Robots are among us - will they take over?

Robots are an invention of science fiction. How ‘intelligent’ will they become? Will they really take over? Or are they just helpers that alleviate tasks that are too dangerous, too hard or too tedious? How do we control them? Or will they control us?
When robots first arose from the lines of the Czech science-fiction drama R.U.R: Rossum’s Universal Robots in 1920 they were just artificially produced labourers. They were efficient, cheap and without any workers rights, just a product that boosted global production in a perfect circle. But they did not like that. The circle short-circuited. Čapek’s drama unfolds the story of the robots’ insurrection that is now so familiar to us.

Nobody knew then that the robots had come to stay. They had come to stay in the human imagination. They obviously hit a nerve, but why? Was it because of the looming threat of workers seizing the means of production as they had done in Russia – or so it seemed? Was it because the experience of war-torn human bodies and the rise of prosthetics made the idea of building humans from scratch seem less far-fetched? Was it the impact of the production line that churned out mass-produced cars by means of unskilled workers?

Whatever the reasons, robots became fictional staples long before the first industrial robots hit the factory floors – which are still falling short of expectations nurtured by science fiction. Robots got their own laws and their psychologists when Isaac Asimov started to write his robot stories about 20 years after Čapek’s play. His ‘laws of robotics’ that were written to keep insurgent robots at bay keep popping up in discussions about ethical restrictions on artificial intelligence until today:

A robot may not injure humans, it must obey their commands and it must protect itself. These laws were deeply embedded in the programming of the robots ‘positronic’ brain, its central processing unit that is, by all accounts, a fully-fledged AI.

In the reviewed value studies, robots are defined as machines with advanced artificial intelligence or machine learning processes that serve people at an individual level.

According to the QVC study "Living 2038", the interaction between robots and humans has not peaked yet. It is assumed that robots will soon be able to recreate the human voice. In science fiction, the movie Robot & Frank (2012) reflects these aspects of future robots. The film features a humanoid robot designed to assist individuals in every aspect of daily life. Other movies such as Robocop (1987) or Chappie (2015) showcase the involvement of intelligent robots in law enforcement.
The Dark Side of Robotics
As much as we like to think of robots as helpful tools and machines, some studies also point out that at an advanced stage this technology could lead to undesired effects such as job losses, loss of control, and an undesirable dependence on robots.
Science fiction even speculates about robots gaining some sort of consciousness and an elevated intelligence that would make those machine superior to humans. Science fiction even introduces the concept of relationships between robots and humans, as in Ex Machina (2014) or Her (2013), leading to a controversy on whether humankind should develop such machines knowing the risks they represent. Counteracting possible threats from advanced artificial intelligence and robots requires preventive solutions to balance the benefits and the potential downsides.
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Neural Enhancement
The science fiction genre depicts a wide range of advanced technologies that allow humans to overcome natural barriers or limitations.
Brain implants or cybernetic body improvements, which would enable people to complete tasks that might otherwise be done by a robot, are well-known features in science fiction. Again, this provides an interesting starting point to reflect on the role of robotics in the future.
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ISAAC ASIMOV, author of "Astounding"
The Three Laws of Robotics

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Taken from the Novel "Astounding", 1942.


Altered Carbon (2014)
Baymax (2014)
Her (2014)
I, Robot (2004)
I am Mother
Metropolis (1927)
Ready Player One (2018)
Robot & Frank (2012)