Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind

July 16, 2010
author |
Hans Moravec
year published |

Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent MindAmazon | Here come the free-roaming robot vacuum cleaners, self-driving cars, robot chess champions, robots that fly and swim. If these machine intelligences already tooling around or on the drawing boards leave you blasé, consider this: Robotics pioneer Moravec predicts that if the present exponential growth rate of computing power continues, super-robots that perceive, intuit, adapt, think and even simulate feelings much like human beings will be buildable before 2050.

Mixing broad speculations and practical suggestions for speeding up robotics research and development, Moravec, a founder of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, picks up where he left off in Mind Children (in which he suggested the uploading of human minds to software). In this new mind-bending futurist scenario, he predicts that advanced robots will perform all essential manufacturing and food production, pushing humanity into greater leisure and the sharing of wealth. Moravec’s hypothetical robots also launch into the cosmos as colonizers, transferring whole industries to outer space.

Yet, as these super-minds repeatedly restructure themselves, physical activity will increasingly give way to pure thought; cyberspace will become the inhabited universe and, in a science fiction-like twist, our robotic progeny may turn away from us in behavior and motive. Moravec dares to dream of a trillion-fingered medical robot whose molecular interventions allow it to act as diagnostic instrument, surgeon and medicine, and of quantum computers that make time travel conceivable. In this remarkable report, Moravec may have looked deeper into some aspects of the future than anyone else.