We are all much more familiar with robots today than we were a few decades ago. Robots take an active role in parts of our daily lives, and we interact with them while we shop, work, and play. But what if those robots could actually surpass human capabilities when it comes to survival? Is it possible that robots could one day challenge humans for control?
Many people worry that robots are already taking their jobs. Construction and manufacturing have been greatly improved since the first industrial robots were created in the 1960s, and machines are used to carry out lots of tasks that are difficult or unsafe for humans. Sometimes they are also used to make a process faster and more efficient, such as in production lines. This has led to many industries reducing the number of human workers.
Other people are embracing robots, and there's lots of gadgets and toys you can take home which use robotic technology. Toys such as Sphero and Robosapien are fun for youngsters and adults alike, and show intelligent responses when you interact.
In what ways have robots replaced or replicated humans?
If you go to the supermarket and choose the self-service till, you'll be guided through the purchase process by a robot cashier. The cash you pay with probably came from a robot teller – commonly known as an Automated Teller Machine, or ATM. You leave with your shopping and enter your car, which was assembled and painted with precision by robots in factories. We encounter robots all the time, even if we don't think of them as such.
We're even more impressed by lifelike robots. Artificial intelligence and androids are fascinating to humans because they behave just like us. Recently, Japan even cast a robot as the female lead in a movie, which got a great reception from audiences. Could these human-like robots start taking over other functions in life, and one day even outnumber us?
There are many tasks that are dangerous or difficult for humans, such as reaching tight spaces or carrying heavy loads. Robots can achieve a much more varied range of tasks, and they guarantee consistent, precise results. Robots are capable of many of the tasks humans are, and although they are not capable of emotion, this isn't essential for establishing a civilisation.
What if a community of sociable robots could be created?
If robots can already interact with us and with each other, they could exist within a robot community. This community might integrate with humans or exist independently. As long as they had a steady supply of energy and the ability to repair, they could survive on their own if needed. The community would probably look very different to ours, because robots don't experience emotions and therefore don't build relationships. However, programming could mimic some of the outcomes of community relationships, such as sharing resources and working for mutual benefit.
Robots could help each other to recover from damage
Many have said that robots will never take over from humans because robots can break down, and therefore they are always going to need us. However, new robots are changing that. Some robots can adapt to damage, and other robots can carry out repair functions. Some can even do both! If a sizeable number of maintenance robots were programmed to return to each other when they failed, they could perform maintenance on each other. They could also make repairs to robots that were designed to carry out other functions, thus maintaining a whole robot population without the need for humans.
Perhaps they could even start to build new robots by collecting materials from the environment, manufacturing the robot parts and assembling them. In this way, the robot race could multiply very quickly. Humans are limited to producing genetic clones of themselves via a partner and we are all essentially the same. On the other hand, robots could create a whole variety of different species for many different functions.
What if an army of robots was found?
Robots are often used by the military because they can do jobs that are unsafe for humans. This includes bomb disposal, entering potentially toxic areas, and carrying large quantities of explosives. Robots could therefore exist that can withstand a great deal of damage without breaking, and these robots would be a huge threat to the human race if they fell into the wrong hands. Robots can be used for all kinds of dangerous missions, and they can even be used in space which gives them a great advantage. Robots can control weaponry remotely and are used during warfare.
Of course, if robots were capable of taking on the human race, they'd have a far greater advantage when it came to weapons! The robots we are developing are dangerous, but incredibly useful in the right hands. Perhaps we're a long way off robots being able to challenge humans for control of the globe, but we'd better get used to working alongside them because they are definitely here to stay.
Swapnil Kulkarni, marketing analyst at Voucherbin