Quick way to attract venture capital or be bought out by a tech giant: plough all resources into robotics, talk about the inevitable singularity and wait for Google to call. Okay, so it’s perhaps not that simple, but the former-search engine, future Skyfall machine-maker is buying up all robotics-based enterprises out there, especially if they’re based in Boston. The company has also announced the launch of voice-activated search on its Chrome desktop browser. Are these things linked and what is Google’s vision?
Assuming the Silicon Valley giant is not just planning for a dystopian future world of man versus machine, there is clearly a search for commercial opportunity. Google is likely readying a platform for the entry of robotics into our daily lives, not on a scale of cyborg house slaves, but more akin to super-smart devices capable of easing daily chores. Okay, so it could be a mild form of IT slavery, but it’s not like the machine will understand that, right? Well, with Google hiring noted futurist and self-confessed singularly optimist Ray Kurzweil to head its robotics division, the focus is clearly on making machines smarter. And not in terms of making faster calculations, they’re already way ahead in that sense, but in terms of understanding human behaviour and lateral thinking. The end goal being that rather than having to ask a robotic entity for assistance, it (he/she?) is aware of your needs already.
As any major Internet giant, Google is aiming to connect all the dots and develop a full-cycle process of interconnectivity. Essentially, a machine that is able to connect information about a user through their various social media profiles, calendars and emails instantly, but also have the physical shape to cross over into our reality. And this is where it begins to get murky- is there value in developing actual physical robots as opposed to just having intelligent operating platforms? Perhaps not in today’s world, with demand low and parts too expensive. But once the global economy reaches a high-development phase and there are few opportunities for cheap labour, with the majority of the populace joining the global mid-ranking service markets and population ageing placing a strain on the young, robotics will be welcome. And when could Google and the rest of the world expect a robot undistinguishable in mind from a human being? Around the year 2029, according to Ray Kurzweil. In the meantime, enjoy the tête-à-têtes with your search engine.
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