Ask A Scientist

Will robots take over the world in the future? 

Asked by: Keith Dellapenta
School: Jennie F. Snapp Middle School, Union-Endicott
Grade: 7
Teacher: Kimberly Coury
Hobbies/Interests: Minecraft, LEGOs
Career Interest: YouTube

 

Answer from Hiroki Sayama

Director, Collective Dynamics of Complex Systems Research Group, Binghamton University

Research area: Complex systems, artificial life, mathematical biology, computer and information sciences Interests/hobbies: Traveling, walking, swimming            

I know many people have this concern about a Terminator-ish robot apocalypse in the future. Honestly, as a computer scientist who studies computational intelligence, I personally think it would be fabulous if we could build such super-intelligent machines that could rule the world!

Well, I got a little carried away. Don't worry, such an apocalypse won't happen anytime in the future. This is because robots don't have any motivation or desire to take over the world. They need us humans to design, build, program and repair them. Robots aren’t capable of self-reproducing, self-repairing and evolving all by themselves (which, by the way, is an interesting yet extremely difficult thing to accomplish); they are heavily dependent on humans, so there is no logical reason for them to want to eliminate us. I believe machines and humans will coexist and cooperate for any foreseeable future.

There are a few scenarios in which we may still worry about the risks of being with robots, however. One is malfunctioning. Even if robots themselves do not have any evil intentions, mistakes in their program codes might cause serious problems. Another possibility is an intentional abuse of robots by people who have harmful intent. In either case, the real cause of those problems is still in the humans' side. We need to be responsible for taking good care of these poor robots.

Finally, what robots and machines are actually taking over right now are certain kinds of jobs --- specifically, jobs that require precise machinery operation, accurate repetitive computation, quick information memorization and search, and demanding physical labor. For example, just a few decades ago, it was a special skill of trained locksmiths to create a copy of your key. But nowadays, an automated key-copying machine can create a bunch of copies of your key in seconds at a very cheap price. Such job takeovers will likely continue as you grow up, so it is important for you to start thinking about what you will do in the future. Remember, humans are way better than robots at thinking, decision-making, creativity, and meeting and taking care of people. Jobs that require those skills will continue to exist even when robots are all around us.

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Last Updated: 9/25/14