the woman in his bid to save her, told her-“Cyborgs don't feel pain. I do. Don't do that again.” She weakly responded — “Just let me go!” Driving the getaway car with one hand, he put his hand on her shoulder in an attempt to get his point across told her very strongly-“Listen, and understand! That thing is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” The woman, still not understanding and with fear in her eyes, attempted to escape from the obviously crazy man. In one final attempt, the man told her-“All right, listen. That thing is an infiltration unit: part man, part machine. Underneath, it's a hyperalloy combat chassis, microprocessor-controlled. Fully armored; very tough. But outside, it's living human tissue: flesh, skin, hair, blood — grown for the cyborgs.” Now, if this conversation seems vaguely familiar, that would be because it was between Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner, from the 1984 movie “The Terminator”.

    Looking back, the original Terminator movie was crude, the animation was choppy, and the storyline was a stretch. However, at the time, it was cutting-edge and wowed movie goers, who had never seen anything like it. Subsequently, the movie was called one of the best movies of 1984 and received great acclaim from critics. Fast forward to today and the recent headlines from Boston Dynamics are much the same. Wait, just who is Boston Dynamics? It is a company that was originally part of Massachusetts of Technology, became its own company, and then was purchased by Google. The company is focused on creating and developing robots and is heavily involved with DARPA, or the research arm of the US government. The robots that were captured on a series of Youtube videos should not only shock and awe viewers, but also give some dread and possibly even fear. But why?

    The robots in the Youtube clips are able to navigate the terrain outside unaided. The robots are able to walk in the snow and not fall over, they can walk up and down hills, they can pick up boxes and move them from the floor to a shelf and they can even pick themselves up off the floor if they are knocked over. This is all pretty amazing considering that just a few months ago, the very same robots were only able to operate indoors and with the aid of a thick cable connected to a computer. Now, they are on the way to becoming autonomous. And while many are applauding the advances made in robotics, some are starting to wonder where the future of this field is heading.

    There are several different types of robots that Boston Dynamics are developing. One looks like the standard humanoid robot. Another looks like a pack-horse or a donkey. Another looks like a cheetah or a big cat. And another looks like a big dog. In fact, that robot, called the Big Dog, recently made headlines when the Independent noted that — “The US military is cooling its eagerness for robots in the battlefield, after trials … revealed one crucial flaw: it’s much, much too loud.” That’s right. As things now stand, the robot is too loud to be used in the battlefield. In fact, an article at Military dot com goes on to note that-“a spokesman for the US marine corps’ Warfighting Lab said that …as marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself …. it was a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”

    Now, in case you were wondering, the article does note that there are other robots also undergoing testing. In fact, it notes that-“The loud whine …. that Boston Dynamics produces has become recognizable…., but apparently it doesn’t please the soldiers who are expected to fight alongside them. A smaller, quieter version of the hardware named “Spot”, which runs on electric power rather than a petrol engine, solves that problem, but can’t carry anywhere near as much as the first robot.” So, there we have it. As things now stand, the problem that the soldiers have with the robot is simply — it is too loud and the motor that is quiet enough is not powerful enough. So, there we have it. With many of the other major problems solved, one of the last remaining hurdles is that of sound.

    With technology playing a larger role in warfighter’s vocabulary, many are starting to wonder at what point in time will the soldier of the future stop being a human and start being a robot with advanced AI. Although it sounds far-fetched today, the direction seems clear. An article at militaryareospace.com from 2013 notes that — “The soldier's uniform isn't what it used to be. Not much later this decade, elite warfighters such as U.S. Special Forces could be wearing high-tech battle suits that offer flexible armor to protect against bullets and shrapnel, exoskeleton technology that offers super-human strength, heating and air conditioning to withstand the elements, wearable computers and displays, and conformal radio equipment and antennas for situational awareness.”

    As technology continues to progress into the future, many are wondering where it will take humanity. Alt-hough some are foreseeing a utopia, others see a dystopia. More than likely, it all depends on where you stand inside society. The Telegraph recently ran a story that noted that — “Robots will have taken over most jobs within 30 years leaving humanity facing its 'biggest challenge ever' to find meaning in life when work is no longer necessary.” In fact, that article goes on to note — “"We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task….Robots are doing more and more jobs that people used to do. Pharmacists, prison guards, boning chicken, bartending, more and so on and so forth.” The article quotes an expert saying — “I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?” And who will control those robots?

    So, what do you think dear listeners — does technology ultimately benefit mankind?

    Tags:
    1984, Boston dynamics, Terminator, technology, US Army
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