Monday, August 31, 2009

Well, there goes the neighborhood...

If you haven't seen this video yet, watch it. I'm a couple weeks late for having a timely reply, but I thought it would be nice to record my response for posterity.

Being someone who made similar little videos at my job, I can guarantee that this is 100% legitimate. Well, probably closer to 90% - I'm sure that robot hand doesn't always catch the phone.


Holy smokes, though. Imagine if the Terminator had this hand - just one - in the first Terminator movie. Sarah Connor would have been toast in a second! Add another couple of decades of development, make it two hands, and put SkyNet in charge. Then see what happens. Holy smokes.

I'm watching the US Open as I'm writing this. It's just the first round, but wow - Federer can do some amazing things! For all his strength, dexterity, innate talent, trained skill, the billion years of biological evolution, the thousands of years of technological development, and the hundreds of years of cultural background that has brought him to this point of history, I cannot help but wonder how long humans like him will remain the best on a tennis court. A decade or two? Maybe more?

It all depends on whether somebody convinces enough investors, universities, or government bureaucrats that a tennis-bot is worth $100 million or so to develop...

A general robot that could match Federer and do your dishes? Give it thirty or forty years. Not more than fifty, I would say. Ray Kurzweil thinks I'm a pessimist, and in this area I am. But that's because dealing with the real world is hard. Dealing with abstractions, logic, and ideas, however, is much easier. Considering this, I'd expect we'll have a robot that can match wits with Federer (or Hawking) within two decades. They already surpass us in so many ways, it's only a matter of time before we can consider them better in "most" ways.

Looking forward to it!

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