Friday, February 12, 2010

Keep an eye on your Roomba

It has been nearly 70 years since Isaac Asimov established the Three Laws of Robotics and only 12 years since Skynet went online. With robotics increasingly infiltrating everyday life, people should be especially wary. No doubt advances in artificial intelligence programs will eventually lead to robot self-awareness, and when that day comes will the Laws of Robotics still hold true?

The Roomba is an example of a robot that has become common enough in the household that families have taken to giving them names and project human characteristics onto them. And that is exactly what iRobot, the company that makes the Roomba, wants you to do. iRobot was founded in 1990 by Rodney Brooks, Colin Angle, and Helen Greiner, all of whom worked at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (now known as the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory). Is it any surprise that they were able to develop their first robot, the PackBot, through a DARPA research contract? (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency falls under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Defense.) And that said robot was developed for use within a military capacity? And yet we readily allow their Roomba brethren to suck up the dead skin cells and hair that we leave behind on the floor. What for? So that they can study our genetic structure in hopes of developing a living tissue which they can then place over a metal endoskeleton, thus becoming a cybernetic organism?

iRobot is clearly the Cyberdyne Systems that the future-sent, reprogrammed T-800 Terminator was trying to stop. The original timeline was altered through multiple attempts at sabotaging Cyberdyne, but that doesn't mean that Skynet isn't slowly taking over. The Roomba, according to iRobot, is meant to learn through "simple control mechanisms tuned to their environments," much like insects; insects, which happen to be the most prevalent and diverse class of animals on the planet. And like insects which inhabit every corner of the globe, iRobot is producing numerous robots to inhabit every corner of our homes. There's the Scooba, a floor-washing robot; the Dirt Dog, for heavier duty vacuuming jobs; the Create, a hobby robot; the Verro, a pool-cleaning robot; the Looj, a gutter-cleaning robot; and the ConnectR, an upcoming all-seeing, all-hearing, sensory interactive robot. Clearly Cyberd ... I mean iRobot wants to dominate the domicile with robots that will silently take over our homes.

But we can still avoid the Judgment Day that lies waiting for us in the near future. Do not trust these robots. They may seem like family now, but they very well could be sucking your face off while you sleep. With Isaac Asimov and his laws no longer around, we have only ourselves to protect us. Be vigilant. Be prepared. Be safe.

1 comment:

  1. But our Roomba is so stupid that it gets caught behind the TV... or running circles between rolly-chair legs and heated carpet cable.

    Is it only pretending to be dumb?