Recent Read: “Me, myself and A.I. — should robots look like us?”

Don’t miss this interesting rumination on robots and humans by Elaine Moore in Financial Times. Some highlights below:
“We understand that the idea of robots playing a larger role in everyday life might be something that people feel apprehensive about,” says Ken Kocienda, who leads the robot project at the courier company Postmates.

Robots with human-like qualities appear to override antipathy or animosity. Postmates’ own food-delivery robots are squat, yellow and cute. Two lights on the front look a lot like eyes. This anthropomorphism is by design, says Kocienda.

As they roll at 3mph along the streets, the robots are designed to look as non-threatening as possible. If they accidentally bump into a person, their screen will read “Sorry”. Apologetic noises such as small beeps and bleeps may come later.

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What happens if robot and human are combined, or become difficult to tell apart? The urge to recoil from such an idea is one that the writer Isaac Asimov dubbed “the Frankenstein complex”: the fear that artificial intelligence will dominate or replace us.

There is still anxiety that cyborgs will be closer to Philip K Dick’s Nexus-6 fugitives than to Star Trek’s friendly engineer Geordi La Forge, born blind but able to see better than anyone thanks to technology-enabled sight.

Still, a number of people are already living out their sci-fi fantasies via implants. One Tesla owner told the tech website The Verge that she had put the chip from her key card into her forearm to unlock her car door.

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He offers the following nightmarish prediction: “People will not be able to tell if they are interacting with you or your AI proxy. Right now, you could be doing two interviews at once. Or there could be 500 versions of you, running 500 interviews. They would be learning more second by second and telling the other versions what they have learnt.”

The line between humans and robots will blur as artificial intelligence becomes a reality. Boundaries will need to be established. Without them, the idea of robots as supplements or substitutes “challenges our self-understanding as individuals”, writes Marco Noskov, assistant professor in the department of philosophy at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Yet for now, most people using augmentation technology tend to be compensating for impaired functions, including the millions who wear a hearing aid.

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Carlos Alvarenga

Founder and CEO at KatalystNet and Adjunct Professor in the Logistics, Business and Public Policy Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert E. Smith School of Business.

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