I, Robot

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Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

The folks at The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon dream of mechanical beings that help humans, or even replace them. Author Lee Gutkind got inside the Institute, and in his new book Almost Human: Making Robots Think he tells the stories of Zoe, Groundhog, Grace, and Sandstorm, some of the bots chasing, creeping, rolling, zooming, kicking soccer balls, and hunting for treasure on the floor of the Institute ... and the fascinating people behind the bots. Gutkind joins us today to tell us all about not just what he saw in the shop, but from the deserts of Chile to NASA headquarters and all the other places these robots go ... as well as the daunting challenge of inventing robots that actually think. It's not so far-out — do you have a Segway? A Roomba? A self-parking car? Robots and robotics are everywhere, but do you want your robot to think?



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When do we get someone like Lt. Commander Data like you'd see on Star Trek? It's good that current robots can do duties we may not want to do. Could we have a robot doctor? President? Teacher?

Sent by William | 3:33 PM | 3-21-2007

Is it possible to post the link to the Kansas Robot League website <www.kansasrobotleague.org> for listeners in Kansas who may be interested in participating?

Sent by Ed Rust | 3:45 PM | 3-21-2007

Nice to see a writer thinks Sci-Fi is real. When he was questioned about "Fuzzy Logic" by someone that must be working in AI he dodn't uderstand the question. If you want a human mind you need to make it the old fashion way. No machine will ever compare to a human. People have to understand that robots do only what you tell them to and no more.

Code Monkey? Does that mean Neil's job is classifide as "Lip Flapper?"

Sent by Buster | 3:57 PM | 3-21-2007

Fuzzy logic is based on a very simple idea: if a man has no hairs on his head, we say he's bald, and if he has thousands, we say he has not. If he has one hair, is he bald? How about two, or three, or... With Fuzzy Logic, rather than answer "Yes" or "No" to the question "Is he bald?", one might answer "He's 95% bald"... it emulates the "fuzziness" of human judgements concerning qualities like "warm" vs. "cool", "bald", etc.

And, as for "making a human mind", yes, we do that the old-fashioned way. As for making a mind, however, the jury is still out, but there is no reason to believe that you can't create an assemblage of matter that is self-aware and conscious, given that we know a 3.5 pound blob of neurons can do it, and there is nothing magical about how neurons work.

I believe the creation of a true artificial intelligence is inevitable, even if we don't know how to do it today.

Sent by Mike A. | 6:40 PM | 3-21-2007

I'm surprised no mention was made about the use of robots in the arts of war. It is already happening and will surely become a major component of warfare - perhaps not unlike that which we see in the opening scenes of "The Terminator", or worse more subtle but even more pernicious.

Sent by Jason | 3:20 PM | 3-22-2007