This 3 part series of posts aims at introducing the topics of machine learning and arti?cial intelligence to an audience with no or very little background in the ?eld of mathematics, engineering and programming. These technologies are slowly becoming a household name and we, knowingly or unknowingly, are using them in our daily work. But before we delve into the world of neural networks and algorithms, I would like to start by discussing the love hate relationship that we (humans) have with technology and in this case with “Robots”. Robot as de?ned in the Oxford dictionary is “an intelligent arti?cial being typically made of metal and resembling in some way a human or other animal”. In the past few decades we have all been mesmerized, scared, intrigued, frightened, and all the other human emotions by some of these very inhumane objects. Ask someone to describe a robot and more often than not they would come with something like “a mechanical being made of metal, with blinking lights and buttons, and having a funny-sounding voice”.
The word ‘Robot’ was ?rst used in the English language as early as 1839 in reference to a “central European system of serfdom, by which a tenant’s rent was paid in forced labour or service” (OED). Robot comes from the Old Church Slavonic word “robota” (Czech), meaning “servitude, forced labour or drudgery”. Czech playwright, novelist and journalist named Karel ?apek (1880-1938) introduced the word robot in his 1920 play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robot). R.U.R. tells the story of a company using the latest scienti?c technologies to mass produce workers who “lack nothing but a soul”, to perform the work that humans preferred not to do. The play ends with the robots revolting against the humans and killing almost everyone before realizing that humans are the only ones with the means and knowledge to manufacture more robots. The play ends when two robots somehow acquire the human traits of love and compassion and go off into the sunset to make the world anew. The whole concept of Robot has become a hit since then. But even in this ?rst known play about robots, they have been depicted as evil creatures that would one day revolt and wipe out the human race. This idea has lived on till date and from novels to Hollywood blockbusters, robots have always been portrayed as a threat to human existence. The life journey of a robot has gone through the various stages of evolution just like human beings, but they are still looked at with an eye of skepticism. I tried to explain robotics and its future to one of my friends and his ?rst reaction was “robots are bad for humanity”. And my ?rst reaction was “he is being watching way too many Hollywood movies”. But the question remains, why do we fear robots?
The next post will explore the “Psychology behind the fear”.