I was recently reminded of of a Robot developed by Sony a few years ago called QRIO (Quest for Curiosity). The device had some awesome unique features like the ability to recognise people’s faces and the ability to deal with emotional responses such as anger or annoyance. One of the most amazing things about the machine is that it has the ability learn.
It occurs to me though that as intelligent as QRIO may seem, and despite the fact that it can copy and remember behaviour the robot is not truly intelligent because it doesn’t have the ability to make independent decisions – it simply does what it is programmed to do. We must therefore consider what we really mean when referring to an intelligent technology and question if technology can ever be truly intelligent.
There is only one condition in which we can imagine managers not needing subordinates, and masters not needing slaves. This would be if every machine could work by itself, at the word of command or by intelligent anticipation.
It is possible for programmes to be written that can emulate intelligent anticipation. An example would be a Central Heating system that can be programmed to maintain a certain temperature within a set environment. The system anticipates when the consumer is likely to want to turn the heating on, responds to the environmental change and performs the task.
This is not, however, true intelligent anticipation because the system only reacts when a set of pre-programmed conditions are evaluated as true. To be intelligent the system would have to decide what the required temperature was without any human intervention.
It occurs to me that even if such a system were technically possible consumers would react negatively as the concept comes close to the Big Brother totalitarian state described by Orwell in his Novel Nineteen Eighty Four.
Darwin’s theory of Evolution demonstrates that the human race has evolved into an intelligent species, embracing inteligence to survive; it could be argued that truly inteligent systems are the next stage of human evolution and could be used as a self protection mechanism to assist our survival.
Until technology enables this evolutionary shift we much resign ourselves to devising methods of control for automated systems that make working with technology more convenient for the consumer, while recognising that sometimes a task does not require automation because the consumer is content with the current solution, or because society is not yet ready to embrace the long term possibilities or consequences.
If you want to find out more about QRIO check out these links: