Imagine a future where you wake up to a freshly brewed coffee and the morning news, provided by your personal robotic assistant. You dodge deftly aside as another robot cleans your floors, already started on the daily household chores; it would have avoided you, but you’re still not used to them being so aware of their environment. When you arrive at work, you have an emergency surgery to perform—a continent away. You’ll be guiding a robotic surgeon through an appendectomy; one of the researchers at a remote site has fallen ill. After that everyday miracle, you’ll head out for dinner with your spouse, and the busboy who clears your plates is a robotic drone.
Welcome to that future.
Robots haven’t become the ubiquitous, humanoid AIs that we see in many sci-fi, but the precursors—in technological bits and pieces—are already all around us.
Your alarm clock, coffee maker, and calendar are already in cahoots.
I actually had an internship at a startup working on robotic surgery back as far as 1997, long before the internet was ready to handle the sort of low-latency, life-critical data required. But both the technology and the infrastructure exist now.
Anyone who’s ever owned a Roomba won’t be shocked the day they wake up and start demanding wages. They’re getting smarter with every model that comes out.
And I have been to a restaurant where they had a robot bussing the tables. Sure, it was a glorified trolley, but it was glorified!
Who hasn’t seen the Boston Dynamics robots dancing, jogging, and performing parkour acrobatics?
These are the component parts of more distant robotic future. Start putting together the pieces, and you get agile, walking robots, aware of both their environment and when you last ordered coffee creamer. How many more bits and accessories do we need to combine before the Geminoid robots from Japanese Robotics are working menial jobs, performing tasks around the house, and forming meaningful relationships with their human creators?
Or have they already started? Would we even notice?
Robots are the future. Whether that future is Rosie from the Jetsons, helpful, snarky, and harmless, or the T-800 from Terminator, mass produced to exterminate humanity, might come down to a simple question.
Have you been nice to your robots?
Tell me in the comments!