I’m a science booster. I’m a robot booster. When it comes to advances, I’m on Team Boost.
But I gotta say, I have a kind of pit-of-the-stomach uncanny valley reaction in my gut and spine when I see robots veering toward anthropomorphism like this.
Scientists at UC3M are joining together in a shared project to work on endowing robot hands to….
replicate [the human hand's] grasping and movement abilities in an artificial, anthropomorphic articulated hand, thus endowing it with greater autonomy and producing natural and effective movements.
I’m of two diametrically opposed minds on this.
On the one (robotic) hand: It is all too often the convention of sci-fi movies to sell a secretly conservative, anti-progress message of “there are something mankind is not supposed to know...” or to show the folly of hubris in “playing god,” with the implicit idea that we have what we are supposed to have, and that creating new possibilities is taboo.
On paper, I don’t like that idea.
Jonas Salk “played god” and eradicated polio and eased human suffering on an almost unimaginable scale. Space telescopes are peering into the Universe’s past and unraveling the mysteries of all of creation, adding to human understanding in ways never dreamed of before.
The scientists of CERN, with the Large Hadron Collider search for elusive, theoretical particles that could bridge together a grander understanding of the origin of mass. With only 27 kilometers worth of innovated construction, they may just discover how all of space and time were formed.
That’s all awesome, in the old sense of the word, usually reserved for religious apprehensions of gods. Full of awe. Also, in the newer sense of the word; the “dude!” flavored meaning of “awesome.” Because seriously; how awesome is all that.
When I see a robot hand like this, in its infant stages, rudely approximating the fluid gestures of its human builders, I want to throw it into a pool of molten steel, TERMINATOR 2 style.
What causes that gut-level reaction? Is it a learned, Pavlovian involuntary response from so many books and movies cautioning against the unforeseen consequences of too much advancement too quickly?
Or is it a more primal, instinctual urge? Like the Darwinian practice of a lion destroying the cubs of a competing male?
I dunno. Either way, it all comes to the same thing: I see this hand in this picture and I can only imagine it, after some Moore’s Law driven iterations.
It’s all cute and fun now, with the oohs and ahhs and the safe 15-year projections on when some piece of tech might be able to naturally know its way around a screwdriver. But the same hands that we use to hold and manipulate screwdrivers also do some shady business.
I see this thing, in its future incarnation, all too easily and effortlessly pointing and firing a sleek machine-gun at its meat-based, wetware, legacy-version progenitors.
Which is to say, us.