Path 5: Intelligence
Once he's set the table for three, Jeeves announces that dinner is ready. Jack, Mia and I are in the middle of a light-hearted argument over the new air- traffic laws for personal sky cars. As I take my seat, Jeeves leans over to set a steaming plate of food before me. There's a brief lull in the discussion, so I ask Jeeves for his opinion on the matter.
Just how smart a household humanoid will be remains an open question. There are two basic approaches to intelligence, bottom-up and top-down. The former would involve an artificial brain that learns and evolves on its own, acquiring intelligence as it matures. Presumably, this brand of butler would eventually develop a stance on sky-car traffic regulations.
Top-down artificial intelligence, which is popular in American robotics labs, is the workmanlike approach, relying on dedicated algorithms to guide the robot through its tasks. With a top-down brain, the robo-butler probably wouldn't be able to formulate opinions. It would be more like a personal computer, says Carnegie Mellon's Kuffner. The owner might start with a scaled-down version capable of basic housework, then add programs as you would on a PC. Instead of Photoshop, though, you'd download Turkey Roasting.
The intelligence debate may ultimately be decided by consumers. Will they prefer a Jeeves that stays silent until spoken to and communicates only through social cues? Or will they want him to entertain their friends and keep themselves company in their old age? It's a choice to be made at some key moment on the path to that humanoid future. "We're getting closer," says Kuffner, who contends that we'll have robots making us meals in, at most, 50 years. "All the technology is improving every year-and at a rapid pace."
Contributing editor Gregory Mone just bought a Roomba robotic vacuum.single page