July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 4 - A Day in the Life of a Robot
This chapter begins with the résumé of a computer. The year is 2019 and computer is 58 years old. It's been repaired several times; one time its memory was restored by "tape."
Clarke says that by 2019 the descendants of the machine like the one in the résumé will be involved in every occupation. He says we will work alongside the machines and live with them. Our homes will be a kind of robot, with all of its systems controlled by a central computer. Meals could be prepared for us by a machine that's part refrigerator, part oven. Vacuuming may be done by machines that come out of hiding according to pre-programmed schedules. Homes will become more "robot friendly"--sleek inside, with fewer obstacles that might trip up machines. Personal robots will do things like set the table, take out the garbage and so on. Because the workplace will be so roboticized, we'll have lots of time to walk our robocats and dogs.
From the home of the future Clarke goes to the job of the future and says that robots will dominate industry. "The factory of 2019 won't have humans on the production lines." Nearly true, from what I've seen of today's assembly lines. Clarke says robots will take many forms--clusters of arms, smart carts and so forth. True again. He says that individual machines in work settings will be supervised by other machines, and he uses the example of HAL, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL permeates the spacecraft. Clarke says that labor unions will shrink as there are fewer dues-paying members, but the upside to that is that the laid off will have plenty of time to walk their robodogs.
Robots will be relied on to carry out the more dangerous jobs--working in nuclear reactors, firefighting, mining. They will need to work independently and quickly in such environments, so that means they'll have advanced brains. And their optics will be capable of seeing multiple spectra.
Robots will also perform many farm jobs. They'll scan for weeds and spray them with insecticides. They'll also collect chicken eggs, a sensitive job that will require a kind of epidermis full of electronic sensors.
Hostile environments like the deep sea and outer space will be populated by remote-controlled robots. Clarke says the current (1986) space shuttle arm will evolve into arms that are serpentine and perhaps a mile long. He says robots will be guided by people wearing exoskeleton control suits, and eventually the robots will be self-guiding.
Description of such advances leads Clarke to consider the military uses of robots in the future. He mentions Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, which prevent robots from harming humans through action or inaction. But Clarke's a practical guy and knows better. He says a killer robot was unveiled in 1984, a sentry with machine guns and a grenade launcher. He also says that not wanting to place soldiers in harm's way will be the military's justification for developing lethal robots.
At the end of the chapter Clarke says that someday robots will be able to procreate. Mankind will develop machines capable of making other machines like themselves. Homo Sapiens may be replaced by the tool it created.
THOUGHTS: Clarke covers so much ground in this chapter that I'm not sure which of his predictions came true. Recently I saw a video of a clunky apple-picking robot, but that's a newly-developed device, so I assume we're not as far along as Clarke thought we would be in farming.
But human nature being what it is, I expect we're farther
along with killer robots. Below are some links that go to pages of videos showing state-of-the-art robotics. Keep in mind that no military is ever going to allow public scrutiny of its true
cutting-edge technology:duckduckgo.com/?q=most+advanced+robots& ... ;ia=videosduckduckgo.com/?q=boston+dynamics+robot ... ;ia=videosPutin's robo-nauts prepare for lift-off: Russia's space agency releases eerie footage of human-like android Fedor as he gets ready to join the International Space Station crew next weekdailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-735 ... Fedor.html