C3PO: your own personal chef, day care provider, maid, butler…really?

“In five or ten years robots will routinely be functioning in human environments.”

That’s what Reid Simmons, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon, said in a recent National Geographic article titled, “Robots are being created that can think, act, and relate to humans. Are we ready?” The article suggests that a new evolution in robotics, called Actroid androids, are so human-like in appearance and intelligence, that someday they may be available to “cook for us, fold the laundry, even babysit our children or tend to our elderly parents, while we watch and assist from a computer miles away.”

The article poses the question, are we ready for this? (Cue “the 1991 Eurodance single by Belgium-Holland dance group 2 Unlimited”) – sorry couldn’t help it.

In all seriousness, we have for the most part become so completely reliant upon technology in both our work lives and home lives.  We feel naked when we leave home without the smartphone. We have developed an unyielding need to share the nuances of our day with virtual “friends” on social networks. We can’t even conceive of doing any sort of productive work without a laptop or tablet. And, we demand to be connected 100% of the time from anywhere on the globe, and expect that connectivity to be near instantaneous, storage to be virtually limitless.  Face it. We’re spoiled by technology and with each generation, we demand more and more from it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I’m with many of you who say, “give me more,” but when it comes to human-like robots doing human tasks, I have to take pause and, again, ask are we ready for this?

Perhaps we are, for some of those menial tasks that we would like to do without. Then again, maybe I’m old-school, but I would rather pay a kid in the neighborhood to cut the grass or babysit, than fork over more money for technology that undoubtedly will require maintenance – perhaps even more than we humans do.  I would hate to imagine what would happen should an Actroid malfunction during babysitting duty, or while preparing dinner.   Ahhh, but there’s a business opportunity….healthcare for Actroid androids, but let’s not go down that road just now.

If Actroids do become a part of everyday life in the near future, what would you want them to do?

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