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According to Technology has changed the way we see our world. There are always new discoveries in medicines and advancements in how we perform our day to day lives. In our technology today, robots in industries are very common because they can offer reduced cost of production, increase productivity. Robotics is a largely growing industry, and it is beginning to play an increasing role in modern society. To gain an better understanding that understand this technology it is important to have a good description, as well as understand the history of the technology and how it was used. Robotics is not only noticed by those who create them, but also those in the legal and the political field, and their economic influences raise many questions, even to professionals. Not only are there just political and legal matters to consider, but also the affects that robotics can have on society, culture, and even the environment.
What is Robotics?
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Robotics is: "technology is dealing with the design, construction, and operation of robots in automation" (Merriam- Webster). Simply put, robotics is the study of robots. There are two main types of robots which include a rover and an autonomous robot. The rover robot allows a person to control the movements and an autonomous robot is artificially intelligent and can make judgments and act according to the programmed or "learned" information.
The most recent developments in robotic technology are mostly used by the military and the industrial field. Recent advances include a robotic arm, robotic cars, prosthetic arms, and humanoid robots. Robotic arms are finely calibrated so that it can pick up things as delicate as light bulbs and not break them. DARPA Urban Challenge has created cars can now drive themselves through traffic (Wise geek). Prosthetic arms are not controlled by brain-computer interfaces and there are humanoid robots. The military uses a robot called PackBot, which serves as a pack mule and others to search for improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs (Wisegeek). ASIMO is the new humanoid robot. Humanoid robots are robots that look like humans (Wisegeek). They have a human-like torso, legs, arms, and a head. The heads have faces that come with different expressions. It has only been within the last decade that there have been large enough advances to introduce humanoid robots to the world. There are so many developments and "firsts" for robotic technology around the world.
ASIMO is designed by Honda and stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. It is designed to eventually assist people in their daily lives and will encourage and inspire young people to be in math and science (Honda, 2013). ASIMO has the ability move around moving people and objects and is able to climb up and down stairs. ASIMO is traveling the world doing different demonstrations at various events and is installed in Disneyland's attraction, "Innoventions." Honda started working on a humanoid robot in 1986. The purpose for this invention is to someday be useful to people and enrich their lives (Honda, 2013). After years of research and developing, their humanoid robot was able to function in the "real-world" environment. ASIMO made its first debut on February 14, 2002 in the United States when it rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (Honda, 2013).
The Kenshiro robot is a project that is ongoing at the University of Tokyo and it replicates a human right down to the muscles and bones. The University of Tokyo started out with Kenta, a robot made to imitate, in simplified form, most of the human's body's musculature (Coldewey, 2013). It has roughly 100 cables and motors and replicates dozens of muscle structures. Kenshiro is the new and improved version of Kenta. Kenshiro has over 160 muscles, which is more than any other humanoid robot in the industry today. It is designed to be about the same size and weight of a 120-pound human male as well as has the muscles, bone structure, and spine that is supposed to flex and work like a humans (Coldewey, 2013). The goal of this robot is to one day work in the same space as humans as well as move and act using the same principles and mechanisms.
Events leading to the Innovations that we see today
Billions and billions of dollars have been spent all over the world every year on robotics research. The term "robot" was first coined by Czech playwright Karel Capek in 1921, but the very first robot design was created around 1495 by Leonardo da Vinci. It is unknown if he attempted to build one. He had drawn out his plans for the robot in a notebook that had been lost. It was not until the 1950s that the notebook was recovered and an effort was made to make the robot that da Vinci had drawn out. Da Vinci's robot design allowed it to have several humanlike motions which included sitting up and moving arms, neck, and jaw (Professor Walter, 2010). That robot is now on display in Berlin. There have been small improvements like Roomba, which is a robot vacuum and Scooba, which is a vacuum pool-washing system. And in this day in age, there are robots that simulate humans and will replace humans in the workforce.
The largest industrial robot manufacturing country is Japan. It has names like Fanuc, Motoman, Kawasaki, and OTC Dailhen. Europe and the United States are also dominant in the market. Europe has ABB and Kuka and the United States has Adept.
Fanuc is the top leader in automated systems in the industrial robot industry. This technology has contributed to a worldwide manufacturing revolution, which evolved from the automation of a single piece of machine to the automation of entire factory production lines (Fanuc, 2013) Yaskawa Motoman is another leader in robotics. It delivers innovative robotic automation solutions for virtually every industry and robotic application, including arc welding, assembly, coating, dispensing, material cutting (laser, plasma, waterjet), material handling (diecast, machine loading, packaging, palletizing, part transfer, press tending), material removal (deburring, polishing, sanding) and spot welding (Motoman Robotics, 2013). Kawasaki remains to be a leader in the development of robots for a diversity of processes, such as assemble, handling, welding, painting and sealing. Kawasaki robots are now used in factories all over the world (Kawasaki Heavy Industries, 2012). OTC Daihen is well-proven for improving weld quality. With this technology, issues such as burn through, excessive spatter, and high rework rates will soon become a thing of the past (OTC Daihen, 2010). Their equipment is used for welding and cutting.
In Germany, the top leaders are ABB and Kuka. ABB is a leader in power and automation technology. It enables utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering the environmental impact (ABB, 2013). Kuka Aktiengesellschaft is one of the top suppliers of robotics as well as plant and systems engineering.
Adept Technology is the largest U.S.-based manufacturer of industrial robots. Their automation product lines include industrial robots, configurable linear modules, machine controllers for robot mechanisms and other flexible automation equipment, machine vision, and systems and applications software.
Obstacles and Opportunities
Some obstacles for robotic technology includes limited funding for research and development, no research agenda for the next decade, their inadequate capital for new robotic companies. Funding for research and development is usually in grants. Venture capital funding for robotics exceeded $160 million in 2011 (Deyle, 2012). In 2011, President Barack Obama announced that the federal government was going to fund $70 million to projects targeting the next generation of robots. With all of the robotic technology emerging, there really has not been an agenda or plan for the next decade. The robotic industry needs to identify and prioritize goals for research and development, applications and education. In order to create capital for the robotic industry, it needs to identify major targets of opportunity such as agriculture, urban developments, healthcare industry, and elder care. It would be possible to approach the correct federal agencies and meet with congressional leaders to support the robotic field.
Opportunities for advancement in robotic technology are countless. Today, robots have many functions and characteristics, but some day robots will be able to hold an intelligent conversation and be able to recognize objects and people around it. These robots will one day be able to imitate humans and think, dream, and act on their own. Robots are now being used to improve healthcare, factory, military, mining, and even schools.
Robotics in healthcare could be very valuable in terms of health, economic, and societal benefits. Robots offer the promise of maintainable and affordable health provision and do not compromise the quality of care, for example, the surgical technology, Da Vinci. It is set up to provide a minimally invasive alternative to both open surgery and laparoscopy (Intuitive Surgical, Inc., 2013). Da Vinci Surgical System does not perform surgeries on its own; the surgeon controls every aspect of the surgery. This technology allows the patient to have the smallest incisions, significantly less pain, a shorter hospital stay, faster return to normal daily activities as well as the potential for better clinical outcomes (Intuitive Surgical, Inc., 2013). This technology is used in procedures for different types of conditions which are the following bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, coronary artery disease, endometriosis, gynecologic cancer, heavy uterine bleeding, kidney disorders, kidney cancer, mitral valve prolapse, obesity, prostate cancer, throat cancer, uterine fibroids, uterine prolapse and more. There are many other healthcare opportunities that contain robotics and prosthetics, surgery, patient monitoring systems, and mental, cognitive, and social therapies.
Over thousands of robots have been installed in factories throughout the world. These companies rely on robots to lessen production costs, improve the quality of the product, increase revenues, and help increase their bottom line. While using these robots they are mostly known for the easy use, reliability, performance and value. The robots placed in factories to do the same, simple task over and over again. If the job is the right fit for the robot, productivity tends to increase. Humans tend to think that robots are taking over the jobs that everyone wants. Instead, the jobs that are given to robots are the unwanted factory jobs; this allows humans to work in decision-making positions. The military even uses robots in situations where humans do not want to work.
Being a soldier in the military is a dangerous job, so there are tasks that would be a great fit for robots. Clearing out hostile buildings, walking through minefields and deactivating bombs are some dangerous tasks for a person to do. The United States military is in the process of developing robotic systems that will take the place of soldiers in these situations. The military uses remote-controlled robots. There are humans that operate these machines. The robots that are more commonly used by the military are small and flat and are mounted on tank treads to handle rough terrain. They have sensors built in that are used for video and audio surveillance as well chemical detection. The machines that they use are very versatile and can be put into buildings and the desert to be able to detect and deactivate explosives. Now robots are even built to dig.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is in the process of working on a robot that wills excavation on other planets. The robot will have a pair of drums positioned on the arms in order to dig into the soil. The issue that NASA is facing is the robot being small and light enough to be sent out on a rocket, but also heavy enough to operate in gravity lower than Earth (Siceloff, 2013). This robot is specifically designed to "skim lunar soil and dump it into another device that will pull ice and water out and turn the chemicals into rocket fuel or breathing air for astronauts (Siceloff, 2013). According to NASA, by having this capability, it would save an incredible expense of launching these items from Earth.
Robots in schools have been a fantastic invention for children. These children usually cannot attend due to illness, but there are other robots that teach children. Verizon wireless network has created a four-foot "VGo" robot. It has a screen where children can interact in class with classmates and teachers via a webcam video and a microphone. Children are able to control the robot from a home computer. This device is a high-tech stand-in that scoots around on wheels. The Verizon Foundation is providing VGos to 15 institutions nationwide. This is a fabulous technology that allow who do not have the ability to be in a classroom.
Factors Driving Robotics
According to the faculty at Georgia Tech, a factor driving the usefulness of robots is the changing of demographics of the industrialized world (Georgia Tech, 2011). The evolving technology of robotics will have a substantial impact on society, and the world will be challenged to meet the new demands. Other factors include improved productivity in the increasingly competitive international environment, improved quality of life, and removing first responder and soldiers from immediate danger (Nanowerk News, 2013). Robotics will empower people in their daily lives.
Robotics in Modern Culture
United States and Other Nations
Robotics is a very quickly growing industry, not in manufacturing and business but in society as well. Anything from automatic floor cleaners, to the terminator movies, robotics is playing a large role in today's world. All over the world, there are movies, T.V. shows, books, and advertisements that all have a robotic theme. Some of the most well-known examples are the "Terminator" series of movies, where robots of the future rise up to wipe out mankind. More recently, the "Transformers" series of movies, which also play on the "robots vs. mankind" fear of the future. A very notable example is Isaac Asimov's, also known as the "Father of Robotics" for series of books, including I, Robot, which sparked the foundation of a future with advanced robotics (Myers, 2012). When viewing each of these movies, and books, plays on society's love, interest, curiosity, and fear of robotic and animatronic beings and tools. That does not stop the constant boom of popularity of robotics in the modern culture of the world. All over there are advertisements, groups, and website that all promote and provide information on the world of robotics.
In the U.S. robotics is certainly something that is played up, in both fantasy and reality. The continuing rise of robotics in the culture has led to many progressions in robots developed for home or business use. There are several small robots that can be bought to mitigate certain tasks, the main example being the "Roomba" floor cleaner bot ("New! IRobot rumba,"). The robot can be programmed to the layout of the floor it is to clean, and then automatically clean the floor, however often it is programmed to. Perhaps a lesser thought example is the common dishwasher, it is a product of robotics, and is designed to relieve the human of the task of dishwashing. Not all robots are sentient, or have an artificial intelligence; many robots are simply designed for one purpose. Even this type of robot is shown in modern culture. An example of this is in "Iron Man", where the suit of armor is a form of robot, but is directly controlled by the user. The suit is a clear product of science and robotic reasoning. It is designed to do work for the user, while the user is in control. People are fascinated by robotics and the products it creates, not just in intelligent robots, but also in the programmable, and the controllable ones as well. All over the world these movies, books, and shows, are continuing to help grow the presence of robots and robotics in modern culture.
Because of the cultural boom of robots and robotics, many companies are jumping on the robot train. In the U.S. there have been a number of T.V. and paper adds involving robots of all kinds. All kinds of companies have turned to the robotic scene in their advertising, from Pepsi to KIA; robots are among their advertising campaigns. A Pepsi ad in the late 2007 era aired featuring Dave Chappelle, and a Roomba-like robot ("Dave Chappelle," 2007). The robot saw his Pepsi and attempted to get him to spill some, by running into his legs. The commercial was using a very real model of a robot. There was some movie magic being done, but the robot itself was not computer generated. Using modern robots of the day can sometimes be more important that using animated ones. In this specific example, it is showing that the average, or modern, household has these little robots around. This shows not only how popular robots are in modern culture, but also the extent that the technology has progressed. More recently, at the 2013 Super Bowl, KIA had their commercial for the 2014 Forte, with robots and technology galore (Pedeanu, 2013). In the ad, the car is being presented by robotic show girls. It is possible the company is showing off the futuristic feel of the car by placing it in a setting where high-tech robots are a normal occurrence.
Robots have also gained popularity in other countries as well, where foreign companies use the robotic beings to help sell their products. In France, an oil company, "Total", uses robots to sell their brand of car oil (Saenz, 2010). It shows robots running in a marathon, and using the oil as a drink (as with water for people) to keep them going. This uses similarities between robots and car engines to show that their brand of lubricant can help cars run smooth and hard through the tough terrain. This new ad also accompanies a new slogan for the product, which is: "Make your engine an athlete of the road" (Saenz, 2010).
In Japan, a clothing company set up a robotic mannequin in its store fronts. These mannequins are attached to strings that are controlled by motorized devices. The motors are then connected to an "XBOX Kinect" that detects the movements of the person and translates them to the motors (Austin, 2013). The mannequins then mimic the movements of the person, and this brings a great number of people around. Though the robots are indirectly controlled by people, the gimmick clearly shows that it brings attention to the store. A more practical purpose, other than being great fun, was to give the person an idea of how they looked in the cloths, which is much more interesting than a mirror. The robotics used here are real life applications of robotics used to generate consumer interest, where most other commercials and advertisements use computer generated bots to get the attention of the consumer.
A Subculture All its Own
Robotics has also drawn a lot of attention in the subculture area as well, with classics like "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" leading a fan base with a fascination in robotics, and futuristic science. This has led to a subculture that is comprised of a separate group of people who all have a love of robotics. One section is that of the subculture are the geeks, that don't really have much skill in building them but have a love and respect of the technology. On the other side, there are the engineers, people who actively build and develop robots for personal or entertainment use. Though they may not always build robots as a career, they all share a love for the production and building of robots. Each side operates very differently, but they all share a common love for the robotic technology.
For the geeks, there are all types of different trinkets, figures, clothing, and other memorabilia that are all based around the reality, or fiction, of robotics. While most of society has a slight fascination with robotics, some people have grown deep into it through movies, books, and T.V. These people many not become robotic engineers, but their love of the science fiction, and reality, of robots leads to a real appreciation for them. These are people who wear t-shirts with robotic symbols or references, have robotic figures, or purchased mechanical building sets. Many people also research and look up new emerging robotic technologies, because the future is so enticing to them. These are the people who are more on the geek side of robotics, where they enjoy the technology, but don't have a direct hand in it themselves. Eventually, some may write stories or movies about the technology they love, but never really get into the practice of building. They may have various reasons as to why they don't, but that does not change or alter their view of a very interesting field.
Those who have a real interest and talent for building robots, which has more than likely come from popular works of fiction or reality, build them for recreation and/or entertainment. This is shown in the robot fights, where teams work together to build a robot that will stand against the other teams' robots. A prime example of this is the "Robot Wars" T.V. show, which aired from 1998 to 2004 ("Robot Wars (1998-2004),"). Robots would be pitted against each other, under the control of the team leader. The winners of the matches would climb the bracket, until a final battle took place to determine the winner. Shows like these were geared toward both sections, where the geeks could watch and enjoy it, and the engineers could participate show off their engineering skills. These two types of people are united under the same love of the robotic technology, but they show their love and appreciation in different ways. Each set making their mark on and through society, further integrating the robot-world into modern culture.
Robotics in the Environment
Danger to Humans
Many people fear that robots, or robotics, pose a threat to humans. With so many science fiction movies and novels about robots that eventually raise up against humankind the threat can seem all too real. The good news is that there is very little to fear from robots themselves, as they are only capable of what the developer tells them to. If there is to be any robot that brings harm to another human, it is because another human told it to do so. Many people fear that advancements in technology and artificial intelligence will allow robots to think on their own. While it may be true that robots can eventually become close to humans, from a mental standpoint, they are still only capable of learning what the developer tells them they can learn. If developers don't want the robots to eventually rise up against mankind, they won't program the robot to be capable of such actions.
Science fiction has brought about a fear of futuristic robots through apocalyptic situations, where robots learn that humans are bad, and they should be wiped out. In reality, there is very little cause for alarm, at least from the robots. There could be a very real threat of humans using robots to kill or harm other humans, but that is the choice of a human and not the robot. Current robots are not capable of enacting harm on their own, without the direction of a human. Many developers and operators go to great lengths to ensure that a robot is not intercepted by a third party that could potentially cause harm. If anything, most robots now are used to do tasks that would normally be very dangerous to humans.
Having humans use robots to kill other humans raises a lot of political, and moral, questions. When is it okay to use robots to kill? Will there be a limit? Can those in control be trusted with manning the robots? Although robots are able to traverse more dangerous terrain and climate than humans, using this advantage to kill seems like a very slippery slope.
Gathering Resource Information
On the other side of the spectrum, there are robots being developed to help gather information about the environment. There are some areas that humans can't get to because of environmental dangers or hazards. Robots are being used to monitor the conditions of radioactive areas, such as Chernobyl, which are very unsafe for humans. Because robots are not affected the same way humans are in these conditions, they are prime tools to be used when studying these conditions. Exploring dangerous areas on land are not the only places robots are used to explore, but the depths of the oceans as well.
The ocean has very little known about it, as a result of lack of deep diving exploration. Humans are only able to go so far, and subs help in going deeper but still have their limits. "Only five percent of the ocean has been explored by humans and scientists worldwide are designing and deploying robots to bridge this gap" (Yates, 2012). There are currently robots in development at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that are designed to float on the waves. These robots, named "Wave Gliders" are used to gather energy by using solar panels and wave motion (Yates, 2012). Not only will they be able to generate energy, but they will also be able to send valuable information about the ocean as well. Collecting information like the surface temperature, barometric pressure, ocean salinity, and more can prove very useful when a disaster occurs (Yates, 2012). Though these robots do not brave the waters of the deep, the information that they will gather will help improve the understanding of how the ocean affects life on land and sea.
At the Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, researchers there are developing a special kind of underwater robot swarm to repair damage to coral reefs (Yates, 2012). Many countries value coral reefs for many reasons, the natural beauty of the reef is unmatched and hard to replace. More importantly, coral reefs house much of the marine life in the ocean. Reefs are very fragile, and are easily damaged by human interference. Pollution, acidification, and fishing all cause damage to reefs all over the world (Yates, 2012). The ability to rebuild these natural wonders is a clear sign of the possible good that robots are capable of.
Robots can have very versatile designs that range from small bug-like creatures, to large tank-like creations. Each design has a purpose to fill, and that purpose could save the environment, and even human lives. With the increase in natural disasters over the last few years, scientists are designing robots that can reduce the severity of environmental disasters, as well as minimize the loss of human lives. There are three groups of teams; one at the University of Magdeburg-Stendal in Germany; an American duo; and the makers of the Segway (Frankel, 2012). Each of the teams are working together to develop better robots that can help save lives, and wildlife, in the event of a forest wild fire.
The German team is developing an insect-like robot, called the "OLE", that will be able to find sources of fire, and put them out using fire-fighting liquid (possibly water or another solution) (Frankel, 2012). To travel the uneven grounds of the forest, the bugs are given legs, not wheels or treads, for better mobility and maneuverability. Better mobility will allow the robots to get to the fires much more quickly and efficiently.
The American duo has developed the "Clear Cut" robot, with a task of rescuing those trapped in forest fires (Cassandro, 2009). Although the robot is incredibly large, it's for good reason; the robot's design is to chop down certain trees, to keep forest fires from spreading further. With all of the recent activities of forest fires in the recent years, it is great to see that there are robots in development that can help prevent further damage. Robots like these are designed to save lives in the event that a disaster occurs, they can be sent in to environment to prevent further damage, or to save people that may be trapped.
Segway is developing bots with a slightly different purpose. One bot is used to diffuse bombs with "surgical precision" (Sofge, 2009). This bot is designed to help humans diffuse bombs from a safe distance. Taking away the possibility of a human losing their life to try and remove a bomb threat manually. The second bot is designed for fighting fires, but more in the city than in the forest. It is equipped with a powerful cannon that can "Fir[e] 10 gallons of liquid per second", and can travel up to 18miles per hour (Sofge, 2009). While the robot could make an excellent riot control bot, the developer says they rather most sales go into firefighting. With so many robots being developed to help improve the environment, and save human lives, it makes it seem like all robots are here for the better. Unfortunately, every light casts a shadow.
Robots have a dark side, where some are designed with the sole intent to harm other humans. There will always be the very real threat that a human will decide to use, or build, a robot to kill other humans for whatever reason. This is becoming increasingly threatening as world tensions become high, even Samsung has "Developed a robotic sentry to guard the border between North and South Korea" ("Robot future poses," 2007). Samsung even equipped this sentry bot with "two cameras and a machine gun", and anything with a machinegun generally means to make sure that whatever is being shot at does not survive ("Robot future poses," 2007). An increasing fear in humans of other humans has caused some to turn to robotic methods of protection, because robots can never show any remorse for the people that they kill. They are given one task, and that is to eliminate any threat that approaches what they are assigned to protect.
Even in the U.S. the tactical strike drones that are the talk of the country, are designed to kill the enemies in other countries. They are sleek, quick, and can volley a strike from the air quickly. The purpose of these unmanned drones was to remove the risk of losing soldiers in the skies. Recently, there have been drone strikes by the U.S. in Pakistan to target possible militants and militant leaders ("Drones: What are," 2012). These attacks have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan, whether or not they were militants or civilians. In March of 2011 there was a Pakistan drone strike that killed 40 people; a majority was believed to be regular civilians ("Drones: What are," 2012). Attempting to justify these attacks as attacks on the enemy does not make the issue any better, it only makes it worse. It causes those in control of the drones to be completely careless about whether they actually got the people they were aiming for, or if they just took out an entire town full of civilians.
There are many drawbacks to robotics, and this is defiantly one of them. If a human is in control of the robot and the robot is used to kill, what is the moral difference between that and the human killing directly? Though robotics has its many moral concerns and questions, there are plenty of examples that show there is balance. Robots are also being use to study the earth in a much safer, and more effective way. Some are being designed to save lives in the event of a disastrous situation. Others are being made to better protect the environment and the creatures that live there as well. Robotics is such a wide and vast industry, with robots that range in all shapes, sizes, features, and objectives. Though this does not excuse the use of robotics to kill, and the moral concerns are very much validated. Morals of robotics are just as important as the robots themselves.
Impact of Robotic Technology on Society
Advancements in robotic technology have increased the use of robots in society. Robots are being used in science, medicine and industries. And like anything, this technology has positive and negative impacts on humanity. Robots are a great tool to perform dangerous tasks that would otherwise put humans at risk and to be used on assembly lines where it is a monotonous task for humans. On the other hand, humans do not like the fact that robots are taking over their jobs. This does create a higher yield for the company, but it also runs unemployment rates up which has a negative effect on the economy.
Humans are worried that they will no longer have jobs to go to. It is foreseen that robots will perform jobs that humans are doing. Examples include retail checkout clerks, food preparation, baggage handlers, airline pilots, security guards, salespeople, phone operators, and even surgeons. It is proposed that robots will do the low paying jobs and leaving the creative, decision-making jobs to humans.
Technologies like the internet, computers, and cell phones have been adopted into people's daily lives, robotic technology will be too. Over the next decade or so, it is predicted that humans and robots will coexist. This technology will propagate and will produce robots that see, speak, act, and have intelligence to interact and become more constant. They will no longer be just machines, but will be a tool that human's depending on to function in their daily lives.
One of the main questions concerning robots and the technology would be whether a robot can be a moral instrument. It is questioned whether a robot will be able to distinguish the difference between right and wrong. Since robots are just starting out as a code in software, it will have to be programmed to have its own morals and ethics. The creators of the robots will have to take on the responsibility to ensure that the robots have advanced programming and have the ability to ethically reason and to be able to absorb or learn new ethical lessons through actions and experiences. They should be able to develop their own moral code. Dr. John P. Sullins details his standards for a robotic moral agent and expects that the three criteria are necessary to consider such an agent: 1) the autonomy of the robot, 2) if the robot's behavior is intentional, and 3) whether the robot is in a position of responsibility (Howlander, 2011). The autonomy of the robot is not directly controlled by a human. For example, a robotic patient caregiver should have the same sense of responsibility and respect to the patient that is in its care. The robot should follow a moral code or compass that allows them to be considered autonomous.
Ethical issues that might be concerning is the effect that robotic technology has on the quality of life, privacy, and code of ethics. Robots can actually increase human performance and the quality of life. In a world with an aging society, people with disabilities and wounded veterans, robots can reduce expenditures in healthcare by taking care of these patients. They can facilitate faster and are a cheaper invention. Medical robots make surgeries less invasive, less side effects, and a faster recovery time. And it does not have to be just in the healthcare industry. Robots provide safety to first responders such as paramedics, police officers, firefighters, and military personnel. Robots can also improve quality of life by letting people spend more with their families. If people had robots to clean and do daily chores and help the children with their homework, then there will be enough time for families to enjoy their evening together instead of worrying about housework.
Privacy might be a concern as well. Since robots will be living in human households, working with the military, or working in the medical field, they will have to operate to protect people's privacy. Issues will arise if robots become intelligent enough and try to extract information from people. They can use this leverage just like most humans and create fear. People are concerned that robots will be able to use private information and make the country vulnerable to other countries. Certain rules about people's privacy will have to be broken down into what the robot can share and not share and will have to be programmed into the robot. Another ethical issue would be a robot's code of ethics.
Scientists are already beginning to think about ethical problems that are posed by current robotic technology. Safety is a top concern. It will be harder to decide who is responsible if they injure someone as the robots become more intelligent. So who is to blame: the creator, user, or the robot? Back in 1940, Isaac Asimov created the three laws of robotics. He said that intelligent should all be programmed to obey these three laws: 1) A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, 2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law, and 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law (Evans, 2007). These laws seem ideal, but it would be difficult to program a robot to actually follow them.
The political and legal influences of robotics will be somewhat similar and relative to each other as they go hand in hand. The political influences will affect legal influences and legal influences will affect political influences. Some questions that arise with the use of robotics include: When is it acceptable to use robotics, and when is it not acceptable? Who should be held liable for any errors caused by the malfunctioning of robotic machinery? What kind effect will the use of robotics have on the economy? Will it cause the human workforce to lose jobs? These are all great questions, and all should be considered before a incorporating a large portion of any production or manufacturing to the use of robotic machinery.
To begin, the definition of robotics must be considered and how it differs from industrial machinery. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines robotics as "Technology dealing with the design, construction, and operation of robots in automation". To take it one step further, the difference between robots and other machinery should be addressed. The Science Channel explains the difference as "Though there are many different definitions for the word "robot," one of the most common defines a robot as a machine that is controlled and moved by a programmable computer. There are a variety of machines, such as many modern cars, that use basic computers to control specific aspects of their operation, but if the computer is not responsible for making decisions about most or all of the machine's functions, the machine is usually not considered a robot. Likewise, a computer that does not control the movements of a mechanical body is usually not considered robotic." So the difference usually relies on the use of a computer that generates that movement of the machine. If there is no computer, it is simply a machine. If there is a computer, it could be considered a robot.
There are robots or robotics used in almost every industry in the world. Computers are driving the world of modern technology and are very common in any electronic device. In recent years Congress has called for the formation of a robot caucus to address the fact that "the robotics industry is developing in much the same way as the computer business did 30 years ago" as stated by Joshua Topolsky. A caucus consists of Congress members that make decisions regarding legislature for a particular topic or field. This means that the field of robotics is growing so much that Congress has decided to dedicate staff that work primarily on making laws and regulations for the use and/or misuse of robotics. This activity helps dictate the legal influences of robotics on future proceedings. The decisions made during these meetings will shape the future of the robotic industry as Congress decides when the use of robotics is necessary and useful and when it may be detrimental, harmful, or unethical.
While this notion is due to the increased use of robotics, it may have been expedited due to the use of robotics in the medical field. This one industry may have the most drastic effect on both the political and legal ramifications of robotics more so than all other fields combined. Certain areas to be addressed include what criteria should determine the approval of robotics in the medical field. Should robots be used in surgery? Who should be held liable for malfunctioning robots or deaths related to the use of robots? What kind of testing is needed to determine whether or not a robot is in fact safe for use? How long is the useful life of a robot? What are the costs associated to regulations, manufacturing, and maintaining the robots? These questions all need to be addressed and decided before the use of robots is deemed safe for use in the medical field. Most aspects of the medical field have been covered and approved already, but the use of robots in surgery is still pending for the most part. According to Medical News Today, the FDA has recently approved the use of the first medical robot in a hospital setting. "The robot, called RP-VITA, was created by In Touch Health and iRobot and allows doctors from anywhere in the world to communicate with patients at their hospital bedside via a telemedicine solution through an iPad interface," the article reads. This means that doctors can now communicate with patients from a remote location and avoid having to rush around a busy hospital. This can also help prevent the spread of disease and sickness due to the fact that the doctor does not have to come into physical contact with the patient in order to diagnose them or give them medication. Furthermore it reads "A clearance from the FDA means that RP-VITA can be used for active patient monitoring in pre-operative, peri-operative, and post-surgical settings, such as prenatal, neurological, psychological, and critical care evaluations and examinations," according to the Medical News Today article. This means that the robot has not been approved for use during any part of an operation or surgery, but has come one step closer to being incorporated to those processes.
The legal ramifications of the use of robotics in surgery, as well as proper testing, are likely the reasons for the delay in approving any kind of robotics in the surgery or operation settings of the health care field. Also, the development of such advanced technology is a very long and expensive process that will likely hinge on the use of government funding that will also take time to decide what measures are needed to regulate the use of funding for this field. In the near future, we will likely see the emergence of robotics in surgery once the proper guidelines are decided. It will probably start with the assistance of robots in surgery, but in time we may see the full scope of surgery performed solely by a robot rather than a human. Human monitoring will absolutely be necessary through the course of the process, but this could be the wave of the future for the industry. Eliminating human error is debatable, because there will always be the possibility of a programming error or a mechanical failure due to the lack of proper maintenance by a human worker. There will always be the opportunity for this to happen as humans are creating the machines that create the robots in the first place.
The legal influences are directly correlated with the political influences in the use of robotics. The legal influences are in part decided by Congress upon the incorporation of rules and regulations regarding robotics when these topics are voted on initially. Legal ramifications have to be considered in the process of incorporating the use of robotics to begin with. Clear guidelines must be agreed upon before the use of robotics can begin. While there will absolutely be unprecedented circumstances that arise after the fact, certain parameters must be decided before use begins. For most robotic machinery, these regulations are fairly easy to consider and gauge because the use of robots may be used in the absence of humans; at least when it comes to direct contact while the robot is in use. We have seen a massive rise in the use of robotics since they have been incorporated in the workforce, but there are new fields that robots entering that need far more consideration before regular use can be attained. The medical field is probably the most significant when it comes to this matter. We see plenty of use of robotic machinery in the manufacturing, industrial, and service industries that don't involve direct contact with customer and/or workers. There have to be clear laws regarding the liability when it comes to robotics as the manufacturer of the robot has to be held accountable as well as the company that is operating the robot.
Aside from the medical field, there are other fields, such as transportation, that so not have specific legislation regarding the use of robotics. Most people have deemed the use of autonomous cars as illegal simply by the notion that they are not currently in use. According to a study performed by Bryant Walker Smith "To the extent that such pronouncements of illegality reflect assumption rather than analysis, they are inconsistent with our nation's entrepreneurial narrative: An invention is not illegal simply because it is new, and a novel activity is not prohibited just because it has not been affirmatively permitted. So to determine the actual legal status of the automated vehicles that may someday roam our roads, I reviewed relevant law at the international, national, and state levels. While my 100-page study raises a number of questions about both the ultimate design of these vehicles and the duties of their human operators, it finds no law that categorically prohibits automated driving. In short, even without specific legislation, automated vehicles are probably legal in the United States." While his findings are not definite, Smith raises a very interesting point. Are autonomous vehicles really illegal? Without the benefit of legislation regarding the subject, some may agree that they are not in fact illegal. If you were to be piloted down the road in a self-propelled vehicle and you were pulled over, what law are you breaking? Could a police officer actually give you a ticket? There are vehicles currently in use that have the benefit of autonomous parallel parking, could this be in use if it were actually illegal? Smith goes on to regard some laws that have been passed in a few states and raised this point, "The laws are significant for other reasons as well: They endorse the potential of, catalyze important discussions about, and establish basic safety requirements for these long-term technologies. To a more limited extent, these laws also reduce legal uncertainty: "Definitely legal" sounds very different than "probably legal." Does this make it more or less clear whether or not the use of these vehicles is legal? Before these types of vehicles come to be in mass production and common use, this type of legislation will have to be addressed, but to this point it appears as though one could operate one of these vehicles with no consequence.
The da Vinci surgical system is currently in use and there is great debate regarding complications that have arisen as a result of its use. According to the da Vinci Surgery website, "The System cannot be programmed and it cannot make decisions on its own. The da Vinci System requires that every surgical maneuver be performed with direct input from your surgeon." According to the definition of robotics, since this machine cannot be programmed, it is not a robot, but it very close to what some may consider the use of robotics in surgery. This system was recently used to aid in surgeries such as gynecological surgery, such as a hysterectomy, or prostate surgery, such as a prostatectomy. According to Lamb Law Offices, "The da Vinci robot, manufactured by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., is a surgical device that is meant to make surgeries more efficient and less invasive, with a shorter recovery time for patients.
A 2012 wrongful death lawsuit, McCalla v. Intuitive Surgical, reveals a far different outcome involving what should have been a routine operation but which went terribly wrong when done by means of the da Vinci robotic surgery method. In the McCalla case a 24-year old woman who went in for a hysterectomy experienced adverse symptoms following the procedure. The surgeon who operated on this New York woman using the da Vinci robot did not realize that any harm had been done to his patient during the surgical procedure. Several emergency surgeries performed starting about a week-and-a-half later, however, found there had been a burn of the right external iliac artery which was pumping blood into the body cavity causing, among other things, bowel ischemia "incompatible with life".
This young woman was pronounced dead 13 days after her da Vinci robot-assisted surgery.
The products liability lawsuit filed by this woman's father alleges that the insulation on the shafts of the da Vinci robot caused burns to the artery and her intestines, which injuries resulted in her death." The problem with this claim is that the da Vinci System is not actually a robot, but nonetheless, its aid was used in this surgery and it resulted in this woman's death. This is a significant event in consideration to the use of robotics in surgery as this was a fatal event that may have been caused by the use of this machine. While complications like this happen even in traditional surgery, this kind of case is going to make it difficult for Congress to allow the use of robotics in the operating room. One question that arises from this even is who is responsible for malpractice? What kind of doctor will be performing the surgery, or the manufacturer of the firm who created the machine assisting the doctor? This case will likely play a role in setting precedent for future cases regarding robotic assisted surgery.
Economic Questions and Considerations
Moving forward, how would the effect of increased use of robotics in the workforce have on the human workforce and the economy in general? Finding an exact answer is next to impossible, but there are certainly factors to consider. While there would be jobs created in the robotics field, how many people would stand to lose their jobs to a robot that doesn't have to take breaks and has no emotional response to continuous labor? Aside from cost considerations, this would seem to be a win-win scenario for any business owner as they would get increased production and efficiency from a robot worker rather than a human worker. But when do the initial costs of the robot workers payoff? This excerpt from W.W. explains the rationale, "Of course, "robots" are expensive. I buy them from robot manufacturers. At some point, a good robot "pays for itself". Until then, I'm dividing profits with the robot-makers instead of workers. (Imagine I'm paying in installments out of my revenue; it's a lot like paying wages.)" Over the course of the first few years, business owners wouldn't really be saving any money at all, and they would be contributing to the rising unemployment rate. This article also brings to light the thought of collective bargaining, "Trade unions, even if they could become strong again (which is hard to see), would likely accelerate this process of substituting capital for labor, rather than counteracting it. A one-time union wage premium, even if it does not come at the expense of other workers, will put only a small dent in the long-term trend." As we can see, the use of robotics for labor has created a detriment to the workforce already in the past thirty years, and would seem to get worse in the future as robotics become cheaper and more readily available. The jobs the robotics sector has created simply cannot make up for the jobs lost to robots. According to Paul Wiseman of the Associated Press, "The numbers startle even labor economists. In the United States, half the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession were in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000. But only 2 percent of the 3.5 million jobs gained since the recession ended in June 2009 are in mid-pay industries. Nearly 70 percent are in low-pay industries, 29 percent in industries that pay well." This does not directly indicate that these jobs were lost to robots, but that number is staggering. The problem is when these businesses go through the layoff process; those jobs are not coming back. "Technology is used by companies to run leaner and smarter in good times and bad, but never more than in bad. In a recession, sales fall and companies cut jobs to save money. Then they turn to technology to do tasks people used to do. And that's when it hits them: They realize they don't have to re-hire the humans when business improves, or at least not as many." Wiseman points out. This means, as people are laid off, when business starts to improve again after the initial hit, the company becomes more dependent on technology (including robotics) to create a more efficient and sustainable business model.
" For all the excitement and promise, no one can say with any certainty when - or even if - this industry will achieve critical mass. If it does, it may well change the world," this is a quote from Bill Gates in his essay "A Robot in Every Home" (bill gates)
This essay was what sparked the need for the robot caucus in Congress. This essay stresses the fact that the technology industry and more specifically, the robotic industry is ever growing, and may not cease to grow. The notion that "it may well change the world" seems to be more of an understatement than a notion. It absolutely has, and will continue to change the world. We have already seen the impact it has had on the workforce, and is part of the reason the recession we have recently gone through has been so bad. Not only are jobs being lost, but they are now even harder to create due to the fact that robots can replace people and be more efficient, and technology in general makes each individual person more capable of handling a heavier workload.
While there will always be people needed in the workforce, it is becoming more difficult to create enough jobs to sustain our current population. As population grows, the job market becomes more competitive with more workers and less need for jobs. This is going to be a very difficult task to overcome. Robotics could have a drastic effect on the economy. First off, they are very expensive to engineer, produce, and maintain. The start-up cost of robotics is difficult to attain and requires the labor of many workers. After the plans are developed, the robotics must be manufactured, distributed, and finally maintained. This will require constant maintenance. Robotics could be incredibly beneficial as they can reduce man hours for labor and have incredible precision. The effect on the economy is they will replace workers. At the same time, they will create jobs in engineering, production, distribution, and maintenance. The cost of the machines could prove to be difficult to overcome, but after start-up costs, there should be a significant value in less labor hours, and less defective product than that of a human assembly line.
The object of this report is to look at the use of robotics and how they change technology and society. Robotics is a technology that deals with the design, construction, and operations of robots that are used in a variety of applications. It looks at how these applications range from industries that require accurate and repetitive tasks, for example the car and computer manufacturing industries, dangerous tasks such as diffusing bombs and other work that cannot be performed by human workers like doing research on other planets or going down into a live volcano. It provides a description of what robots are and how they work, the history of robotics, the present applications of robots, and the impact of robots on society. Robotic technology has made a positive turn for the future of the world. The use of robots is becoming more prevalent in everyday life (Selvon, 2009).
According to the Robot Institute of America, 1979; a robot is, "A programmable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools, or specialized devices through various programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks." The manufacturing and medical industries have seen incredible benefit from the use of robotics. Robotic welders and MRI machines for example have made certain processes much less time consuming and have created less cost association for the business that owns the machinery. It allows employers to increase production and reduce cost over the course of time. While the initial cost may take some time to overcome, there is no question that robotics create a better product, and increase efficiency in the workplace.
The replacement of human workers and the loss of human element in the business world may have a negative impact on the people who come in contact with robotic machinery. The idea of robotics has become more widely accepted, but there are still those who will reject the introduction of such machinery in the workplace. In terms of manufacturing, this practice has been utilized for quite some time and to great benefit.
One way is to use the robotic surgery for some psychological consideration is by surgery. The robotic console in itself has had a financial gain for the physician by extending the useful life that the surgeon has in order to perform these types of physically demanding surgical procedures. Just as in the case of the early Renaissance era and the Italian creation of optics expanding the work life of scribes, (Morton E. Winston and Ralph D. Edelbach, 2012, p. 29) so has robotics to a surgeon by further elongating the amount of useful working life time that a surgeon. A surgeon will experience the same sort of repetitive work related injuries that anyone could. Experience while performing a daily task that requires the constant use of repetitive motion. And there is also a diminishing of eyesight that can be expected with age. Robotics is ergonomically designed to assist the surgeon in the repetitive maneuvers that are needed for surgeries, allows the surgeon to sit comfortably during the long surgery versus standing for hours and increases the eyesight with the 3D vision provided by the robotic. (Brown) The ergonomics of the robotic is a welcomed benefit to surgeons who find themselves standing in one solitary position for 4 to 8 hours or more while performing surgery. Now with robotics this will shorten any surgeon's career. will be good?
With the advent of laparoscopic procedures, the first step in robotics in the late eighties, there had been some hesitation on the part of patients to try the new technology. Over time, word spread about the ease of surgery and shorter recovery times, and the lack of huge scars helped with the perception and acceptance of the procedure. With acceptance came advances in new technology and the acceptance by more patients in the use of robotics in their surgical procedures when available. In 2009 there were 85,000 surgeries for prostate cancer in the U.S. and of that number 73,000 men opted for robotic surgery (Parker, T., 2010). Eighty six percent of men preferred robotic surgery over conventional surgery. Looking at these numbers one would get the impression that men prefer the use of technology over the imperfect hand of the surgeon. Does minimally invasive invoke a sense of comfort in the area of surgery? For men who have to undergo prostate surgery that can have possible side effects like a cut nerve, minimally invasive is seen as a benefit of robotic surgery. Trust is the issue that is a concern for men with this particular type of surgery and for men; undergoing a life altering procedure, trusting ones' doctors and their skill level is essential.
Prior to their procedure some patients worry about mechanical failure, software problems and power failures. As a patient enters into the unknown realm of robotic surgery the idea that a machine is taking over certain aspects of your surgery can be somewhat intimidating. The psychological effect of a failed robotic surgery could last a life time. Fortunately facts are more supportive of a successful surgery than not. In a report from the FDA MAUDE there were 189 reported malfunctions reported from the years 2000 to 2007 of robotic surgical machines only nine (4.8%) of those resulted in patient injury (Urol, J. C.,2008). When a patient looks at those numbers they can have a sense of comfort that can help relieve apprehension of their new procedure. As a society, we are very familiar with the failure rates of many mechanical systems in our life, and we naturally turn those over to everything that we deal with on a daily basis. When we see the brochures and maybe a DVD about robotics we naturally project our fears onto the robotic surgical machine we see in the operating room. When we look at the failure rates due to software incompatibility in the same time frame as above however there is only one reported case of that happening (Urol, J.C.,2007). As a society we can turn our experience from our interactions with computers and misplace that onto the surgical robot, since it does use software to do its job. With modern hospitals, the idea of a power outage interfering with our procedure is a very remote possibility. There is a report which states that there have been no more than two power errors with the machines without creating any adverse effects on the surgical procedure (Urol, J.C., 2007). Within the modern structure of a hospital environment there is a backup power system that hospitals use today to prevent such disruptions.
The projection of robotic assisted surgery is expected to continue to evolve into a better means of providing patients with safer surgeries and added quality to the procedures; hopefully performed at a reduced cost and becoming health care services that are the new standard of care. Patients can expect to have less post-operative time spent in the hospital, less time away from work and experience arguably less pain thus requiring less use of pharmaceuticals decreasing the overall expense to the patient. (Anthony Lanfranco, 2004) As Winston and Edelbach (2012) state, "Technology is not a collection of things, but is a systematic and rational way of doing things; it is, in general, the organization of knowledge, people and things to accomplish specific practical goals." In the case of robotic assisted surgery, the health care system will be impacted either by increased cost or decreased cost depending on what side of the spectrum one finds them, but it will be an organized system of people and things working together to further advance the high standard of care that is expected by most.
It is further apparent that the current cost associated with robotic assisted surgeries is far outpacing the current standard of care. However, cost should not always be the only consideration when advances are being considered in new technology.
According to an informal interview with Dr. Jay Singh of Piedmont Colorectal Associates in Atlanta, GA (Jay Singh, 2012) he states that "without money being applied towards advances in medicine, medicine will not advance." It is better to look down the road to see th