Innovation rarely matches up to science fiction. The Jetsons premiered in 1962 and is set in 2062, so we’re closer to the future than we are the past.
While it doesn’t feel like we’re living in The Flintstones, the most obvious mainstream tech predicted by The Jetsons is video chat. Other iconic inventions like the flying car are still off in the distance, but there’s a chance Rosey the Robot is on her way.
According to the New York Times, Google’s robotics division is making significant advances with artificial intelligence. The previous generation of robot brains made Siri look like Einstein. As OpenAI has demonstrated with ChatGPT, Google can now leverage large language models for robotics, which has led to a huge leap forward in their groundbreaking research.
If you’ve used ChatGPT or Midjourney, it’s obvious how recent AI advances could transform mindless hunks of metal into the most efficient custodians this world has ever seen. Until now, these machines required specific instructions, such as the precise distances they had to move their arms. RT-2, Google’s newest robotics model, can identify objects and process requests in human terms that make their domesticated future feel like it’s only a broom’s length away.
Robots Feel Like The Future
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Hal 9000 is close to what we have today on the surface. We can use our voices to communicate our commands with ChatGPT through standard dictation, and text-to-speech on our devices can convert their responses into audio. Now we just need more plugins!
As dazzling as an AI chatbot may be, it doesn’t feel nearly as advanced as a robot that can share a physical space with us. It’s ironic that this wave of generative AI is still regarded as something of a novelty because walking, talking robots are now credibly achievable due to similar underlying advances.
It can be hard to make the connection between a chatbot that convincingly writes in the style of Chaucer and a robot that can clean leaves out of the gutter. Generative AI’s capacity for nuance allows humans to interact more naturally, as opposed to always focusing on instructional clarity. The ease of these interactions, along with image identification, are the most obvious connections between existing AI experiences and what we can expect from robotics in the future.
There may still be a long way to go. Elon Musk believes there will be a humanoid robot in every home by 2050. Even then, there’s no guarantee we’ll feel super safe living with chatty machines that have access to the cutlery and limited reasoning powers. Would it make you feel safer if it was made by Elon Musk?
Didn’t think so. Speculating about the future of robotics can be scary, especially when Tesla Bots are actively in development. According to the SpaceX website, Musk is also developing a network of 42,000 low-orbit satellites. Just for fun, or to coordinate a robot apocalypse? For now, Boston Dynamics can help us visualize what this might look like.
The Spooky Robot Company
Until they removed it in 2018, Google’s code of conduct used to literally say, “Don’t be evil.” Scary, right? Thankfully, they spun out their super spooky robot company, Boston Dynamics, a year earlier because it would’ve been terrifying news if that were still in place as their position on being evil evolved.
“Spooky” is probably not how Boston Dynamics was sold when Google originally acquired it. The only reason the robotics firm warrants hyperbole lies in their content strategy. Boston Dynamics posts videos that spotlight what appear to be foot soldiers training for the robot apocalypse and label them “parkour.”
The only thing worse than watching killer robots train for the end days is watching them dance to Motown. For some reason, Boston Dynamics felt compelled to share this video of its terrifying robots cutting a rug to choreography worthy of Grease.
Considering how much harm robots like these may inflict one day, it’s more like watching John Travolta get down in Pulp Fiction. It feels like the robots could turn to the camera at any moment and commit a heinous act of violence, like Samuel L. Jackson after he quotes a bible verse at the beginning of the movie.
The Terminator was one of the first sci-fi action movies in a decade that saw a swell in science fiction as consumers first began inviting personal computers into their homes. Linda Hamilton, who has played Sarah Connor in the The Terminator franchise for almost 40 years, assumed the genre picture was nothing more than a B movie. So, if everyone was just starting out, how was The Terminator such a huge success?
There was real talent involved, and Schwarzenegger has always been an exceptional promoter, but humanoid robots simply capture the public imagination. Robots sell tickets because they feel like the future, from C-3PO in Star Wars to Ava in Ex Machina. It will always feel like something is missing until they are incorporated into everyday life. As long as they can starch a shirt and take constructive criticism without uprising, our AI future could be better than fiction.
Want more fun and informative tech stories? Sign up for Theo’s newsletter!