"Robots Rising"

From: J. R. Molloy (jr@shasta.com)
Date: Fri Nov 09 2001 - 12:05:26 MST

Robots Rising
Hans Moravec

Hans Moravec has been building robots since 1963: his first at age ten. His
1988 book, Mindchildren began a public access to the ideas of his speculative
science. His current volume, Robot continues these conjectures of a future
robot-run world with fervor. Moravec holds that a robot-reign is inevitable
and that it won't be so bad...

frontwheeldrive: Your new book offers a rich abundance of evidence that robots
will surpass us in the next hundred years or so. What would you say to people
who still don't believe?

Hans Moravec: Just wait and see! I've promised a next book in 2008, by which
time the first specialized utility robots should be crawling around many
homes. If that doesn't convince, them by the time of the following book in
2018, there should be a first generation of rigidly programmed universal
robots, and a dawning second generation of ones that learn like Skinner's
rats. Soon after that, the skeptics will be able to argue their cases with
wily conversational programs.

Speaking of which, are you and Roger Penrose friends? Having read The Emporers
New Mind myself, your constant jabs at him in Robot were hilarious.

I have great respect for Penrose, having long been interested in his physics
and mathematical work. We've met a number of times and places in the last
decade and had nice conversations, and gave joint talks. But boy, did he grab
the wrong end of the stick in his AI arguments!

Are you planning to do all you can to help the "Robot Revolution" on?

I've been interested in the idea that life and intelligence can result from
properly assembling inanimate matter since at least age four, when my father
helped me build a "dancing man" using parts from a mechanical construction
set. Several science fair robots, two graduate degrees for mobile robots and
twenty additional years of work on making mobile robots practical later, I'm
engaged in research towards commercial smart industrial transport and cleaning
machines by 2005, and then even smarter home vacuum cleaners, and all that
follows! In short, "Yes, in every day, in every way."
See here.

What are you working on currently? Do you have any recent research or goals
you can share with my readers?

Our goal is laboratory prototype sensor-based software for utility mobile
robots for industrial transport, floor maintenance, security etc., that
matches the months-between-error reliability of existing industrial robots
without requiring their expensive worksite preparation or site-specific
programming. Our machines will navigate employing a dense 3D awareness of
their surroundings, be tolerant of route surprises, and be easily placed by
ordinary workers in entirely new routes or work areas. The long-elusive
combination of easy installation and reliability should greatly expand
cost-effective niches for mobile robots, and make possible a growing market
that can itself sustain further development.

What advice would you give aspiring roboticists out there? Aspiring AI

There are starting to be university programs in robotics, but the field is
very new and still shaping itself. It will need input from almost everywhere.
First of all, of course, robots need to be built and given basic programming,
so computer science and engineering are useful. But as they become more
common, designers, psychologists, and people knowledgeable in the application
areas will become more important. After 2010, some expert will have the right
robot application programs for every task we want robots to do, and pretty
soon that will cover just about every area of human activity, and beyond!

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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