The Big Idea: Robots should take our jobs
May 2nd, 2012
09:38 AM ET

The Big Idea: Robots should take our jobs

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - At a time when computer programs are threatening to become competent journalists, capable of spitting out clear-headed reports on financial earnings reports and the like, this could get a little personal. But I thought I would draw your attention to a provocative statement posted on Wednesday by Kevin Kelly, the Wired magazine co-founder and author of "What Technology Wants."

Here's what Kelly has to say about robots stealing our jobs:

The fact that a task is routine enough to be measured suggests that it is routine enough to go to the robots. In my opinion, many of the jobs that are being fought over by unions today are jobs that will be outlawed within several generations as inhumane.

If a job is so routine that it could be done by robots - usually robots that can't really think but are really good at doing mechanical tasks over and over - will it be seen as "inhumane" by future generations? And - gasp! - are today's punch-out-the-facts journalism jobs going to be seen by our future selves as harmfully routine and monotonous? This takes the idea of a "paragraph factory" to a whole new level.

This is obviously not an endorsement, just a conversation starter.

Feel free to debate in the comments section below.

Update: Some of your comments were aggregated by CNN's news blog, This Just In. Check it out. As always, thanks for participating in the conversation.

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Filed under: Innovation • Robots • Tech
Meet the huggable, semi-robotic (and semi-creepy) pillow phone
April 30th, 2012
12:07 PM ET

Meet the huggable, semi-robotic (and semi-creepy) pillow phone

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - A Japanese roboticist recently showed off a giant, person-shaped pillow that also doubles as a cell phone and vibrates based on the frequency of the voice of the person you're talking to. If you're inclined to give this the benefit of the doubt, think of it as a step forward in "haptic" technology, which aims to bring the largely missing sense of touch into the realm of digital communications.

Or, if you're a skeptic: Just call it creepy.

The "Hugvie" robot reportedly is the work of Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, who, among other things, is known for making a robotic version of himself.  He also created a Telenoid robot that stands in for humans and, as IEEE Spectrum described it, looks like "a supersized fetus." FULL POST

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Filed under: Culture • Design • Innovation • Robots • Tech
MIT researchers seek to create robotic 'self-sculpting sand'
MIT has tested the potential of "smart sand" with these larger cubes with rudimentary microprocessors inside.
April 4th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

MIT researchers seek to create robotic 'self-sculpting sand'

By Doug Gross, CNN

It could be something out of "Harry Potter," or a scene from "Terminator 2" if you want to take it to a creepier place.

Take a box full of sand and tell it what you need - say a hammer, a ladder or a replacement for a busted car part. Bury a tiny model of what you need in the sand, give it a few seconds and - voila! - the grains of sand have assembled themselves into a full-size version of the model.

MIT robotics researchers say such a magical sandbox could be no more than a decade away. FULL POST

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Filed under: Future • Innovation • Robots • Science • Tech
March 29th, 2012
01:18 PM ET

'The Next List': An archive of fascinating people

Every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET the CNN show 'The Next List' profiles a person with a new idea that could change the world. Here's a list of all of the innovators the show has featured since it started in November 2011. Check back for updates.

Hugh Herr, prosthetics developer and bionic man

FULL POST

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Filed under: Art • Culture • Design • Education • Fashion • Food • Future • Innovation • Music • Robots • Science • Social change • The Next List • Thinkers
Grenade-throwing robot to fight fires on ships
March 13th, 2012
10:09 AM ET

Grenade-throwing robot to fight fires on ships

By Matthew Knight, CNN

(CNN) - It might look like science fiction but the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) hopes to turn this humanoid robot into a seafaring fact in an effort to improve firefighting capabilities on board military vessels.

Currently at the development stage, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (or SAFFiR for short) is intended to combat fires in the cramped conditions of a ship, saving lives and costly equipment.

Armed with cameras and a gas sensor, the battery-powered SAFFiR will be "capable of activating fire suppressors" and throwing "propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT) grenades," says the NRL.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: Innovation • Robots • Tech
Ray Kurzweil on our 'machine-human civilization'
March 13th, 2012
10:05 AM ET

Ray Kurzweil on our 'machine-human civilization'

By Brandon Griggs, CNN

Austin, Texas (CNN) – Any author or filmmaker seeking ideas for a sci-fi yarn about the implications of artificial intelligence - good or bad - would be smart to talk to Ray Kurzweil.

Kurzweil, the acclaimed inventor and futurist, believes that humans and technology are blurring - note the smartphone appendages in almost everyone's hand - and will eventually merge.

"We are a human-machine civilization. Everybody has been enhanced with computer technology," he told a capacity crowd of more than 3,000 tech-savvy listeners Monday at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. "They're really part of who we are.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: Future • Innovation • Internet • Robots • Social change • Tech
March 1st, 2012
01:41 PM ET

Flying robots perform 'James Bond' theme

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) –- File this in the don't-know-why-someone-thought-of-this-but-it's-amazing drawer:

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania developed flying robots - they kind of look like fat, square hummingbirds - that play the theme song from "James Bond" films. Not "play" in a passive sense. These little guys (or gals, since robot voices are usually female, as Brandon Griggs writes) actually hit notes on keyboards and drag sticks across chimes. One dips up and down onto a cymbal to accent the piece.

It's all pretty incredible. Check out it out in this video, shown recently at the TED conference in California:

FULL POST

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Filed under: Culture • Innovation • Robots
February 7th, 2012
09:07 AM ET

Dale Dougherty: Sneak Peek

Dale Dougherty has a simple idea: all of us are makers. We’re born makers. We don’t just live - we make.

Dale believes that America used to be a nation of makers. People were proud to tinker in their garages and basements and pass on the tradition of “making” to future generations. These days, Dale thinks we’ve strayed to far from that way of life, and have focused more on being consumers.

Dale says, it’s time to get back to making. It doesn’t matter what it is: cheese, wine, sculptures, robots, rockets, 3D printers - even electric muffins! As simple or as bizarre as a person wants to get, Dale believes everyone should be passionate about making something. So Dale decided over a decade ago to create a grassroots festival called Maker Faire. There’s one every year in the Bay Area, NYC, and all over the world. There’s one in Africa. Tens of thousands of people attend, showing off all of the spectacular things they’ve made. Things like a basketball bikini, art sculptures made from car parts and wooden catapults, large and small. Simply, makers are enthusiasts, amateurs and hobbyists.

Dale also created MAKE magazine. The magazines are jam-packed with ideas and exact plans for making things. One issue might be dedicated to making robots, or rockets. Anyone with an interest can pick up a magazine and get right to work.

Dale is passionate about making a new generation of makers. He just received a DARPA grant. His task: to bring the philosophy of making to high schools around the country with what he calls Maker Spaces. He believes the concept of students sitting quietly at a desk reading is archaic and the best way for kids to learn is to engage, to act and to make. Dale hopes to one day have these maker spaces in high schools across the country.

Simply put, Dale’s mission is to make more makers. He says you don’t have to be a genius to make things. You just have to follow your natural curiosity - and begin.

Tune into CNN 2 P.M. E.T. February 12th to see the full 30-minute profile of Dale Dougherty.

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Filed under: Innovation • Robots • Tech • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
January 9th, 2012
05:58 PM ET

Innovators you need to meet

Over the past few weeks CNN's new show The Next List has profiled innovators, visionaries and agents of change. They’re not household names just yet, but they’re movers and shakers in their own world. We’re introducing them to you because these individuals are steadily mapping the course to the future with their new ideas. Like our "Next Listers," we aim to be as innovative, visionary and passionate about telling you their stories. Here are some clips from a special episode of The Next List devoted to defining our idea of "agents of change":

 

FULL POST

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Filed under: Art • Innovation • Robots • Tech • The Next List
December 8th, 2011
08:29 AM ET

A gal and her robot

Heather Knight is an intelligent, outgoing, bubbly tech geek. Oh, and did we mention she's also a social roboticist?

So, what's a social roboticist, you ask? Heather says the best way to explain what she does, is to show you herself. So take a look at "The Next List's" amazing profile of Heather Knight and her robot, Data. She'll dazzle you with her ability to merge techy robotics with inspiring art, acting and choreography. Plus, she and Data, make a terrific standup comedy duo.

Together she and Data explore the roles of how humans and robots interact. And Heather's using that information to make better technology that can help people flourish — now and for years to come.

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Filed under: Robots • The Next List • Thinkers
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