No question; robots are coming. Well, in fact, they are here right now. They have been evolving right along side of us since the Renaissance (if not earlier) in some form or another. We are all familiar with robots in industry, tirelessly spot welding parts in auto plants or remote drones that drag sea cables. Robots become more pervasive every day and those that sweep your floor or mow your lawn are going to get smarter. The one's we use to detect and diffuse bombs, spy on others or to kill terrorists already are. The two robot crawlers we sent to Mars is a testament to the fact that such entities already express a will to live on longer than imagined (makes one think of Roy in BladeRunner).
Not so long ago we were all astonished by little Asimo from Honda walking around, climbing stairs with real agility and capable of recognizing faces. The technology has already advanced to where such robots can run and ride bikes as well as any of us. Commercial planes already land us in poor visibility conditions.
Before we know it, Asimos will be capable of performing day care, or more practical perhaps, elder care, dispensing drugs, monitoring health and keeping remote doctors alert. Some robots are already being designed to fight fires and they surely come in handy when Nuclear reactors go bad too.
What we saw in Metropolis decades ago, Forbidden Planet, the Day the Earth Stood Still, and Lost in Space fascinated a generation and before this generation passed, they saw entire new universes of imagined robots from R2 and C3P0 to Wall-E and Transformers. Only this time, the degree of realism rendered literally plants a seed in one's mind that all of this nearly exists right now. The race towards such a reality is exponential.
It's not just robotics created in human form, as so much of this technology is anchored to computer technology and artificial intelligence. We are already living in the age of "Big data" where structured (text, numbers) and unstructured (pictures, videos) data is collected minute by minute where we can then in real time, scan and analyze all of this data to look for patterns in the data and sift out previously unknown correlations between things that might not have occurred to us otherwise. The data is collected in such massive amounts now that we have reached a point where humans are going to need help to make sense of it. We are fast approaching the need to embrace an augmented reality to help make sense of the jetstream of data streaming at us around the clock. Are we keeping up? Well, as I look around and see faces contuously staring at smart phone screens it would appear that many are trying to. Using AI fronted by an avatar of your choice, it will be possible to perform infosensing of anything connected to an Internet of things. A way to augment our limited organic lives so we can simply keep up.
Today we can easily get frustrated attempting the auto check out at Home Depot or Lowes but in less than 5 years, we will likely walk through a check out line where an avatar on a screen or projected via holograph will efficiently check you out without error while simulataneously offering up personality traits, friendship and courtesy tailored to fit you based upon your own social network profile. Cisco has already demostrated realistic holographic imaging and infosensing in its telepresence technologies that is quite impressive so again, this stuff is all right around the corner.
For this to all displace a variety of jobs now performed by humans is really near, so even if something like OWS does in the near term, manage to drive a more equitable distribution of wealth, it will not stop the need for everyone to make continuing education a reality if we are to be capable of embracing the new types of engineering and science-based jobs focused on the things humans will do,.. until a machine can.
Yoda told us that the "future is always in motion"; so all predictions are never too precise perhaps. Yet spend some quality google time searching terms like robotics, nano, AI, infosensing and data visualization and you will see that the present is also in motion and leading us to an interesting tomorrow.