Automation and robotics


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Leisure society: tourists at the Tahiti Motel swimming pool in Wildwood, New Jersey, 1960s. Photo by Aladdin Color, Inc/Corbis

Essay/
Automation and robotics
The golden age

The 15-hour working week predicted by Keynes may soon be within our grasp – but are we ready for freedom from toil?

John Quiggin

Goodbye to all that. The US Census Bureau used to have a card for every person in the country. Photo by Cetty

Essay/
Information and communication
In proof we trust

Blockchain technology will revolutionise far more than money: it will change your life. Here’s how it actually works

Dominic Frisby

Jimmy Turrell/Heart Agency

Essay/
Philosophy of mind
Consciousness creep

Our machines could become self-aware without our knowing it. We need a better way to define and test for consciousness

George Musser

The RoboRoach. Photo courtesy of Backyard Brains

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Automation and robotics
I, cockroach

Do insects feel pain? Are they conscious? A science kit for at-home cyborg cockroaches provokes the hard questions

Brandon Keim

‘When Garry Kasparov lost his second match against the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997, people predicted that computers would eventually destroy chess.’ Photo by Jeffrey Sylvester

Essay/
Automation and robotics
Slaves to the algorithm

Computers could take some tough choices out of our hands, if we let them. Is there still a place for human judgment?

Steven Poole

From the Automata of al-Jaziri or the Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices. Photo by Werner Forman/Getty Images

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Automation and robotics
Preternatural machines

Robots came to Europe before the dawn of the mechanical age. To a medieval world, they were indistinguishable from magic

E R Truitt

From artist James Bridle’s Drone Shadow series, Brixton, London. Photo courtesy James Bridle

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Automation and robotics
Automated ethics

When is it ethical to hand our decisions over to machines? And when is external automation a step too far?

Tom Chatfield

Photo by Gallery Stock

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Automation and robotics
RoboCorp

Get ready for companies that run themselves. But will the autonomous economy set us all free, or just make the rich richer?

David Z Morris

Chief priest Bungen Oi holds a robot AIBO dog prior to its funeral ceremony at the Kofukuji temple in Isumi, Japan, on 26 April 2018. Photo by Nicolas Datiche /AFP/Getty

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Automation and robotics
Robot says: Whatever

What stands in the way of all-powerful AI isn’t a lack of smarts: it’s that computers can’t have needs, cravings or desires

Margaret Boden

General Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode 1; The Phantom Menace. Photo courtesy Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox

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Automation and robotics
Numbing the imagination

CGI has become wearingly dull and cliched. Can its deep weirdness be recovered and filmgoers’ minds stretched again?

Jonathan Romney

Digiland. A cross between airport runways, sports fields and car parks, dense with markings that no human can decode. A landscape exclusively designed for machines. Courtesy Dunne and Raby

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Automation and robotics
How to design the future

As technological choices become ever more complex, design fiction, not science, hints at the future we actually want

Jon Turney

Gael Rougegrez of the Blanca Li Dance Company performs ‘Robot’, 22 February 2017 in London, England. Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Raising good robots

We already have a way to teach morals to alien intelligences: it’s called parenting. Can we apply the same methods to robots?

Regina Rini

A quadrupedal robot used to help evolve gaits. Courtesy Cornell Creative Machines Lab

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Automation and robotics
Robot evolution

Hod Lipson’s artificial organisms have already escaped from the virtual realm. Now he wants to send them out of control

Emily Monosson