18 May The evolution of technology: rise of robotic autonomous systems
Since the beginning of humanity on earth, we have pursued the development of technological advancements in order to make our lives easier. We have made great technological leaps from the invention of the wheel to landing on the moon. Indeed early pioneers such as Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton, Nicholas Tesla and all the other great scientist and engineers, only strived to improve the world and the human condition by better understanding the world and universe we live in. This understanding has lead to breakthroughs in electronics and computing, a discipline that has been critical in enabling rapid advancements in technology; from gene mapping, communications technology to improved manufacturing techniques and so forth.
It is only now that we are starting to see the creation of smart intelligent systems called robots. These robots have the ability to make our lives much simpler, which is something that humanity has strived for since the beginning. Smarter computer programmes, real time operating systems, better controller designs and specifications along with new sensors and actuators, have lead to an automation and control revolution. This has made it possible for complex but tedious task to be free of man power, thus improving human resource management and freeing up time. Consequently a new industry is developing around robotics, as new markets opportunities are emerging. We find ourselves at the crossroads; where robots are replacing soldiers, to serving us at restaurants and hotels, and even cutting our lawns and monitoring our homes, to endless applications in many sectors.
As technology progress into the future one can only imagine the possibilities in conceptualising robotic designs. With advancements in organic and printed electronics emerging, robotic electronics will become smaller, lighter, cheaper and with less geometric restrictions, therefore, improving the design of the system, enhancing its functionality and reducing prices. Moreover improved control strategies using artificial intelligence and fuzzy logic, implies that systems will have the capability to learn, improve and possibly even improvise. Therefore, efficiently optimising system stability, productivity and minimising errors. Furthermore, advancements in the area of quantum computing introduce the idea of data being represented by more than two possible outcomes. In the application of robotics this bring about the possibility of greater processing power, and more possible outcomes in representing data or information, which would be ideal for artificial intelligence.
Humanities achievements in science and engineering have lead us to develop our ultimate achievement; intelligent systems that can do tasks for us. With all this technology we find ourselves living in a techno sphere, and beg to ask the question how will this affect us? Some see this from a negative perspective; that machines will eventually become smarter than their creators and take over the world. However, I’m less pessimistic and believe that these machines will contribute positively to the world and humanity. If we take nuclear weapon as an example, they have actually acted as deterrents preventing war, were as before their creation it was forecasted that we would use them to destroy the earth. More so a machine is only as smart as it is told to be, and we still have to generate the codes and events that trigger actions from a robot. Even though with the current advancements in artificial intelligence, these robots are only learning their existing task and improving on them. They don’t have the capabilities to make rational and impulsive decisions, or decisions made from emotional responses. Therefore, we must embrace the future and accept that robots will play a vital role in advancing our civilisation to the next stage.