Professor Illah Nourbakhsh is the director of the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab (CREATE Lab), and head of the Robotics Masters Program in Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. He formerly led the Robotics Group at NASA’s Ames Research Center. A CMU faculty member since 1997, his research includes educational and social robotics and the use of robotic technologies to empower individuals and communities.
Future robots will have superhuman abilities in both the physical and digital realms. They will be embedded in our physical spaces, with the ability to go where we cannot, and will have minds of their own, thanks to artificial intelligence. In Robot Futures, the roboticist Illah Reza Nourbakhsh considers how we will share our world with these creatures, and how our society could change as it incorporates a race of stronger, smarter beings. The ramifications for society are both good and bad, he says, and people need to start thinking about that.
Nourbakhsh contemplates what might happen in the not-so-distant future as robots become both ubiquitous and highly capable. Some robots no doubt will display annoying behaviors — what he calls “robot smog.” Robots, in turn, will bring out the worst in some people, who will see robots as targets for bullying and other abuse. Robots will serve as physical avatars, enabling people to interact simultaneously with others in far-flung locations and circumstances. They may even enable people to assume new and different forms. Robots may well change perceptions of what it means to be human.
“My hope is that this book will help us envision, discuss and prepare for change, so that people and communities can influence how the robot future unfolds,” Nourbakhsh said. In a companion blog to the book, www.robotfutures.org, Nourbakhsh tracks and comments on news stories regarding robotics.