Software that will let people and robots communicate to plan difficult and complex tasks, such as dismantling a nuclear power plant, is being developed at a Scottish university. (Source: Wikimedia Commons/Stefan Kühn)
ttemple, everything you said is correct about non-autonomous robots. This research team, like several others, is developing intelligent, autonomous robots, something very different. William's comment below, "Human-Robot communications", captures this difference.
Absolutely, William K. That is a very good description of the issue. Even routine functions can quickly change to ones that require past experience. That is why a lot of experts can operate on "gut feel". They can't explain their correct actions because it is based off of experience of similar occurences. This simply cannot be captured in a program.
I have programmed industrial robots and the closest those robots came to "insight" was knowing that they had to slow-down in order to accurately make a turn. This presents a quandry of sorts when the robot is doing something like putting a sealant along a seal surface, where a larger radius rounded corner is not what is needed. The solution was to bring the robot to a point, then a separate move from that point to the change in direction point, and then start in the new direction. A simple work-around. But if the robot had been able to tell that it needed to do something in order to be able to change direction it may have been easier to figure out. Instead, it was nessesary to read the 4000 page instruction manual.
The problems that will come with attempting to give robots insight is that it may easily lead to giving the robots self-awareness, which would probably lead to robots having emotions, and that could be VERY BAD. That is because robot source code is written by programmers, and programmers are not normal people. We need to always remember that, and beware.
Imagine being able to illegally download a physical product the same way you can with music and video. The advent of desktop, home, and prosumer 3D printers is having huge repercussions in the intellectual property domain.
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