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CMU Robotics Professor Warns Of Growing Technology

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA)- Illah Nourbakhsh, Professor of Robotics at The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, does not help create the types of robots you will see in Terminator-like movies or even in the military.

Nourbakhsh's lab at Carnegie Mellon does not accept defense funding. Rather, he explains that his lab creates robots for the good of the people, thanks to local foundations.

"The reason we don't take defense funding, is we want to build robots and robot technologies that we want people to use," he said. "We don't want to spend all our time building a really advanced interesting killing machine that we hope nobody ever has to use."

Nourbakhsh says he respects those who do work on defense projects that affect our lives positively, especially long-term. But for moral reasons, he does not want to help create something that can kill a human being.

Nourbakhsh recently authored a book warning of a possible dystopian future robots can bring.  He describes his book "Robot Futures" as a look at how technology can change our future for the worse, and forces us to ask questions about technology before it's too late.

He also warns that some technologies are already affecting our lives in a negative way. Nourbakhsh explains the concept of digital labor, and how we are laboring and giving away information for free, everyday, while online.

"What's interesting about this new digital age, is that our behavior day-to-day, literally what music we listen to, what radio station we listen to, how we drive our car, where we look with our eyeballs, all of that is labor that we're doing, that's being collected by somebody, processed and then resold," says Nourbakhsh. "So we don't end up benefiting, instead, our work, the very fact that we hit that 'heart' sign on Pandora and decide what music we like, that becomes value for Pandora, their IPO gets expensive, their CEO makes money off of our work."

He looks toward a future where robots will exist on our streets for the purpose of selling us something, or even helping us, and because of our digital labor, now the robot knows everything about us just by recognizing our face.

"I wonder what happens to us and our sense personal identity when everything about us is revealed when we interact with a robot."

Illah Nourbakhsh

Mike Pintek can be heard noon to 3 p.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.

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