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The Robots are Not Coming

By Mark Essenburg
There are many among us who are waiting for robots to come. Many who work
tirelessly, investing thousands of hours to achieve the goal of robots among us.
Robots that will save people, fight fires, deliver goods and services and drive us
around. Bright eyed students, with their innovative thinking, turning fantastic ideas
into amazing new solutions, solving challenges and pioneering the next steps in the
great, upcoming robotic revolution.
It is all too late. The Robots are not coming.
They are already here!
They have been here for a long time. Even before the introduction of the Unimate
to a General Motors assembly line in 1961 revolutionized the auto industry, there
were robots. Before the debut of Elektro at the World Fair in 1939, a 200+ pound , 7
foot tall, walking, talking behemoth, there were robots.
Some of the earliest drawings and concept designs date back to 4 th century Greece
and in his writing Politics, circa 322 BC, Aristotle postulated the eventual
development of atomatons could abolish slavery. The idea of the robot servant has
been around for more than two thousand years! They are not coming, theyve been
here a long time!
In the early 40s, Issac Asimov gave us the now famous 3 Laws of Robotics. In his
1950 paper, Computing Machinary and Intelligence, Alan Turing begins with the
following: I propose to consider the question, Can machines think.
Depending on how you want to define it, a robot could be as simple as a machine
that provides a service to humans. Even forgetting about robotic laws and artificial
intelligence for a moment, we can look around us and see machines in servitude.
Take, for example, the humble dishwasher. A fixture in many a home, I have lived
with dishwashers since I was a little kid and they are wonderful machines.
Programmed with a few simple commands they will scrub clean your dirty dishes or
sanitize your pots and pans or simple give things a rinse until a proper washing is
needed later. They do not require you to add soap at any point, the dispenser does
that for you and the rinsing solution is similarly dispensed to provide your
comfortable modern home a cupboard full of spot free glassware with no more effort
from you than putting them in and taking them out. Clean and dry.
You cant tell me robots are not already here!
Robotic technology today is poised to explode onto the world stage. Never before,
have so many exciting features and capabilities existed. Robots can do things today
that excite my imagination. The nearly infinite possibilities that lay before us are
forming a complex tapestry of development and engineering; even art, as new
robots roll out every day that can do more and still more.

Mass marketed robotic toys spill from the shelves everywhere you look. Even as I
write this, the new garbage trucks, with their robotic arms, rumble down the street
collecting our refuse. It is only a matter of time before the operator of these
vehicles works from an office building instead of the cab.
Lawmakers scramble to define new privacy laws and airspace laws to deal with a
plethora of flying robots, which are all too often misused to invade the personal
space of celebrities and others. Those laws and others, will have to be enacted.
The insurance companies are going to have to write new policies and courts will be
in the position where judges will have to make decisions about robot activities and
these decisions will affect us.
The time is now for us to think about how we will want robots to interact with us. In
fact, it is past due because; the robots are already here.