I just finished reading an article concerning a humanoid robot that will be "born" nine months from now. This begs the question, "Why do we need robots to look and act like people?"


Artificial Brains

About a dozen years ago I found myself alone at my computer, looking for someone to talk to via instant messaging. It came as a bit of a surprise that none of my friends were online. Rather than ponder why I was on my computer and alone on a Saturday night, I went the other way and "created" a friend. I spent the next few weeks coding an artificially intelligent "friend" who actually thought about his questions and answers based on my questions and answers. His personality was strikingly similar to my own, which made me chuckle, and others cringe. I called him SAM. (No relation to SolarWinds' SAM (Server & Application Monitor)).


Artificial People

It's only a matter of time before robots act indistinguishably from people. But why? I think Dr. Ian Malcom (Jurassic Park) put it best when he said, "We spent so much time trying to figure out whether or not we could that we didn't stop and ask whether or not we should." Thank you Dr. Malcom (an artificial person in his own right). Now I, Bronx (an artificial name for a real person - vis-à-vis, me), will ask that question, among others.


Moral Questions

Clearly there are some philosophical questions that need asking and answering. Even I'm guilty of being lazy in my thinking. Look at the Artificial Brains section above. I referred to a piece of software as His. Perhaps I should have thought more about why I had no friends at that moment rather than create one. Beyond that, imagine human-like robots were available today and ask yourself the following:

  • Should we build robots identical to humans? Initially it sounds like a good idea, but to what end? C-3P0 was human-esque and he was little more than a stumbling translator. R2-D2 seemed more efficient with his wheels and jet pack. The robots in the movie AI were essentially people, emotions, intelligence, and all. An emotional connection with a machine? Curious.
  • Do we need/want an emotional connection with a machine?  Probably not, but it is bound to happen. I never cried over a broken toaster and a humanoid robot should be no different. Making something that looks and acts human will probably create emotional havoc at some point.
  • What physical benefit will an artificial person bring? Robots are a great help when designed for a specific purpose, but why a human-like robot? You may be thinking that a humanoid can help the elderly and sick. That may be true, but why does it need to look like a person? My robot vacuum helps me and looks nothing like me. (I'm sure the robot is thankful for that.)
  • Who will be the master? In the movie, The Terminator, a race of robots outsmarted their human creators. The same is true in the movie, The Matrix, except that their world was software based. Do we want to risk this? It's only a matter of time before the machines become smarter than the people. To keep up, we'll probably end up merging with the machines at some point. "Honey, I love your sense of humor and the way your bionic eyes sparkle in the animated moonlight" Sigh.
  • Will this humanoid be a substitute for something/someone lacking in your life? Perhaps it's a better idea to deal directly with any and all emotional issues rather than put "a band-aid over a bullet wound."
  • Will having a fake person around the house allow you to express yourself in ways otherwise socially unacceptable where real people are concerned? If the answer is yes, you probably have issues you have not properly dealt with.You need to learn to be more socially accommodating, at the very least. If the answer is no, you don't need one. There are plenty of real people out there.


Real World AI

Fortunately, we are still in control of the machines. SolarWinds provides a type of AI when monitoring your network environment. (Let the software run around and figure out the problem, not you!). Some of our best are: