As a child, I grew up watching Japanese anime such as Robotech and Gundam. I was fascinated by the humanoid robots in the stories. However, I was curious as to why I never saw one in real life at that time. It hadn’t dawn to me that the technology in the 80’s was nowhere near the required level to create such machines. Even computers were a rarity back then and the internet was still in its infancy. As I grew older and learned a little bit more about science, I began to realize the complexity of designing such machines let alone building them. But it was the 90’s and computers were on the rise. At the age of 15, I installed a voice recognition software on my AMD pc. It was a relatively primitive software by today’s standard and can only be used to perform rudimentary tasks, but I was at awe. It was as if I have transformed my computer into a living sentient being that can perform tasks at the command of my voice. Of course, the excitement was short lived as the software began to malfunction and began opening files at random which led to a few rather embarrassing incidents.
By then I was hooked, and decided to make engineering my life. I attended my first robotics course during my second year as an undergrad. To my dismay, it consists mainly of kinematic calculations of a robotic manipulator. Even though I found it rather boring, I realized that it is necessary to understand the mechanics of a robot in order to control it. Later in my university years I was introduced to Artificial Intelligence. Knowing that Artificial Intelligence is one of the main components to create intelligent robots, I delved into it and discovered that I loved it. At that time Honda had just unveiled ASIMO and it was all over the news. Honda had succeeded in building a robot capable of walking like a human. As an engineer, I am well aware of the complex mechanics of walking which we humans take for granted. To be able to teach a robot to walk like a human is a monumental engineering feat.
The progression of computing power and material engineering will see the emergence of very humanlike robots in the near future. As with any other technologies, there are dangers that come with it such as unethical and military applications. A few days ago, I was shocked by the news that a brothel in Barcelona has replaced all its prostitutes with dolls. There are also plans to develop sex robots in the future. Military applications might save more soldiers’ lives, but would undoubtedly give the military more ability to take lives without fear of retribution. These ethical issues must be examined before any advancements in robotics can be fully released to the public.
Robotic technology can lead to horrendous effects if left unchecked. But as with a rose whose thorns does not dilute its beauty, the dangers of robotic technology does not outweigh its potential benefits to mankind. As for me, I believe that researching about humanoid robots will give us a better picture of what it is to be human.