How can we compare and contrast robots and humans?

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Addressing this question is a bit complicated since the definition of "robot" can differ depending on whether one's ideas align more closely with science or with science fiction . Let's agree for now that a robot is an artificially intelligent life-form with some sort of body that is able to...

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Addressing this question is a bit complicated since the definition of "robot" can differ depending on whether one's ideas align more closely with science or with science fiction. Let's agree for now that a robot is an artificially intelligent life-form with some sort of body that is able to sense and respond to stimuli; for further exploration of what constitutes a robot, see the sources linked below.

The most obvious difference at a glance is that while humans and robots both have bodies, human bodies are all similar in biological makeup and physical features, while robots can differ from one another in endless ways. A robot may be microscopic or quite large, and while it could be designed to have a human-like appearance, it may alternately have an entirely unique set of physical features. A robot can be built to whatever specifications its creator designs.

Humans and robots both think and possess intelligence, but a robot's intelligence is programmable by computer, while human intelligence is not. Humans are capable of reason and logic, and while robots can sense and respond to environmental stimuli, responses are limited by the algorithms with which they have been programmed. As algorithms improve, intelligence and skilled responses grow, thus robots can improve upon intelligence and skills much like humans can.

Robots would not exist without the work of humans, whereas humans have long existed without robots. Since robots can theoretically be programmed to undertake any task, and since technology is constantly advancing, one might argue that robots are more powerful than humans. There are many works of literature, movies and television shows that point to robots as a potential threat to mankind; since robots are powerful and can think for themselves, one might argue that if a human developed a robot with a certain deadly combination of knowledge, skills and power, that robot could ultimately overpower any human.

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From Dr. Frankenstein’s horrific experiment in reanimation to its distant relatives, which include Star Trek’s, Commander Data and Schwarzenegger’s intimidating Terminator, sentient beings created in man’s image from inanimate objects have captured the human imagination. Though fully fleshed realizations of either Data’s android or the Terminator cyborg still remain beyond the limits of current technological capability, humans do share certain characteristics with these mechanized life forms, which are commonly referred to as “robots.”

While both the bodies of a human being and robot could be considered types of machines, the former are the products of biology, whereas the latter are scientifically engineered constructions. Although both are capable of performing tasks, a robot is usually created to perform a specific task or series of tasks. A robotic mobile servicing arm on a space station (remotely controlled to perform certain maintenance activities, grapple other pieces of equipment, or even procure samples of debris) as well as the Mars Rover are just two examples. A robot may also be part of a virtual device, such as the “bots” used in software.

While a robot can explore terrain inhospitable or potentially fatal to humans, its mechanical body, much like that of its human counterpart, is subject to the exigencies of that particular environment, whether that be deep sea, deep space, or one involving extremes of temperature and pressure. Just as humans sometimes find themselves at the mercy of genetics and heredity, a robot’s “health” depends wholly on the skill of those who designed its chassis, engineered its casing, and wired and programmed its often complex circuitry.

Human beings are capable of independent thought, feeling, and judgement. The ability to remember, as well as learn, helps us adapt to certain situations and environments in a timely manner. That which resembles human consciousness in a robot must be programmed. To help robots think more like their human counterparts, NASA scientists have employed two tools to this end: fuzzy logic and neural networks. While both technologies bestow a certain degree of logistical capability in their robotic recipients, their success in decoding often ambiguous linguistic cues or affecting mnemonic abilities is still in its rudimentary stages.

Beyond the capacity for independent thought, perhaps one of the most important distinctions separating humans from robots is the former’s ability to feel genuine emotion. As previously stated, everything a robot does must be programmed, and while a robot may be programmed to detect and even mimic human emotions, its responses are superficial rather than spontaneous.

Perhaps the most important distinction between humans and robots lies in the essence of creation, itself: humans made robots, not vice versa.



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