Hayden, Thomas, "The Age of Robots" (magazine article)

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Hayden, Thomas, with reporting by Peter Hadfield in Tokyo. "The Age of Robots: The promise and peril of thinking machines" (on cover; subheads internally: "We're close to making humanlike machines. It's time to reckon with the promises and perils"). Science & Ideas . Cover Story", U.S. News and World Report 130.16 (23 April 2001): 45-50.

Coverage for a lay audience of recent work in robotics, with frequent SF allusions, starting with a first-sentence reference to I. Asimov's I, Robot, q.v. under Fiction, and an early allusion to the upcoming (at the time) film A.I., q.v. under Drama. Currently available or scheduled real-world robots considered include Robomower, "the Dyson DC06 robotic vacuum cleaner," and robot toys and pets, including "mechatronic aliens and babies and dinosaurs" (45-46). Deals seriously with the proposition that "[…] progress toward a fully autonomous, intelligent [AI] robot has been so convincing that any number of technofuturists are worrying publicly about the perils of robotics," including Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who has written a prediction "that our own robotic creations might one day replicate themselves and contribute to humankind's demise" (46 [see below, this Category; cf. entries under P. K. Dick for "Autofac," "Defenders," and following]). Still, the article stresses the position of Rodney Brooks of MIT's AI laboratory that "The high marks of Enlightenment thinking—logic and problem solving—turn out to be much easier to simulate than the perceptual and intuitive things that any kid can do" (46)—giving the example of the kind of intelligence needed not only to play chess but also to make soup. So more space in the article is dedicated to the difficulties and possibilities in reproducing not only human thought and language but also humanoid movement, perception, and social signals, and to practical applications for non-AI robots. Walking/manipulating objects: "the Honda P3, a 5-foot, 3-inch […] astronaut look-alike," soon succeed by "the more diminutive Asimo"; "NASA's prototype space worker Robonaut," worked by what we'll call waldoes and the article refers to as "a human operator in a sensor-laden 'tele-presence' suit." Sense perception, facial expressions and social interaction: "the cartoonish, head-only robot Kismet"; Cog. Practical robots: Isac (sic) , of Vanderbilt U., intended as "a gentle care-taker for the disabled; the commercial firm iRobot's Ariel, a terrestrial mine-sweeper, plus "'an emotionally smart' doll My Real Baby and an eight-wheeled, stair-climbing" home-security robot; RedZone Robotics "has robots with names like Houdini, Pioneer, and Fury" to work in dangerous areas such as toxic waste dumps or nuclear reactors (48-49).