The EU approved funding for the Human Brain Project, a research study that will purportedly create a meticulously devised human mind simulacrum via supercomputer technology.
The Human Brain Project, which will cull together information gathered by 87 separate universities, will include the process of "testing brain-enabled robots."
Robotics researcher Danica Kragic believes the move heralds the political and scientific community's commitment to better understanding "the prospect of living among humanoid robots." Although such imagery may recall dystopic visions of a sci-fi future gone terribly awry, the reality will be both more complex and more subtle than all of that.
"Robots will challenge the way we feel about machines in general. A completely different kind of society is on the way," says Kragic, who is also a computer science professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, as reported by Science Daily.
Kragic further wonders whether building a robot brain similar to that of a human will soon enable mankind to build an actual brain.
"Why not?" ask Kragic. "What would stop you?" Before human society finds itself infiltrated by actual brain-enabled robots, however, Kragic feels modern science will have to overcome some steep hurdles. This includes making sure robots can both multitask and be programmed to have emotional capacities.
"Many things that we do are based not just on facts, so should machines somehow have simulated emotions, or not?" asks Kragic. "Either way, it is difficult to predict how that will affect their interaction with humans."
Kragic wonders too how ethical issues will come into play within a human society that includes robots, many of whom, she predicts, will be kept as domestic servants and will thus be intimately acquainted with their human counterparts.
She feels that robots could also take over "repetitive" jobs such as bus driving or restaurant labor. For those already anxious that this means even less work for humans in these hungry days of the recession, Kragic optimistically believes robots will mean more jobs for humans too.
Of course, those jobs will be for people in the robotic industry, she's quick to point out.
As far as the clichéd fantasy of a "robot rebellion" that could occur in such a robo-society, Kragic laughs this off too, noting that, "we have rules as humans, which we break. No one is 100 percent safe, and the same can happen with machines."
Writer's op-ed here: Yikes.
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