The Ultimate Guide to Understanding
Introduction to AI and Robotics
The idea of intelligent robots has been with us since our cultural infancy in ancient Greece. Greek myth gives us the story of the gigantic steam-powered bronze humanoid Talos, forged by the blacksmith god Hephaestus as a warrior guardian. Talos, by all appearances, was an autonomous automaton, or a machine that could move intelligently of its own volition but which served the will of Hephaestus to guard mankind. But Talos though became too warlike, ultimately threatening human life to the point where he had to be destroyed. It may be here that an age-old mistrust of artificial intelligence was first sown, a mistrust still coloring our thoughts and reactions around innovations happening now in the modern world.
Skip forward to the first half of the 20th century. At this point, the idea of robots was so consumably commonplace that Lester del Rey’s 1938 short story “Helen O’Loy” featured an anthropomorphic robot so female in appearance and demeanor that she caused both her inventors to fall in love with her.
Then, one year later, Eando Binder’s “I, Robot” 1939 science fiction tale spun a yarn of an intelligent robot unjustly accused of murdering its creator. There was still that lingering negativity that artificial intelligence robots might not be servants we could ever fully trust.
The point here is that proponents of artificial intelligence, as applied to robotics, have cultural biases to overcome to ensure modern-day acceptance of their ideas and products. But, thanks to the demands of industry coupled with the natural progression of the sciences, we’ve just about completely overcome those kinds of reservations. And even though most experts tell us AI is still in its infancy, the sheer magnitude of artificial intelligence applied to robotics is such that the Pentagon agency DARPA has just authorized two billion dollars to extend AI’s frontiers and applications within society.