Dan Barry is quite an interesting person. He’s a former astronaut who’s flown three missions. Has a MD PhD and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science. And you may have seen him as a contestant on Survivor. In his spare time he is an expert on robotics.
Robotics is a huge field, from industrial robots to home robots to medical robots and more. Dan Barry’s favorite space in this field is what are called autonomous robots. These are robots that aren’t a single task machine, but creations that perform many functions, adapt to their environment and can work independently. We have the crude beginnings of autonomous robots now, but to move forward, Artificial intelligence must advance. Artificial Intelligence, or A.I., is the software that programs the robot. His brain.
Progress in AI, along with the rapid reduction in the prices of robotic components, will bring us robot companions sooner than most expect. Even if the initial versions are not very “human-like” they will still be able to do such things as go for a walk with you, help you if you’re hurt, teach you things, and soon enough will even get you that beer. He is so confident of the companionship aspect that he says that you will fall in love with your robot.
Will robots ever become self-aware, conscious? Barry doesn’t know for sure, but hopes that consciousness is an emergent property. If emergent, it’s only a matter of time.