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 it tracks 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.
 
Other examples are there, too. The exhibit shows factory production-line machines blamed for taking people's jobs. 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.
 
It is human nature to be worried in the face of change, Russell noted. But he said his 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.
 
Rich Walker is managing director of Shadow Robot Company in London.  For him, robotics is about what these increasingly sophisticated machines can do for humans to make life easier. That is especially true 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 robotic 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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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How could robots have been made 500 years ago?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (20)
  • joeyh-
    2/15/2017 - 08:40 a.m.

    A robot could be considered anything that does an action over and over and is mechanical. 500 years ago, a robot could have been any of the new inventions.

  • jaredg-hei
    2/15/2017 - 10:28 a.m.

    Out of iron, sticks, and glass.

    • kennishag2-hei
      2/15/2017 - 10:43 a.m.

      I don't think that's a full sentence and you have explain how they made them back then.

    • javariusj-hei
      2/15/2017 - 11:54 a.m.

      Can you be more specific in your answer.

    • javariusj-hei
      2/15/2017 - 11:58 a.m.

      They could have been made be hand and by several different machines.And they are very useful because some people in the world may be paralyzed and they need robots to get around. It's way harder because they don't have the technology we have today.

  • daniell4-hei
    2/15/2017 - 10:55 a.m.

    They would be made to help people with disability's. The robots might be made out of metal and other nautral things.

  • bkyle-dav
    2/15/2017 - 05:17 p.m.

    In response to "See 500 years of robot," I agree that robots would make our lives easier. One reason I agree is that if someone has a hard job that involves heavy loads of some kind, than robots can help us with that. Another reason is that if you ate missing an arm or a leg, then you can get a robotic prosthetic, which I think is better than a normal prosthetic. A third reason is that in the article, it says that robots can help people can help elderly people and impaired get around with ease. Even though robots would probably cost a lot, I think there will be more and more people buying robot products.

  • dejaunn-
    2/16/2017 - 08:46 a.m.

    technology has been around for many years and has expanded through out the years.

  • eolivia-dav
    2/16/2017 - 06:39 p.m.

    In response to "See 500 years of robots," I have the opinion that it is very interesting. One reason I believe this is that seeing how far all the new technologies have come. Another reason is that all old movies gives a fact that humans are scared of robots but now a lot of people find that kind of stuff fun. A third reason is that they could make peoples jobs a lot easier then they are now. Even though some people would not like this article, I think that this was a very good one.

  • dmatthew-dav
    2/16/2017 - 08:18 p.m.

    In response to "See 500 years of robots," I Say that this amazing.Is that a lot of these robots have very realistic details. One reason I say this is that the history of the robots is very intresting going that there is a robot monk that was made in the fivtenth centrie. Another reason is that Technolgy was not as good in the 15th centruie then it is today. It says in the article "A total of 100 robots are set in five different historic periods in the show." A third reason is that these robots can express religon, industrialization, pop culture and visions of the future.Even though the robots might have a malfucton and not be effeicent, I think with a bussniss man's help robots can be a huge part of the sociaty.
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