Monkey See, Robot Do: Why Robots Are Only As Smart As the Data We Feed Them?

Robotics and what it means for the job market in the near future has been a big topic for the past few years. While there it has been depicted in entertainment for the better part of a century, living that future is on the horizon right now and it leaves many people feeling anxious, especially about how it will affect their lives. The first fear people mention in regards to these machines is that unemployment will be on the rise as workers are forced out of their positions for new these machines. This is an understandable concern since automated robots are on the rise, particularly in the manufacturing industry. The thing is, the rise of robotics also create other jobs for people in design, software, robotics education, and the management side of things.

Monkey See, Robot Do: Why Robots Are Only As Smart As the Data We Feed Them?

Another anxiety many have what we will give robots an artificial intelligence that rivals humans’. After all, “experts” have been predicting intelligent robots to arise within the next decade while the media churns out entertainment which depicts the destruction of society at their hands. All to say, this is not what people should expect.  It is true that robots are becoming more efficient, but their advanced mechanics do not equal high intelligence.

What is Intelligence?

Quantifying intelligence nearly an impossible feat when discussing humans, let alone bringing robotics into the equation. Humans have many different kinds of intelligence at their disposal. Anyone who has ever worked on a team with others can see this first hand. It is the reason that people have different strengths to offer, and why people go on to excel in different subjects and industries. And this does not even allude to types like emotional intelligence though.

Many papers, theories, and philosophies have been created around the topic of intelligence.  Some coincide, and some contradict each other. However, one quality of intelligence often agreed upon is the ability for creative and independent thought, as well as the ability to learn. This refers to the ability to come up with ideas that have not been explicitly told or implicitly suggested, while also being able to cumulate knowledge to be built upon.

Only as Smart as They’re Programmed

The first issue with artificial intelligence is that the machines are only as smart as the data that is programmed into them at this point in time. The tasks that they are used for, while important, are still very tedious and menial so they do not require much complex thought or problem-solving ability. Everything that they are able to do is thanks to a person with automation training. And while the ability to learn would be beneficial as time goes on so that robots can be changed with the products they make, learning requires improvisation and the ability for fluidity. Programming this ability is difficult to figure out because by definition programming tells the proper responses, movements, and how to act or behave.

As the jobs that robots are utilized in becoming more advanced and technical, their programming will also advance so that they are able to complete the jobs. It will look like they are learning and growing in intelligence, but the principle is still very much the exact same; the machinery was built, and then a human inputted the complex programming and software into it in order to have the machinery complete the desired task.

The Issue of Consciousness

This brings us to the final topic of consciousness. One of the things that make humans what they are is the fact that humans are self-aware creatures. All of the other aspects of intelligence would be difficult to have without this fact, and vice versa. What makes humans self-aware is that they are intelligent, and they are intelligent because they are self-aware. How to then create this within artificial intelligence is a tricky thing, and inputting data for consciousness defeats the purpose if it can then be taken away. So the question of “how” remains. If entertainment is to be believed that the gradual advancement of technology will ultimately lead to this evolution, this still puts the timeline far in the future and not at the ten-year mark that many have been calling for.

In The End…

Robotics is a growing field, and it is the way of the future. While people are going to have to adapt to the changing times and job market, it won’t be one with the robots that they imagine. While this might be the case in the distant future, the next decade will not see robotics with artificial intelligence that rivals that of a human’s. They are still at a stage that they require programming and data fed to them in order to operate.

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