Computers occupy a huge part of our everyday lives now, with almost no area of what we do that doesn’t involve a computer somewhere. It’s almost inconceivable to most people to not use a computer of some sort every day, whether it be their own desktop, tablet or mobile or one they use at work to fulfil their job function.
We use them to access the billions of web pages available on the world-wide-web (www) or to do our banking, online searching and purchasing, or to communicate with our friends and family through social media platforms like facebook. Even if someone doesn’t use a computer directly, every time you go into a shop or business, their sales and stock ordering are all done by computer.
Not content with designing computers that just help us be more efficient and accurate, scientists around the world are also working on numerous projects to take computers to the next step to become more human-like and intuitive in the way that they process information and perform tasks.
The challenge for these scientists is how to make a computer “think” like a human, with all the complex attributes such as speech, feelings of love and fear, desires, intuition, decisions based on past experiences, genetically-inherited traits and responses and masculine or feminine characteristics. What a challenge!
The difference between the human brain and a computer is a computer is effectively a large calculator with memory, that’s able to process and store data and an increasingly complex number of other tasks, and a human brain performs tasks and solves problems using a wide array of information from our eyes, ears and other senses, memory of previous experiences, intuition or a “hunch” about a situation etc etc.
If we could build computers that operate and process information and perform tasks similarly to how humans do these things, then there would be lots of useful applications for them in dangerous, hostile, uncomfortable or tedious work environments, hence manufacturers are racing each other to design and develop cost-effective robotic machines as quickly as possible.
The development of such powerful machines raises questions of ethics and the potential dangers of becoming too dependent on something so complex as well as trying to avoid something going very wrong. Some of the world’s military leaders recently agreed to limiting using armed robots for military use, for moral, ethical and safety reasons. They could become quiet killing-machines that do not discriminate between an enemy or non-enemy.
The ongoing research and development of robotics is inevitable, but we must move forward with caution, and ask ourselves whether we need that level of gadgetry and the risks involved in adopting such technology into our lives. It’s great having computers that can help us with everyday things, but I think I’d still prefer to interact with a real-life person with real feelings and thoughts, not just a machine that’s programmed to behave like a human!