The Future We Believe In
Our take on how robotics will develop into our lives very soon
Elon Musk recently mentioned at TED the mistake people are committing by assuming technology automatically improves. “It only improves if a lot of people work very hard to make it better,” he said.
We find this to be generally true for the future as a whole. While we do agree with the notion of living in the best period of our known history, we are careful with the assumption of the future getting better. Most people would tend to think of the future as a continuous improvement of the present, but statistically speaking we are equally close to degradation over time, if we are not careful planning long-term and putting in the work.
Our view of the future is one of robot companions augmenting our potential as human beings, where these robots will seemlessly transition towards a full integration in our society, and where humans dedicate more time to their personal interests and passion-driven aspirations.
Robot companions will augment our potential
The past decade in robotics has been marked by the “robot exodus” from factories and into our homes. It started with straightforward tasks like mopping floors, folding clothes, mowing lawns or cleaning swimming pools. More recently due to the latest advancements in BCIs (brain-computer interfaces) and the overall reduction in production costs, we begin to see more advanced robots, and far more interesting and interactive. Cozmo, Pepper, or Buddy, are leading a new wave of consumer robots entering the home and aimed towards providing a better human-robot experience. These, however, we believe are only the beginning of what’s to come.
While robots may seem to you as rather a novel topic, we’ve already known for a long time how robots could be more effective at most mechanical jobs, and that’s why they are absolutely disrupting the way factories function. But, what can they do for us at home? Or most importantly, whom will they serve and how? Perhaps, not everyone will require the assistance of a robot companion. As this may be true today (and we don’t want to venture ourselves too far into the future), we’ve decided to start off by building robots for those who might require a higher level of daily assistance, and this is one of the reasons we started building a robot companion for children. Thinking a few years ahead of us, do expect more robots also for other age ranges, such as the elderly, and even robots specialized in niche markets, i.e. daycare home assistants to people in need of a precise treatment or attention.
Overall, all these new robots that will appear in the next decade primarily based upon our needs, will be here to help us get better at being humans, whatever that means, and liberate us from daily home routine, just like they liberated us already from factory mechanical work. Don’t think Terminator. Think BB-8, Rosie, or Baymax.
Robots will unimaginably seemlessly blend in our society
Today, most robots are reserved far away from most judging eyes, and tied to the needs of the professional world. But, what will happen once we start seeing an exponentially larger number of robots around us on a daily basis? What happens when they get personal, and touchy, and warm, and sleep in our living rooms?
On a cultural level, and strictly speaking of the development of our mindset towards robotics, we still have a lot to do in Europe (and we mention Europe since we operate mainly in European markets) compared to other cultures far more accepting and open minded such as the Japanese. To visualize the difference, we encourage you to search ロボット (Japanese for ‘robot’) on the Japanese Google Images site, versus searching ‘robot’ on your own local Google Images. What you will be most likely to find out is that while for the Japanese site you’ve found happy and caring robots helping people, for your local site you’ve found pictures of Terminator and evil robot gods destroying the world. This is simply to highlight the fact that in order to allow robots to enter society, we must first allow ourselves to believe that robots can in fact be good and beneficial for society, and this is all a matter of mindset. Media has already done enough to shape your mind. Make a new understanding of your own.
Truth is, on a biological level as human beings we fear what either looks nothing like us, or what looks identical, like some advanced robots with very human-like bodies. This phenomena is described in the robotics community as the ‘uncanney valley’, and may be part of the reason why culturally speaking we are not accepting of robots in some parts of the world. But our vision of the future includes understanding that robots tomorrow will look nothing like the ones that we see today. To support this are the latest advancements in soft robotics (see the image above) and completely new tissues for robots such as those developed in Harvard with Octobot, that prove only what’s to come in the future: we may no longer recognize the difference between the creators and the created. And this, for the better or for the worse, might just force us to redefine some of our current beliefs and culturally accepted terms about what it is to be human, and ultimately our mindset.
We’ll dedicate more time to living, not doing
One of the main and most important underlying benefits of robotics is automation. We are entering a new era where we as a species no longer need to work to produce the abundance of resources required to maintain our civilization in order. Human labor has existed ever since the first hunters would go out and hunt animals to feed their tribe. Now, for the first time in our history, we will finally have the tools necessary to free ourselves from work as means to live.
This, precisely, is what leads to a second insight which is: What happens when human beings no longer have to work in order to afford a decent living? The answer to this question in our view is an unravelled proactive dedication to individual interests. This, of course, will not be entirely possible for everyone unless other verticals develop alongside robotics, including our very socio-economics. But assuming that they do, robotics is the piece of the puzzle that enables this whole system of passion-driven dedication to work. This ultimately might lead to the greatest shift in human history: moving from a problem-solving society, to one that constantly explores and seeks new opportunities.
At MainBot, our underlying purpose is to create a shared vision about robotics and influence the way the industry will exponentially develop in the coming years. Fear not the future to come, since it is ultimately in the hands of all of us to make it go one way or another. As you might infer from having read this post, we are truly at a point in time that craves revolution, not evolution. Several discussions and obstacles await us on the way to crafting this exciting future we speak of, even to the extreme of having to rethink what it means to be human.
Embrace change. It’s the only constant you can count on in today’s exponentially developing world.
The question now is… What’s your vision? Send us your thoughts.