When asked to define what a robot is, people generally mention one of two “types,” the first is usually something from the sci-fi robot pantheon of our collective pop culture conscious such as R2-D2 or the Terminator.
For those with a lower proclivity toward fiction, it often means industrial robots, drones or robot vacuum cleaners.
Whether the robot envisioned by the mind’s eye of the public is real or fictitious, what escapes most is the penetration of robotics technologies into every aspect of life, or to be more succinct, the roboticization of the world.
As noted by Bruce Schneier: “We’re building a world-sized robot, and we don’t even realize it.”
The accelerating development of mobile robots and artificial intelligence, along with the embedding of sensors and actuators into things, coupled with the collection and analysis of information gathered from the Internet, is creating not merely a world-spanning robot, but an evolving global artificially intelligent robot. Many of its components are already capable of acting autonomously, and the degree of autonomy grows every day.
This expanding entity is learning and affecting our world in ways that we have yet to understand. The Earth is being transformed into a giant networked robot, and this transformation is being driven by the development of the Robot Internet of Things economy.
At present, we have many names for what appears to be disparate systems — self-driving cars, aerial drones, mobile robots, CoBots, smart IoT sensors, smart homes, lights-out manufacturing, and more. However, if you take a step back and look at the big picture, you see that these are but components of a larger machine, an end to which they are the means. That end is the global AIbot, for which these pieces are analogous to its cells and organs.
For self-driving cars, several major automakers have already announced plans to release commercial products within the next few years. The technology to create such cars is ready, hence the push by traditional automakers and technology companies such as Uber to commercialize them as quickly as possible. These self-driving cars along with other mobile robots will reduce traffic congestion and leave many jobs on the ash bin of history.
The growing capabilities of the individual components that make up the global AIbot will enable the system to infinitely improve itself. It will be an evolving, multiplex communication and action network that is not unlike a biological system with components that act independently or in coordination, but evolving at the speed of light versus the speed of mitosis. Machines think about thinking
From a predictive analytics perspective, the opportunities for the application of the global AIbot’s data are limited only by our imaginations, from knowing when a component will fail to automatically adjusting self-driving vehicle routes based on patterns, to delivering medications in a timely manner to a pensioner at home alone, or deploying aerial drones to monitor and neutralize terrorist threats.
At the end of the day, all autonomous systems will eventually have the capacity to build predictive capabilities — in other words, the machines will learn machine learning — the next step on the staircase to machine metacognition.
When the global AIbot possesses metacognitive abilities, it will not only be manufacturing and information workers who are displaced, but other professions which had previously been viewed as safe from automation’s reach such as programmers, insurance adjustors, and medical doctors — estimates currently reach as high as 70 percent of the total global workforce, will need to seek other options. Predictive analytics is the catalyst that will ignite the RIoT economy.
The global AIbot and RIoT economy, which will be built on a network of robots and sensor-equipped objects accessed through the Internet, has massive implications for the world that reach far beyond simply employment issues. The global AIbot and RIoT will reshape the world and most of us will be completely off guard when it comes online. ‘You will be assimilated’
The market is already awash with Internet-enabled thermostats, light bulbs, refrigerators, wearables, consumer AI, and cars. Within a decade, everything will be part of the RIoT: the things we own, the things we interact with, autonomous robots that interact with each other and human beings, and the natural world.
The global AIbot will perform actions for us and in our name. Human intervention will become increasingly unnecessary. The sensors will collect data. AI will determine what to do. And the robots and actuators will carry out its actions in our world. The sensors are the system’s eyes, ears, and nose, the robots and actuators are the muscles, hands, and feet, the cloud is the brain, and the stuff in the middle is its nervous system. The global AIbot will sense, think, and act.
This global AIbot’s autonomy will grow, incrementally in the beginning, and then exponentially with the increasing power of AI. Drones and other mobile robots will be deployed to places from which the global AIbot needs data. Mobile robots with actuators will go places to make changes to the physical world as needed. Other parts of the global AIbot will “decide” where to go, what data to collect, and what to do.
The global AIbot will change the world in ways that are difficult to predict, and these changes will be a mix of good and bad. It will maximize profits for those who control the components. It will shift power balances, render many businesses obsolete, and alter societies.
These changes are inherently unpredictable, because they are based on the emergent properties of these new technologies interacting with each other, the world, and us. It is relatively easy to forecast technological changes caused by scientific advances, but much more challenging to forecast social changes due to those technological advancements.
It was easy to see that better engines would mean that cars could go faster. It was much more difficult to predict that the result would be the rise of suburbs and new economic paradigms built around it (drive-through restaurants, etc.). Self-driving cars, autonomous drones and other mobile robots, cheap and ubiquitous environmental sensors, and a network that anticipates our needs will mark the beginning of a new world.
The global AIbot is being built right now and it will go online sooner than we expect. It will change the world to a greater degree than any technological change in history. We need to prepare ourselves to control it or run the risk of being controlled by it.
By Robert CheekRobert Cheek is an analyst at HMC Investment Securities, the investment-banking arm of the Hyundai Motor Group. He has worked in the gaming, mobile device, eSports, and robotics industries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or robbtherobotguy.com. — Ed.