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Robots and bathtubs
About 45 years ago a friend of mine said she planned to marry the inventor of a self-cleaning bathtub. She’s still single.
If anyone has invented a self-cleaning tub, that clever person didn’t have a booth at this year’s big tech trade show in Las Vegas – the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), by name.
Other husband material did show up. Robots.
No, I didn’t go to Vegas, so I met none of them personally. Besides, I’m married. But a CES robot I saw on morning television did catch my eye. He can pour you a glass of wine.
I’d be more impressed if he could clean the tub.
When it comes to housecleaning, vacuuming seems to be the main skill on the resume of the latest breed of robots. Ho-hum.
There’s a vacuuming robot that also can double as a home-monitoring device. Now we’re getting somewhere. Any housecleaning robot naturally wouldn’t want any burglars tracking in dirt. Me either.
Maybe by next year the do-it-all domestic robot not only will monitor but also will attack intruders – on command, of course. That added ability is more likely than a tub-cleaning feature. After all, it’s easier to clunk someone over the head than to eradicate tub scum. Quote me.
Why is it that life’s most difficult chores are the ones that are hardest to assign to robots? Case in point, the task of sorting.
On the other hand, over a hundred years ago my father must have been wishing someone would invent a machine to milk cows. We know how that turned out.
But sorting? It’s more of a personal brain thing. What robot can decide for me whether to keep the notes from Sunday’s sermon six years ago? Same goes for the used-just-once envelope lined with bubble wrap and the scrap of paper with the scribbled words that seemed at the time like a hook for a hit song.
If anyone ever invents a robotic sorter, AI will be involved, meaning artificial intelligence. Maybe you didn’t need the clarification, but down on the farm, AI means artificial insemination, which does require some intelligence to effect. We still have a bull on our place.
That’s an acronym for you. The stale ones tend to get eclipsed. Ask the Bureau of Land Management.
But even though artificial intelligence is constantly improving, can robotic thinking ever replace a human brain?
For one thing, our brains are moving targets. When it comes to sorting stuff, brains make decisions based on accumulated criteria. Right? Every day brings new memories. When it comes to sorting, you are sifting through tangible elements of your past. Memories.
Maybe the answer is a robot who goes everywhere with you, meaning the companion robot builds a memory that matches yours and thereby, when sorting time comes, will know exactly what to keep and what to toss.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the killer robot is bored but keeps vacuuming.
And the tub still needs cleaning.
Time is running out for my single friend.