Rob Nail shows up at our appointment in an interesting guise to share his views about the exponential evolution of robots that we will witness in the coming years.
CRISTINA: What is that? Hi, Rob. This is really cool. Where are you?
NAIL: Well, I’m actually at another meeting where they actually requested me show up in my flesh and wound body, and so I thought I would show up there in my being presence body.
C: What kind of robots do you think are going to creep into our lives?
N: You’re seeing right now the ability for me to show up in multiple places at once. I’ve been doing meetings and speaking engagements all over the world, and a platform like the being telepresence allows me to never miss a meeting at Singularity University because I can show up there while I could be physically located almost anywhere else in the world.
C: What “aha” moments have you had in the last year? Robots that you wouldn’t have expected?
N: Probably one of the coolest things that we had going is the first Phase 1 of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency, put up a $2 million prize for a robotic platform that can actually go to and save lives and the situation in a disaster scenario. It was inspired by the Fukushima nuclear power disaster. In December we had about 18 different teams competing in a live scenario action, where they had to navigate really complex terrain, they had to clear debris, they had to actually get into and drive vehicles out of the way, open doors, cut through walls, climb up stairs, do a lot of really complex things. April or June of 2015 we’re going to see the finals of this branch out. So Christina–question, do you think a robot will ever have emotion?
C: Who knows? They are self-taught at this point, so they could very well learn to empathize and have emotions. What do you think?
N: This is the point. Whether they will have real emotions, or whether we even understand what real emotions are, robots are able to completely empathize and recognize our emotional state and react to it. But also there’s lots of new capabilities with gauging your vocal reactions. So if my voice is really loud and excited, you might think I’m pretty excited. Or, if it’s slow and kind of depressed, maybe it means I’m depressed. And so take all of that in the context of the words I’m using; a robot can very accurately discern what my emotional states are. Having been at Singularity University as long as I have, I think I can honestly say I have almost no idea what the world will look like in 15 or 20 years. Some of the things that I’m absolutely certain of, however, is that I know my son would never have to learn how to drive a car. There are autonomous vehicles that are going to be on the market within five years, but I’m also really concerned about what he has to learn to keep up with this crazy pace of technology, right? It’s not about learning history, and it’s not about learning English and calculus. I think the educational system is really being transformed completely now.