Tag Archives: robotics

Healthcare Robots

Since my last post discussing my interest in researching the future use of robots in mental health treatment, I have received feedback from the audience of the Future Cultures blog and Chris Moore which has lead to me altering the nature of my area of research to examining the use of robotics in the sphere of healthcare, in present day, whilst also speculating upon the potential future uses of robotics in the medical field, based upon representations in popular culture.

In this post, I will discuss the current state of robotics used in healthcare and the academic research shaping the future of medical robotics and share any newsworthy information related to the applications of healthcare robots.

A quick Wikipedia search reveals that there are several types of medical robots currently in use, these include:

Surgical Robots: robots capable of assisting or performing surgery

Rehabilitation Robots: robots like PARO who assist…

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Employment and living with AI

When it comes to artificial intelligence, there are many people who believe that the introduction of artificial intelligence and robots could lead to a  dystopian world similar to that portrayed in “Terminator Salvation” (p.s. Terminator Salvation is a terrible film), where robots have enslaved humanity. Whilst not entirely implausible, the threat of unemployment is a much greater moral concern  surrounding unemployment, with the World Economic Forum  suggesting that as many as 5 million jobs, from 15 developed and emerging economies could be lost by 2020 (Brinded, 2016). In fact, many people are already starting to lose their jobs to machines with self-serve checkouts being a major example of the way machines have been able to do a job, previously undertaken by human employees, but with greater efficiency and lower cost.  However, I am more focused on investigating the threat posed by human-like robots, rather than machines in general. Why? Because that’s what society imagines when you mention artificial intelligence. They imagine machines that replicate our human bodies.

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In countries such as Japan, many more jobs are now being done by robots. In fact, there is a theme park in Nagasaki, Japan that is about open a “robot kingdom” section where over 200  robots will work as bartenders, chefs, luggage carriers and more.(Niinuma, 2016).  At the 2016 Milken Institute’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, many of the guests confirmed that robots are slowly becoming employed by various companies, at the expense of us humans (Japan Today, 2016). The idea of robots or sentient beings in relation to the workforce, leads to a greater moral question: Could humans and robots co-exist peacefully?

In his book ‘Digital Soul: Intelligent Machines and Human Values ‘, Thomas M. Georges hypothesizes how the introduction of sentient beings in society might be received by humans. Georges states that “learning to live with superintelligent machines will require us to rethink our concept of ourselves and our place in the scheme of things” (Georges 2003, pg. 181). This statement raises many philosophical questions, which I will explore in my next blog post alongside an in-depth look at the 2015 film ‘Ex-Machina’. Georges’ statement does, however, imply that unsurprisingly living with robots would cause some conflict and would not be a smooth transition for humans. Having said that, many will say that we are already living amongst various forms of “weak” AI such as Siri or Cotana, smart home devices and the somewhat annoying purchase prediction. However, these are forms of “weak” AI and we are still a long way away from a society where humans co-exist  with sentient beings. All we can do, for now, is worry and imagine.

References

Brinded, L 2016, “WEF: Robots, automation and AI will replace 5 million human jobs by 2020”, Business Insider Australia, viewed 4th May 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com.au/wef-davos-report-on-robots-replacing-human-jobs-2016-1?r=UK&IR=T

Georges, T. M. 2003, Digital soul: intelligent machines and human values. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

N/A 2016, “Rich and powerful warn robots are coming for your jobs.”, Japan Today  Viewed May 5, 2016, http://www.japantoday.com/category/technology/view/rich-and-powerful-warn-robots-are-coming-for-your-jobs

Niinuma, O 2016, “Theme park’s ‘robot kingdom’ seeks to upend Japan’s service industry”, Nikkei Asian Review, viewed May 5 2016, http://asia.nikkei.com/Tech-Science/Tech/Theme-park-s-robot-kingdom-seeks-to-upend-Japan-s-service-industry?utm_source=fark&utm_medium=website&utm_content=link

Taming Technology And Religions Affect On Such Acceptance

 

According to Kaplan, F. during the Meiji Period of 1868 – 1912, in order to defend itself from international threats to Japanese culture, the political and social attitudes developed a defensive emphasis on the acquisition of complete knowledge on foreign technologies that would ultimately threaten Japanese interests. This is what we can define as taming technology, as illustrated below by Kaplan:

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Kaplan, R. illustrates an example of acceptance through Pokemon, an international pop-culture founded in Japan, applying the ‘taming’ of a foreign technology. Thus technology is associated with the harmonisation of the Japanese community. Moreover societies across the history have tamed wild ‘technologies,’ being that of animals, to perform labor for human interests. Thus the concept of foreign technologies is not entirely new to western society. Bearing in mind the protestant work ethic discussed in previous blogs (that a successful life is correlated with prudence and work effort (Westby, D. 1997)), and how that may impact the integration of robots into society – is there a difference between the application of animal ‘technology’ and newer robotic technology to help human achievement.

However dissonance between western religion and technology has basis, with the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:4-9 illustrating the desire for humanity to go beyond capabilities and constructing a tower to reach the heavens through a unified language. Thus God strikes down and scatters humanity through the creation of diversified languages, inhibiting construction. Resulting as a warning for overreaching technologies (Love, D. 2015). Contrast to Japanese unification of technology, western Abrahamic religions apply a level of negativity of humanity developing a singularity through technology, instead we have God ‘taming’ us.

Reference:

“Company History”. ポケットモンスターオフィシャルサイト. The Pokémon Company. Viewed 02.05.16 <http://www.pokemon.co.jp/corporate/en/history/>

Kaplan, F. (Unknown Year) Who is afraid of the humanoid? Investigating cultural differences in the acceptation of robots. Sony Computer Science Laboratory. Paris, France. Viewed 02.05.16 <http://www.itu.dk/people/britt/DDKS/EKSAMEN/jap_roboculture.pdf>

Love, D. (2015) Artificial intelligence will make religion obsolete within our lifetime, Daily Dot, viewed 02.05.16 <http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/superintelligence-meets-religion/>

Wesby, D. (1997) Protestant Ethic, viewed 02.05.16<http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/protesta.htm>

Ethical Associations With Robotics and Income

Building upon the concept of how religious or cultural principles impact the economic and social constructs relative to robotics, we must study how varying cultural ethics influence the divergence, and that of a capitalist society. Ultimately for my research project the distinction of religious and cultural ethics on robotics, the impact on the international economy, basic income and how such effects the current capitalist community will be the central focus.

Kitano (2015) argues that the cultural divergence of automation is relative to ethics. With ‘Rinri’ the term for ethics in Japanese associated with the harmonisation of society, with each individual forming a responsibility and accountability to that community. Moreover robots identify with their proprietor, and through such responsibility are just as accountable for the harmonisation of Japanese society. However the rapid development of Japan’s economy following World War II, with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan stating the robotics industry as one of the most critical in the modern economy, has ultimately failed to provide the platform for conversation regarding human-robotic interaction.

Western ethics consists of varying subjectivities contrast to Japan’s, we can convey the Western dissonance to robotics beyond idolatry with that of the ‘protestant work ethic,’ in which discipline, prudence and effort are the effect of an individual’s confidence in Protestant commitment (Westby, D. 1997). Additionally ‘protestant work ethic’ has been correlated to that of ‘spirit of capitalism’ (Westby, D. 1997), thus through such beliefs development of robotic industries has become of major economic concern to some, challenging that of a capitalist society and application of the notion of universal income (Forrest, A. 2015).

Through the developing automation industry the concept of universal basic income has become an increasing debate. The ‘protestant work ethic,’ central to that of capitalism, may be the hurdle of such income generated from robotics. Wells (2014) argues that this is due to our social systems, such as education, have been constructed to complement the labor market relative to economic productivity. However such work ethic would be irrelevant with considerable absence of jobs.

Reference:

Forrest, A. (2015) What happens when robots take our jobs? The Big Issue, viewed 21.03.16 < http://www.bigissue.com/features/columnists/5970/what-happens-when-robots-take-our-jobs>

Kitano, N. (2015) Animism, Rinri, Modernization; the Base of Japanese Robotics, School of Social Sciences, Waseda University, viewed 21.03.15 <http://documents.mx/documents/kitano-animism-rinri-modernization-the-base-of-japanese-robots.html >

Wesby, D. (1997) Protestant Ethic, viewed 22.03.16<http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/protesta.htm>

Wells, T. (2014) The Robot Economy and the Crisis of Capitalism: Why We Need Universal Basic Income, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, viewed 04-03-16 <http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2014/07/17/4048180.htm>  

Automatonophobia, The Future of Robots and Artificial Intelligences. I, for one, accept our new robot overlords.

http://player.cnbc.com/p/gZWlPC/cnbc_global?playertype=synd&byGuid=3000502094&size=530_298

Automatonophobia is the fear of anything that falsely represents having sentience, the autonomy to act out of human control. Typical humans, afraid of what they can’t control or manipulate.

A common theme of cyberculture, and a running trope in media & film, is the fear and demonisation of robots. More so are we fearing the robots, but what they are capable of, and will be capable of the farther technology advances. It’s seen time and time again, from Ultron to Ava, that we create these fictional stories of doomed robots and their flawed understanding of humanity (a reflection on our own humanity they tell us), will ultimately doom us.

ex ultron 2

Robotics have come a long way in a very short amount of time, and companies like Hanson Robotics have their eyes firmly set on creating lifelike, animatronic-androids designed solely for human interaction. To be more human than human. Sophia, is the real-life Ava of Ex Machina. Creator Dr David Hanson’s goal is to make robots “as conscious, creative and capable as any human” and eventually, to one day “be indistinguishable from humans”. He envisions a world of robots not dehumanising us, but reminding us of our humanity.

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Via Facebook

But more on that later, essentially, I wish to say, robots are not evil. They are not Ultron because they were programmed by Tony Stark’s (our) flaws and faults. They do not become Ava because their intelligence is so far more superior that it uses our own humanity against us. They are what we make them to be. Cyberculture, society, or whoever, needs something to fear that we think is threatening what makes us human.

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comments on ‘Sophia’

What I will be talking about instead, is the path of robotics or humanbotics and where its heading. Starting with the history of robots and how we came to fear them, I wish to track through media the villain label we have come to attach to robots and offer a more friendlier take on robots and us. How many innocent robots have succumbed to human hands in films and television? How do the news and internet react to the human like animatronics? Do we really even need to fear the power of robots? Will they actually take over the world?

Nobody puts Robot in the corner.