Reflections on Robots

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Steven L Jordan, Sep 17, 2012.

  1. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    Sounds familiar! And don't forget: For the robot, just asking the question would take as long to their thought processes. Imagine taking a week to ask a question.

    But this line of thought suggests the capacity for patience/impatience in a robot, or any machine. I wonder if the capacity is there at all... it would be a great question to ask a computer.
     
  2. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    One reason: If the robot has to interact with humans, being human-like could allow the robot to apply many of the physical cues that go along with verbal communication, and make it easier to be fully understood in a conversation (as the internet has so well demonstrated, lack of those visual cues can create very wrong assessments of another's intent).

    Myself, I'm not sure how practical that is... especially when the robot can bring (or hopefully fabricate as required, from memory) models and samples of humans and other Earth creatures to show to an extraterrestrial species. I think the human vanity of creating robots in our image will actually be a short-lived phenomenon... in fact, it's something we don't do in serious industrial applications, so why change now?
     
  3. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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  4. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    For the same reason why there are animatronic museums of dinosaurs in different parts of the USA, for a species to better understand a species they have never seen before.
     
  5. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    One of the reasons animatronic museums are practical is: They don't go anywhere. They aren't required to travel long and hazardous journeys to get to the point where maybe they will find something to present their cargo. It would be enough of an effort to just send a probe optimized for the trip; not until we have energy to burn in sending probes those kind of distances would it make sense to send (admittedly inaccurate) mechanical copies of Earth creatures.

    Animatronic creatures are also not supposed to be accurate, beyond the obvious visual element... they're just supposed to look cool, while having nothing in common with real creatures under the skin. Not useful from a scientific point of view, but great if you want to impress grade-schoolers.

    Bringing data about Earth creatures would be so much easier, more practical and (because they can contain more than a robot-simulator could ever tell them) more accurate representations of Earth creatures.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2012
  6. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    Sorry... dupe post.
     
  7. JunkMonkey

    JunkMonkey Registered User

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    In answer to part of your original post, SLJ. And to pick up on something you said a couple of posts ago.

    One thing I'm not sure that has been explored much (I may well be wrong) is non-verbal communication between robots and humans. My daughter has Asperger's (a form of autism) and has a lot of trouble with understanding both the importance of her own body language (she finds it very hard, as many autistic people do, to make eye contact with someone for more than a moment) and understanding other people's body language. Many social rules just 'don't make sense' to autistic people. Take meal times for example. Aged ten she still doesn't get why people don't eat with their fingers, need to talk about inconsequential trivia over a meal, or stay at the table for a second longer after they have finished eating. (I know this is true of a lot of modern families but in our house we eat sitting round a table and talking. No books. No phones. No TV in the room. Very old-fashioned, but important to us.)

    Even though I have been living with her and her autism for 10 years I find it frustrating and hard when she doesn't look at me when we're talking. I've had a lot of practice; I'm very used to her not looking at me but it is so hard wired into most of us that it still causes confusion and frustration. We're teaching her (and she is learning) how to fake some obvious body language. She can now make 'significant moustache contact' with me for example. She looks towards the centre of my face as we talk. To me it appears as if she is looking at me (ie into my eyes) but she isn't. She's faking it. She doesn't truly understand why she is faking it but knows it makes me happier and more likely to respond positively to what she is saying.

    It occurs to me that sentient robots would be in a similar position. Faking (programmed) to do all these odd things that, on the face of them make very little sense, but are vital to good communication between us fleshy types. The character Data for example in Star Trek: Whatever He's In shows some very autistic traits. Maybe autistic people would get on with robots better than most people - just as many Aspies seem to do well with computers now - and become 'interpreters' between us and them. I dunno. Just some thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2012
  8. Chuffalump

    Chuffalump A chuffing heffalump

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    I once took one of the online Autism Spectrum Quotient tests after my OH suggested I may be autistic. If I am it's a very, very, very mild form but the test said I was closer to being autistic than I was to the national average. I don't understand the need for inconsequential trivia or like prolonged eye contact and I'm pretty good with machines (at least in comparison with most people I meet). Maybe JM has a point. Insert smiley with a grin.
     
  9. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    What if something is wrong with the NORMAL people and they drive the autistic people carzy?

    psik
     
  10. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    Does he? Not being very familiar with autistic traits, I've obviously noted Data's predilection for looking mildly distracted (when multitasking) and not overtly showing emotion (because he doesn't have emotions equal to humans'... though it has been demonstrated that he does have some emotions of his own).

    But it's a good point that Data was specifically programmed to behave in ways that would make him more "human-like" to other humans (even, as Dr. Bashir pointed out to him once, to the extent of simulating breathing). He's the embodiment of a visual solution to the Turing test... though, to be thorough, his creator could have given him a natural skin tone and eye color. But hey, it's television, and how better to show a bunch of TV watchers that a character is an android--aside from saying it or giving him an excuse to open his chest and plug something into it, every ten minutes--but giving him white skin and funky eyes... (TV exec Steve)

    In fact, depictions of robots in TV and movies are so often given a heavy-handed orchestration, specifically, in order to apply one of the popular TV/movie tropes to it:

    Make them look exactly like human in order to draw more attention to superhuman abilities;

    Make them look mildly inhuman in order to draw more attention to human characteristics (Data's model);

    Make them look really inhuman to make them look scarier/cuter/smarter/dumber;

    Make them look like an animal to suggest specific animal traits; etc.

    It tends to be handled as a visual "shortcut," demanded either by budgetary issues, storytelling limitations or the belief by the heads of production that the audience is too dense to "get" anything more sophisticated.

    It's probably more common for books to follow these tropes than to ignore them, but an examination of that speculation might be interesting...
     
  11. Chuffalump

    Chuffalump A chuffing heffalump

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    I always liked Neal Asher's golem. Equipped with human emulation routines limiting movements and simulating breathing or sweating etc but with the ability to turn these emulations off. When not running emulation routines the golem move more smoothly, their joints are no longer limited in range of movement etc etc.

    The reason for the emulation in the first place - to make it easier for humans to relate to them.
     
  12. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    It makes sense. Humans have spent millennia dealing with other humans and animals based on being able to read their body language, even before communication or cooperation was feasible. What better way to make robots relatable than to give them mannerisms that would fit either humans or animals (either works, often dependent on the task)?

    Further in the future, I could see robots taking on their own unique mannerisms to fit their "evolution" and task assignments.
     
  13. johnrex

    johnrex New Member

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    I think it is a great idea that you decided to start a fiction on robots.I think one day robot will be one of the most talked topics of the world
     
  14. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    It was, at one point; now, not so much. That's why I'm thinking the concept needs revitalization, beyond the questions of social status, intelligence and human replacement, and on into the relationships between humans and robots.
     
  15. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    That is funny. A few days a ago I did a Google Trends search on "science fictio" and "robotics". They both went down from 2004 to 2008 and have continued going down since 2008 but at a slower rate.

    psik