It was another of those pesky newspaper holidays on Monday, so Our Man had to fish his Japan Times out of the rubbish to have something to read with his Frosties and found (yawn) yet another article about the robot brave new world that is apparently upon us. Our Man was going to just link to it here, but instead, he thought he would write what was going through his sugar coated mind in red as he read:
I, robot, am looking forward to a very bright future
By ROWAN HOOPER
When robot history comes to be written, April 2009 will occupy a prominent place (Eh?). Future robots will look back, perhaps with pride, at the events of this month. (Err, I don't give a f*ck what a future robot will look back to) A robot has been created that has, for the first time, independently advanced scientific knowledge (Er, I doubt it).
We've already got robots that build cars (yes, hasn't that worked out well for everyone?), robots that look like women (Rowan, you really need to get out more often), robots that help around the house and robot pets. Soon we'll have robots that can baby-sit and nurse us (can't wait). But robot scientists? It's a moment that science-fiction writers have anticipated for years, and it's exciting to see it happen in real life (a dream come true).
In fact, the news of the robo-scientist will encourage those who believe — and those who hope — that the next great turning point in human history is almost upon us (when we stop believing everything experts tell us).
What happened is that (human) scientists at Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge in Britain designed a robot... that hypothesized that certain genes in baker's yeast contain the instructions for making specific enzymes, which drive biochemical reactions in yeast cells. Beforehand, the function of those genes was not known (Our man knows a few good uses for yeast too).
Ross King, who led the research, said that if science was more efficient it would be better placed to help solve society's problems (like too many blinking robot stories). "One way to make science more efficient is through automation," he said. "Automation was the driving force behind much of 19th- and 20th-century progress." (Think McDonalds, KFC, FaKin).
King's comments will thrill those futurists (tossers) who talk about "technological singularity" — the next leap forward in progress (A McDonald's in every house?). The American futurist Ray Kurzweil, among others, predicts that will occur when superhuman intelligence is created (Oh, he must be the prototype). Kurzweil and others have plotted the changes in economic growth throughout history. What they have found is that the world economy doubled every 250,000 years until the Agricultural Revolution took off about 12,000 years ago. Then the economy doubled every 900 years. However, starting with the Industrial Revolution just over 200 years ago, the world economy started doubling every 15 years (past performance is no guarantee of future performance, yadda yadda yadda). When the revolution caused by superhuman intelligence — the singularity — kicks in, the economy is predicted to double at least every few months, and perhaps every week (Oh goody. Sure there's enough oil left for that Rowan?). More to the point of this column, the line between human and machine will be blurred and we will enter the age of the "transhuman." (Our Man bloomin' won't, mate)...
Kurzweil says robots will reach human-level intelligence by 2029 (they have already surpassed newspaper columnists'). I can't wait to see it.
Mind you, if Rowan is right after all, Our Man would just like to state on record, he looks forward to serving his robot overlords with gusto.