Tuesday, 28 April 2015

What makes a robot?

Personally, I find it a bit misleading to call something a "robot" if it is completely remote-controlled by a human. Yes, it might have some neat features and perform a useful task, like a snowplow I saw recently, but that just makes it a sophisticated power tool, not a robot. I mean, if a remote-controlled vehicle is all it takes to be called a robot, then I had a robot toy car when I was a kid.

I'll grant that there's going to be a blurry line here. If a remote controlled vehicle has on-board sensors that it uses to, say, avoid rolling off cliffs, but you are otherwise controlling it yourself, is it really a robot? Any question of classification ultimately devolves into this kind of nitpicky legalism, so at a certain point the question becomes a bit of a meaningless time-sink. I just think that using the word "robot" sets up certain expectations of autonomy that are often not delivered.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's the semi-autonomous machines that give the most trouble.
PPS - Taxonomically, that is. I'm sure fully-autonomous ones are the most trouble behaviourally.

No comments: