Futurists and technological pundits are putting forth the thought that towards the middle of the present century, the world will have arrived at what is being referred to as the ‘singularity’. This is defined as an event beyond which the course of human history is unknown, or even unimaginable. This so-called singularity is a game changer for the human race. It represents a hypothetical instant in time, when artificial intelligence will have surpassed that of humans, to such an extent where our continued existence is far from certain. The exponential explosion in robotics, genetics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology may one day soon outpace human evolution, to the point where we become redundant. This singularity would mark the end of the human era and the start of something else, which is beyond our understanding. All this brings to mind frightening images from popular culture-from Frankenstein to the Golem, and from there to HAL-the all intelligent and most powerful computer popularized in the film: 2001- A Space Odyssey.
One such futurist is Hiroshi Ishiguru. He is a roboticist at Osaka University in Japan. He has been listed as one of the top 15 “Asian Scientists to Watch” by a prestigious science magazine. His goal is to create a robot, so life-like, that people will be fooled into believing that it is a genuine human being. Can we really create man in our image? If man is created in God’s image, then can we also become like God? Is this the start of a dangerous trend-a technological Pandora’s Box, or does such technology promise unlimited blessings and potential for good? Ishiguru claims that the human-like appearance of his androids, allows the robot to project a ‘strong feeling of presence’, as he puts it. This then brings us to the next important question: What is a human being?
Ishiguru’s latest android-the Geminoid F has many human attributes. It can talk and sing, and is endowed with 65 facial expressions. There are many possible uses for such a robot. Ishiguru has suggested that they can serve as hostesses in malls and restaurants, or model clothes. The scientist states that it would be impossible to predict how people would use such robots once they become mainstream. He further says that he provides the technology, but does not control the application. Perhaps these robots, with their human-like intelligence and silicone skin, which mimics the human variety, can become intimate companions for lonely people? The applications may be as unlimited as our imaginations allow us! His custom made androids which can be ‘duplicates’ of real humans, come at the inhumane cost of $1.2m! He says the price would drop to a more humanly manageable sum of $110,000 once the technology advances.
Perhaps a human being is more than the sum of her/his parts? Would such an android have free will? Could it cry or get angry with us? Could an android possibly love us, or could we love it? Is this android capable of self-sacrifice? If these androids are to be made in our image, or are even vastly superior to us, we certainly hope that they have an inferiority complex. In order to ensure our safety, they should be provided with non-rechargeable batteries!