Despite these dire warnings, we continue to press ahead in robotics and AI research. Because there is a dissonance between the sci-fi debate and the future role of robots in our society. The first generation of truly smart AI devices is likely to be self-driving vehicles, which offer potentially massive social benefits. From a public safety perspective these benefits are clear. In 2016, 1,810 people were killed on Britain's roads and 25,160 were seriously injured.
In preparation for next year's Winter Olympics in South Korea, electronics giant LG is trialling new robots in the country's largest airport. From today, Seoul's Incheon International Airport will be home to two of LG's latest prototype bots: the Airport Guide Robot and the Airport Cleaning Robot. The bots were first unveiled at CES earlier this year, and both do exactly what their names suggest. The Guide Robot will roam the terminals, ready to provide travelers with directions and information about boarding times. It speaks four languages -- Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese -- and users can even get it to scan their boarding pass to be escorted to their correct departure gate.
Can you imagine the panic of a new driver when they're confronted with the fact that the big-rig they're pulling alongside of on the highway doesn't have a human face and conscience behind the wheel? Every veteran driver has dealt with the discomfort of being in an uncomfortable spot on the road at a high speed; your stress level goes up, your heart starts beating, and you start hoping that the other driver "knows what he or she is doing." When I start to ponder a future where the other driver isn't a human, I sometimes get more worried, not less.
During a trial of self-driving buses in Oita City, also in southern Japan, one bus crashed into a curb, and officials realized that autonomous vehicles were not quite ready to cope with situations like traffic jams, jaywalkers or cars running red lights. For decades, Japan has been a leader in the use of robots. It is the world's largest maker of industrial robots, and once led the globe in the number of robots per employee, said Gee Hee Hong, an economist specializing in Japan at the International Monetary Fund. More recently, according to the International Federation of Robots, Singapore, South Korea and Germany have overtaken Japan in robots per worker. Unlike in the West, where employees often view automation as an existential threat, robots in Japan are generally portrayed as friendly forces.