The mind of the machine

Chapter The mind of the machine

Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics Third Edition Book
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Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics Third Edition Book

  • LimitationsIn theory, the technology for telepresence exists right now. But there are some prob-lems that will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.The most serious limitation is the fact that telemetry cannot, and never will, travelfaster than the speed of light in free space. This seems fast at first thought (186,282miles, or 299,792 kilometers, per second). But it is slow on an interplanetary scale. Themoon is more than a light second away from the earth; the sun is 8 light minutes away.The nearest stars are at distances of several light years. The delay between the sendingof a command, and the arrival of the return signal, must be less than 0.1 second if telep-resence is to be realistic. This means that the telechir cannot be more than about 9300miles, or 15,000 kilometers, away from the control operator.Another problem is the resolution of the robot’s vision. A human being with goodeyesight can see things with several times the detail of the best fast-scan television sets.To send that much detail, at realistic speed, would take up a huge signal bandwidth.There are engineering problems (and cost problems) that go along with this.Still another limitation is best put as a question: How will a robot be able to “feel”something and transmit these impulses to the human brain? For example, an apple feelssmooth, a peach feels fuzzy, and an orange feels shiny yet bumpy. How can this sense oftexture be realistically transmitted to the human brain? Will people allow electrodes tobe implanted in their brains so they can perceive the universe as if they are robots?The mind of the machineA simple electronic calculator doesn’t have AI. But a machine that can learn from itsmistakes, or that can show reasoning power, does. Between these extremes, there isno precise dividing line. As computers become more powerful, people tend to sethigher standards for what they will call AI. Things that were once thought of as AIare now quite ordinary. Things that seem fantastic now will someday be humdrum.There is a tongue-in-cheek axiom: AI is AI only as long as it remains esoteric.Relationship with roboticsRobotics and artificial intelligence go together; they complement each other. Scien-tists have dreamed for more than a century about building smart androids: robotsthat look and act like people. Androids exist, but they aren’t very smart. Powerfulcomputers exist, but they lack mobility.If a machine has the ability to move around under its own power, to lift things, andto move things, it seems reasonable that it should do so with some degree of intelligenceif it is to accomplish anything worthwhile. Otherwise it is little more than a bumblingbox, and might even be dangerous, like a driverless car with a brick on the gas pedal.If a computer is to manipulate anything, it will need to be able to move around, tograsp, to lift, and to carry objects. It might contemplate fantastic exploits and discovernew secrets about the cosmos, but if it can’t act on its thoughts, the work (and the risk)must be undertaken by people, whose strength, maneuverability, and courage are limited.The mind of the machine663