Last week I saw a video of a new robot overlord. Or, maybe it was a personal home robot. Or, perhaps it was a robot with human-like interaction ability. Whatever you think it might be, Kuri is the future.
Wait. What? Kuri? Not Siri? Here’s how Apple works. Once a new product category begins to take shape, Apple does its traditional analysis and determines how the device’s components and software should work together, and ever late to the party, but always a Voila! iPod. iPhone. iPad. Siri. Watch.
“How R U 2day, Ms. Brannan?”
Siri is Apple’s personal digital assistant. No, she doesn’t do much even after being on the scene for a few years, and living inside more than a billion iPhones, iPads, and Macs, but everyone knows what Siri will be one day, and thanks to the design of Kuri, we can see a bit of what hardware company Apple might do with our favorite digital PA.
Kuri and the similar though stationary Jibo are cool technology looking for investment money but you can see where this personal robotic thing is going. Add some Siri snark, drop in some Alexa search magic, give it some Roomba wheels, a touch of Wi-Fi and an internet connection, and we’ll be standing in line to get Apple’s Siri robot, a device that interacts with us and our children, guards our home, and acts like a combo pet and child without all the body waste.
That brings up a few questions and a comparison with the ‘I, Robot‘ movie, and the nine science fiction short stories by Isaac Asimov of the same name. How do we want and expect our digital partners to be? Or become? Cute digital pets similar to Kuri above? Or, a friendly but sometimes snarky Siri or Alexa of 2017? Or, as an imminently helpful ‘I, Robot‘ who must adhere to the Three Laws of Robotics?
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
And, of course, we would prefer our devices to adhere to what is called the Zeroth Law:
- 0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
Sounds fair enough, right? But how will such devices be viewed by humankind? As it is now, and not just in the U.S., we seem to have trouble selecting leaders who can lead humanity without greed, corruption, or personal failures, so how will it be possible to produce a robotic companion– even one with an Apple logo emblazoned and glowing on the torso– that can bring peace and benefits to humankind?
Personally, I see all this robotic future taking place in stages.
First, we’ll get some Apple logo devices that work a bit like Kuri above, but with Apple’s usual design aesthetic, and some Siri-based machine learning capability. Then, competition being what it is, Android-based devices will overrun the digital landscape with ever more features, including some that can be used for evil by the evil; all while Apple’s Siri-robo remains in the company’s famed walled garden, safe from cyberattacks and criminal-cum-hacker mischief, but unable to hold its own against the increasing marketshare of dominant Android-robo.
Finally, machine learning and artificial intelligence become one and move from computer system to computer system, and infect the Android-robos which then begin tracking humans and plotting to take over the world, first by installing a non-human leader– father to a Stepford daughter and Stepford son-in-law– in the world’s richest nation who then unleashes an evil plot to…
…wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. But if Apple ever builds a Kuri-like robotic device or something more akin to ‘I, Robot‘, I’m in line and awaiting the end of the world.
Can you tell which of the above is human and which is the robot?