See 500 years of robots
See 500 years of robots Charllotte Abbot shakes hands with Pepper an interactive French-Japanese robot, during a press preview for the Robots exhibition held at the Science Museum in London, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
See 500 years of robots
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Inspired by his belief that human beings are essentially terrified of robots, Ben Russell has set about charting the evolution of automatons. It is for an exhibition he hopes will force people to think about how androids and other robotic forms can enhance their lives.
Robots, says Russell, have been with us for centuries, as "Robots," his exhibit at London's Science Museum, shows.
From a 15th century Spanish clockwork monk who kisses his rosary and beats his breast in contrition, to a Japanese "childoid" newsreader, created in 2014 with lifelike facial expressions, the exhibition tracks the development of robotics and mankind's obsession with replicating itself.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's unstoppable Terminator cyborg is there. So is Robby the Robot, star of the 1956 film "Forbidden Planet." They represent the horror and the fantasy of robots with minds of their own.
There are other examples, too. The exhibit shows factory production-line machines blamed for taking people's jobs in recent decades. There is a "telenoid communications android" for hugging during long-distance phone calls to ease loneliness and there is Kaspar, a "minimally expressive social robot" built like a small boy. Kaspar is designed to help ease social interactions for children with autism.
"Robots haven't been these terrifying things. They've been magical, fascinating, useful, and they generally tend to do what we want them to do," said Russell, who works at the science museum and was the lead curator of the exhibition.
And while it's human nature to be worried in the face of change, Russell said, the exhibit should help people "think about what we are as humans" and realize that if robots are "going to come along, you've got a stake in how they develop."
A total of 100 robots are set in five different historic periods in the show. The exhibit explores how religion, industrialization, pop culture and visions of the future have shaped society.
For Rich Walker, managing director of Shadow Robot Company in London, robotics is about what these increasingly sophisticated machines can do for humans to make life easier, particularly for the elderly or the impaired.
"I'm naturally lazy and got involved so that I could get robots to do things for me," Walker said. His company has developed a robotic hand. It can replicate 24 of the 27 natural movements of the human hand.
Humans have a one percent failure rate at repetitive tasks. Only committing errors about once every two hours, the hand could replace humans on production lines, he said.
Walker concedes further erosion of certain types of jobs if inventions such as his are successful. He says having repetitive tasks performed by automatons would free up people to adopt value-added roles.
"The issue is to rebuild the economy so that it has a holistic approach to employment," he said.
This, in turn, leads to questions. Some were raised at the exhibition.  For instance, should owners of robots pay taxes on the value of their output as part of the new industrial revolution?

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How could robots have been made 500 years ago?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • savannaheath-dia
    2/21/2017 - 09:19 a.m.

    The clockmakers in the 15th century almost had what was needed to make a robot.

  • thomash1-pla
    2/21/2017 - 11:07 a.m.

    Automation is feared in the realms of business and humanity. People are fearful of the possibility of their job being replaced by a robot, and that fear is not all that irrational. Automation has seen a huge increase ever since the industrial revolution, with the presence of machinery constantly growing as we develop as a society. The humanitarian nature of artificial intelligence has been undergoing skepticism lately. People are beginning to become uncomfortable about the notion that computers are smarter are more functional than human beings. Moreover, this topic will forever be debated: man versus machine.

  • noahr-ste
    2/22/2017 - 10:45 a.m.

    It would be crazy if we had robots up to 500 years ago. The world be so technologically advanced. Even more than what it already is today. I wish I could have seen it.

  • zakrym-ste
    2/24/2017 - 01:05 p.m.

    Robots would have been not as advanced as it is today. They would have something that would rotate on its own and that would be called a robot. It would not be as fascinating as it is today.

  • chris24-war
    3/01/2017 - 09:57 a.m.

    I think robots are cool and the fact that they are making them to be able to help kids with autism. Robots are becoming more and more involved with every day life.

  • anthony3-war
    3/01/2017 - 09:58 a.m.

    I think its cool how society is advancing yet sad that people have become so lazy. Even robots will help us in many ways, it means that humans will have the opportunity to stop working. They will be able to sit on their couch and press a button to get a snack or a drink without getting up.

  • summer2-war
    3/01/2017 - 09:58 a.m.

    Documents go as far back as 500 years in regards to machinery and human's natural fear to its power. Technology - robots - have and can influence religion, pop culture, and industrialization.

  • logan2-war
    3/01/2017 - 09:58 a.m.

    Robots 500 years ago could have been used to help farm, and make life easier for the people. Robots could have been used to help weave clothing, although robots weren't as complicated as todays, they were probably very important to everyday life.

  • gauge-war
    3/01/2017 - 10:00 a.m.

    Robots have been helpful in the production of people and certain products that are manufactured. Robots have a smaller chance of mistake when working on certain things. These robots help with peoples self of steam and their social socialalbility.

  • stanley-war
    3/01/2017 - 10:03 a.m.

    robots are advanced machinery that can change our lives forever because they can do things better than humans. but we need to get paste that the film industry has vilified them for years I hope they come more into the light and are more common

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