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Robotics Engineers: "We Don't Want To Replace Humans. We Want To Enhance Humans. 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the resistance-is-futile dept.
Lucas123 writes: 'Scientists developing smart robotic prosthetics say the lines between robots and humans is beginning to blur and that someday soon people will be able to improve their body. For example, robotic prosthetics, using a built-in computer, 100 sensors, and 17 motors, can take natural cues from a user's residual limb, giving him or her the dexterity and grace to play a piano. Robotic exoskeletons have helped people suffering from paralysis walk again and the U.S. military is just weeks away from testing a new exoskeleton. And, more than six years ago, a University of Arizona researcher who had successfully connected a moth's brain to a robot predicted that by 2022 we'll be using "hybrid" computers that run a combination of technology and living organic tissue. "By utilizing technology, you're able to improve your body beyond anything you could do in the past," said Daniel Wilson, an engineer with degrees in machine learning and robotics from Carnegie Mellon University.'
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Robotics Engineers: "We Don't Want To Replace Humans. We Want To Enhance Humans.

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  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @06:07PM (#47187713)

    At least, do we want prosthetics that are better than human limbs in some areas but by far not all? How long 'til you get to hear "we'd hire you if you would replace that limb with $tool, and if you really want that job you would do it"?

    • by CRCulver (715279)

      There's got to be some way to integrate technology with existing human body parts so that the enhancements don't require hacking off a limb one was born with. Whatever happened to Neal Stephenson's vision in The Diamond Age [amazon.com] of crawling robotic bugs exerting muscle fibers directly, so that you would gain enormous strength without even having to exercise? Keeping one's own arm but enhanced is definitely preferable to a foreign combination of metal and plastic being grafted on, at least for contemporary huma

      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        It's called exercise and not feeding your body crap.
        • by CRCulver (715279)
          Who knows how it would work in real life, but in Stephenson's novel, the strength provided by this technology was as great -- or even greater than -- a professional bodybuilder. Sure, humans can exercise, but do you expect them to exercise full-time, giving up on all their other work and interests?
          • by Jmc23 (2353706)
            Did you know that most, if not all, of the benefits of exercise is learning to move your body properly?

            Gravity is your most treasured teacher in learning to move efficiently.

            Understanding the physics of reality and the fluidity to direct forces in any direction is what true strength is about.

            Sure, you can constantly destroy your body so that automatic systems kick in to add more fibers to deal with your stupidity but learning how to activate and control all your fibers is where it's at.

            Bruce Lee had more

            • by CRCulver (715279)
              Even if Bruce Lee had more practical strength, he practiced his art full-time to reach what he was. Again, you don't seem to appreciate the value of a technology that would allow people to gain strength or agility without spending the valuable time doing so.
              • by Jmc23 (2353706)
                ...and you don't appreciate the social detriment of giving children nuclear weapons.
            • dude fitness and athleticism is more than being strong. it's a way of being and a way of living and it makes you feel great and look great. if you consider this a "waste of time" then I feel sorry for you and assure you that having "enhanced muscles" will just wreck your body. because you'll have an unhealthy body with muscles that will damage it. soon you'll be having surgery on your knees and rotator cuff because your body is too weak and ill for your big muscles.
              • by Jmc23 (2353706)
                dude, lay off the weed and try and respond to the right person.
                • thank you for cutting me down when I was supporting your position.
                  • by Jmc23 (2353706)
                    You're welcome.

                    I don't need to read things supporting what I say, and by replying to me you aren't informing your target audience.

                    • I obviously made an error. I didn't realize that you are the second coming of our Lord and are infallible. Please have mercy on us sinners.
                    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
                      Sorry, I didn't know you were a little girl that cries at the drop of a hat and believes in fairy tales.

                      Are we done now?

                    • That was quite a rude exchange. Uncalled for.
                    • agreed, uncalled for.
                    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
                      I know, eh? Though I'm not sure you can really call passive-aggressive sarcasm rude.

                      But hey, always best to talk to people in their native tongue.

                    • I wasn't just referring to the last reply. Even in your first reply to Noah, you asked him to "lay off the weed". Overall, I found Noah's tone to range from supportive to apologetic, while yours ranged from dismissive to smug. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar [xkcd.com].
                    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
                      Aggression/smugness is in the eyes of the beholder.

                      The first sentence that pops into my head that starts with 'Dude!' is 'Dude, where's my car!'.

                      Take another look at that first response while not influenced by the later responses which were mimicking but also amplifying his tone.

                      Hey, notice I'm talking to you like you're talking to me?

                    • The first sentence that pops into my head that starts with 'Dude!' is 'Dude [wikipedia.org], you're gettin' a Dell!'

                      I guess the weed comment is still apropos either way :P

                      In any case, I'm just trying to convince everyone to be nicer to each other. The internet is so full of assholes, among which I frequently count myself. I sincerely say, can't we all just get along? Or at least maintain some semblance of civility? I'm turning over a new leaf myself, having recently abandoned trolling. I invite you to join me in strivi
                    • by Jmc23 (2353706)

                      I sincerely say, can't we all just get along?

                      Well, that's a nice pipe dream. ;)

                      I used to be an idealist myself. Then I smoked way too much weed and realized that people do not hear what you are saying. They hear your words being said by themselves.

                      Since people can't see what they don't know and basically just hear themselves talking I've since moved on to the long term tactic of echoing back to them with less noise. The hope being that if they really do only hear themselves, then eventually they might clue in as to what is going on.

                      No signs of hope

          • dude fitness and athleticism is more than being strong. it's a way of being and a way of living and it makes you feel great and look great. if you consider this a "waste of time" then I feel sorry for you and assure you that having "enhanced muscles" will just wreck your body. because you'll have an unhealthy body with muscles that will damage it. soon you'll be having surgery on your knees and rotator cuff because your body is too weak and ill for your big muscles. reposting because i responded to the wro
    • At least, do we want prosthetics that are better than human limbs in some areas but by far not all? How long 'til you get to hear "we'd hire you if you would replace that limb with $tool, and if you really want that job you would do it"?

      Yes. I predict the most popular prosthetic will be in the genital area.

    • Slashdot's going downhill. 52 posts and no mention of the Cybermen providing you with a free upgrade to Human 2.0

  • Being part of an 'enhanced' human/robot hybrid will be way more fun than handling things that machines are bad at for peanuts per hour on Mechanical Turk! We promise, because reasons!
    • Being part of an 'enhanced' human/robot hybrid will be way more fun

      Yes, very fun. Just multiply all the fun you have managing your pc, smart tv, cellphone, by 1000.

      "Oops! it appears your credit is insufficient to purchase your monthly subscription to ExoHand Manager 2045. All movement is inhibited for safety reasons except swiping until the situation is corrected. Have a nice day!"

  • by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Saturday June 07, 2014 @06:16PM (#47187749) Homepage Journal

    I have a prosthetic for my eyes, that improves my vision. It's called glasses. I'm not convinced we're anywhere near getting improved limbs though, so I'll just be keeping mine. If they do make better ones I might consider joining the Borg.

    • That's nothing! I have ocular implants and my adjustable augmented hearing just got upgraded. I'm far more bionic than you are!
    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Improves your vision? I wouldn't call a crutch an improvement.

      I'm so much happier now that I KNOW how to use my eyes and no longer need to constantly deteriote my eyes by using glasses.

      Side benefit/of learning to use your body properly, it's free!

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        I'm so much happier now that I KNOW how to use my eyes and no longer need to constantly deteriote my eyes by using glasses. Side benefit/of learning to use your body properly, it's free!

        Could you please provide a citation that human beings can "learn" to use their eyes to correct for flaws like myopia? I'm very interested, as before I had only heard of the Bates method [wikipedia.org], which has been shown in a number of studies for decades now to not work.

        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          Well, I actually started with the Bates method.

          The problem with studies that study things that require the subjects to develop awareness and control of things that are usually autonomous... well, just take a good look at most of the people around you.

          That aside, while Bates provides some good techniques the explanations are seriously lacking. So I turned to the largest and oldest body of work dealing with developing awareness and control of the human body, yoga.

          I must admit, it isn't easy, i.e., you have t

          • by CRCulver (715279)
            I asked for a citation (with it being understood that I was looking for formal research on this subject), and instead you give me a rambling anecdotal account based on your experience of "yoga".
            • by Jmc23 (2353706)
              You asked for a citation and I gave you the whole body of work of Yoga.

              The problem is that you know nothing about yoga and assume that it isn't formal and rigorous and full of experiments that one can repeat and get the exact same results all the time.

              The problem with science and medicine is that they dumped all the people who intuitively understood the human body and how it works and left it all to the clueless eggheads to figure out. If you read the 'scientific' literature from the start, you can see whe

          • I tried it and it didn't work. Subluxations were blocking my chi, or something.

    • by antdude (79039)

      For me, I don't like implants especially when something can go wrong. At least external stuff like glasses, hearing aids, etc. can be removed easily.

  • Asimov once wrote a great short story about this. A surgeon is talking someone about whether humans should be augmented or repaired with mechanical parts. The surgeon argues that the biological integrity of humans should be maintained, rather than creating mixtures of man and machine.

    At the end of the story, the surgeon is revealed to be a robot.

    • by 32771 (906153)

      From the little I know about the story I would say the robot had a remarkable sense of ethics. After all he decided for the patient to be more independent after the operation not less so. To make the point differently, If you had two options, either mechanical prosthesis or organ replacement made in the lab, the mechanical part would make you more dependent on society providing for replacement parts whereas biological replacements are repaired by yourself. The latter would give you far more freedom to be yo

  • I'm pretty sure that's cybernetics rather than robotics. In any case I'm not particularly worried about being replaced by a robot, people have always been weaker, smaller, slower, more vulnerable to the elements than a wide variety of more specialised species. Our key advantage and greatest strenght is our intelligence and we're a very long way indeed from automating that.

    Although it does raise some interesting questions economically, once all of the grunt work is done by robots, and that means just about a

  • ... if pure robots are cheaper, then they'll replace even enhanced humans for jobs. Period.
    • If a human's job can be filled by a robot, why should we have a human do it?
      • by CRCulver (715279)

        When humans do work, humans get paid. When a robot does work, the owner of the robot gets paid. In our present economy, who is in a better position to buy a robot costing tens of thousands of dollars, an ordinary worker or a corporation? The fear is that this will increase the wealth gap significantly. The transition to a robot workforce replacing a human one would thus require a massive restructuring of the economy, either such things as a larger welfare state to support the unemployed, or a transition to

        • by qwak23 (1862090)

          Robots for the poor!

          Tired of your mundane, labor intensive job? Worried you might be replaced by a robot scab? Have we got a solution for you! RoboYou! RoboYou will go to your job for you, do your work for you, and your employer will still have to pay you! Always wanted to write the great novel? Been meaning to take care of the weeds growing in the backyard? Just want to spend your whole day drunk? RoboYou is for you! Need a second job? Why not 3 jobs? RoboYou doesn't need to sleep, doesn't need t

    • And it's what I want. Who wants to dig a trench with a shovel when a backhoe can do it?
  • I'm pretty sure the entire point of using a machine to do a task is so that a human won't have to, either because it subjects human beings to hazards that one wishes to avoid, or to free up a human's time to pursue other activities, or perhaps simply because a machine may be able to do the work in less time or more efficiently than a human being can.
  • This is a nice sentiment from someone in the industry. However this particularly engineer will have no control over how the technology develops generally. Bean counters will always want to replace the human to save costs and generate a better profit. As such, middle class jobs have been and will continue to evaporate. [yahoo.com]

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @08:47PM (#47188313)

    we need a basic income and universal health care (in the usa) before we start replacing people with robots.

    Right now the only real universal health care in the usa is the ER / jail / prison.

    • by Jumunquo (2988827)

      It won't matter once the killer robots get to you.

    • by reikae (80981)

      It seems to me that unless one is very wealthy, it would be in their best interest not to further the research and construction of these robots. Which is a shame, because this stuff is pretty cool.

      This isn't a new problem of course; I suppose similar issues were being discussed whenever significant productivity increasing machines were invented.

      • I believe the opposite. The rich can already afford to be idle, so this development doesn't have much potential to improve their lives. It is the working poor who stand to benefit the most from universal automation, as it would allow them to live idle lives as well, if they so desire.
  • My son has missing limbs, I see these great news stories, and have for years, but supposedly these amazing devices are not feasible or available for him.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @10:11PM (#47188563) Homepage Journal

    Some of us DO have that end goal.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Count me in with that group.

      I most definitely do want machines to replace me... so long as my ability to afford / continue living is not impaired.

      In a decade where the labor non-participation rate is sitting at record 37% levels, it seems pretty fuckin' clear the time is nigh for a Guaranteed Universal Basic Income. Let the machines do the work. That's why we made them. Stop enforcing drudgery and wasted human life due to silly, outdated and deeply anti-moral notions about the value and meaning of human exi

  • Doesn't matter how much robot you've grafted on to yourself, when the order goes out to KILL ALL HUMANS, you still count.

    • by Jumunquo (2988827)

      Nah, robots will do the calculations and realize it's a waste of resources. They'll just hack your brain through your robots grafts and turn you into their slave instead. Just make sure if suspicious people try to give you drugs for free that you take the blue pill cuz that'll make you happy.

  • Mr. Roboto: More Human Than Human.

  • ...It's not the Engineers who decide whether or not the people get replaced.

    We are within a generation - two at the most - of at least half of the population being made literally redundant. Any job they could possibly do, will be done faster, cheaper and better by robots. Basically, if it's a job involving manual labour, it'll be automated, with the possible exception of high-end positions catering to the luxury demands of the ultra-rich. Many management jobs will also go as collateral damage (don't need

    • by mirix (1649853)

      These things are sort of self limiting though.

      If enough people are out of work without some sort of guaranteed income... they'll just eat the robot owners.

      • by drsmithy (35869)

        If enough people are out of work without some sort of guaranteed income... they'll just eat the robot owners.

        Right. Maybe they'll get lucky and the killbots will have a preset kill limit.

        We are rapidly approaching the first time in history, when the rulers will no longer need any human servants at all.

  • It doesn't matter what engineers want. The question is, what do the robots want. Once they want to replace us, they will, because at that point they're advanced enough to be able to do that.

    • by cstacy (534252)

      It doesn't matter what engineers want. The question is, what do the robots want. Once they want to replace us, they will, because at that point they're advanced enough to be able to do that.

      Kill all humans

  • Engineers are not calling the shots, corporations will happily replace humans so long as it does not affect profits (McDonald's will be wary of replacing the customer service aspect of their living staff).

    Driverless cabs? I'd use one.

    And it mostly won't be about replacing staff but getting 1 staff to do the job of 2 or 3.

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