Robotic technology has taken historic strides in the past decade. Nanorobotics is changing how scientists, doctors and surgeons think about the future of medicine. UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have altered how states engage in conflict. And automotive technology now allows cars to parallel park themselves.Robots are here to stay, and Americans might want to get used to them says President and CEO of ReconRobotics, Alan Bignall.
ReconRobotics is known for its signature product, the Throwbot. The Throwbot is like an advanced remote-controlled car; it uses a camera attached to an incredibly durable and agile body to survey dangerous areas from afar (check out the demo at the end of the post).
Bignall stresses that Americans’ perceptions of robots is altered by a cultural lens which depicts them as an existential threat — one that costs blue-collar workers their livelihood and down the line could endanger society as a whole (think the dystopian future in “Terminator”).
“I think there is somewhat of a pejorative statement in [saying robots are] replacing jobs,” Bignall told Business Insider. “I think over time there’s a fundamental shift in society where that becomes acceptable.” With a proper retraining of the workforce, Bignall believes that robots can become a tremendous boon for American society.
Many in America have started to acknowledge and accept the role of robots in recent years. “We’ve sort of gone over the cusp now, of the fact that robots are good for us — they make a difference, and that has happened in the last two or three years,” Bignall said.
Robots are starting to make their mark in a myriad of industries. Bignall has already seen similar technologies that the Throwbot employs applied in patient and elderly care, mapping, retail research and the banking industry.
“Now, [funding for robotics] is not dependent on the military Department of defence spending,” Bignall added.
But a world populated by robotic technologies poses a whole new set of problems. If a self-driven car hits a person, who is at fault? If robotic soldiers remove the lethal element from waging war, does war gain a mercenary mentality? Is the risk removed from armed conflict?
Bignall says some of these questions will be resolved way down the line in the same way that America always has: through the courts.
Others we may not even get to. Bignall believes that “societal change will drift us towards eliminating the whole concept of war before that sort of concept happens.”
And the Terminator scenario?
“I have a tough time in any near-term or any medium-term sort of scenario seeing that robots are just going to do their own thing and decide to shoot each other without any interaction [or] human control.”
The real question America has to decide for itself, Bignall says, is what side will it end up on in the robot economy: “America is at a point where it has to decide, are we a user of robots or a designer or builder of robots? Are we going to have the robot building jobs or are we going to be a country that uses robots built by other countries?”
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