Robot Invasion

In Japan, scientists at Tokyo University have built a robotic nurse which follows you around with all your pills and potions, and tells you off in a hectoring tone if you forget to take them on time. Owning one of these mechanical paramedics must be a bit like marrying a vacuum cleaner and then letting it nag you every day.

Speaking of vacuum cleaners, I gather more than a million Roomba devices are now droning around the carpets of America, sucking up the dust entirely on their own and taking several times as long to do it as any incompetent human.

Meanwhile, the Koreans are trying to develop a robot guard which can detect movement and shoot on sight. Charming. At present all these machines require a human somewhere along the way to plug them in and tell them what to do. But the experts say that it is only a matter of time before robots can think for themselves.

Don't take my word for it. The British Government has just paid a great deal of human taxpayers' hard cash for a special report into the rights of tomorrow's robots. Rights? What conceivable rights would a tin can on wheels ever deserve, you may ask?

Well, if it has some kind of built-in artificial intelligence then, according to the Government advisers, it might be entitled to social security benefits, free housing and even healthcare.

This is not a joke, although it may sound like one. A robot with a big brain could be fifty years off but here in Britain, our scientists are already arguing the moral issues.

In your country the Pentagon is designing an airborne robot hitman capable of tracking and killing. Tell it who to take out. It decides how and when to do the job. But over here we're thinking of giving it the right to go on strike.
By Ed Boyle