At CARE, we want to equip Christians to be salt and light and to think biblically on difficult issues. In this digital age, technology is developing all the time, leading some to talk about the fourth industrial revolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and Robotics. This brave new world raises massive questions about our human identity. But as Christians, what should our response be? We commissioned Prof Nigel Cameron, an expert in new technologies to write The Robots are Coming: Us, Them and God. It’s easily accessible and a great starting point if you want to know more about what’s been going on and how we can respond. For a limited time, the book is on sale at £4.99, reduced from £9.99. This is the second in a series of blogs based on the book to give you a flavour of what you can expect..! You can read the first one here.
Back in the 60s and 70s, word processors were brought in as an early example of artificial intelligence threatening jobs. So, are robots going to undermine human jobs?
Care for the elderly
Because people are living longer and in many developed countries are also having fewer children, there’s a growing crisis in the care of the elderly. Things are worst of all in Japan, where already one fifth of the population is over 65 – and, as we know, the Japanese are one of the longest-lived nations of all.
Japanese Robot companies are leading the world in making what are called ‘carebots’. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
According to a report in American Business Insider magazine, Honda’s ASIMO Robot can take on tasks like turning off the lights and getting food. ASIMO is a ‘humanoid’ – looks a bit like a human.
But another successful Robot doesn’t look like one of us at all. Panasonic has created Resyone, a wheelchair that can convert to being a bed, so someone unable to get up on their own doesn’t need to move from one to the other.
Still in the experimental stage, Robobear is being developed by a research institute and counts as a humanoid – though maybe we should call him a bearoid – and is intended to be able to pick people up and carry them around.
Meanwhile, Robot pets are also all the rage in Japan. People need company as well as nursing care, so the Hasbro company has developed a line of cats (catoids?) called Joy for All. They keep you company – without all the problems of claws, litter trays, dead pigeons, and the occasional bite, (which, as some of us know, even the most affectionate cats sometimes dole out).
An obvious question
It’s an obvious question, but just because it saves money, do we want our old folk taken care of by a combination of Robotic beds, bears, mechanical humanoids and artificial cats?
Robots as surgeons and therapists
Robots are already being used as surgeons – their steady hands and ability to make tiny movements mean they are used in some of the most complicated precision operations. And they can also do things at a distance from the doctor in charge – over the internet.
IBM’s top health exec Thomas Balkizas said: “In the future, a patient could interact with our cognitive technology before they even speak to anyone at the hospital.”
We are well on the way to Robots being used as therapists – for example, there is evidence that children with autism may actually respond better to computers than they do to people, so quite an effort has been made to develop a diagnostic and helping tools for them.
Some are predicting Robots will also increasingly be used in education. Professors in universities will go from teaching a class of 20, to reaching two million. Is there any end to the kind of tasks Robots can take on? I certainly don’t have an answer.
To find out the answer to that question, why not buy yourself a copy of The Robots are Coming: Us, Them and God. For a short period of time, it’s available at a discounted price of £4.99, down from its normal price of £9.99. You can get a copy from our shop.