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The Robo Cloud Is Coming

I was just getting used to yesterday and suddenly it’s tomorrow.

Am I the only one who worries that we’re going a little too fast in our move to bring robotics into everyday life? Shouldn’t we sit down as a group and ask first, “Is this really something we want to do?” Maybe I’ve read too much science fiction, or maybe it’s those images from The Matrix that I just can’t get out of my mind. Or maybe it’s the memory from 2001 of the mentally ill computer with self awareness, Hal, trying to convince Dave that it was all a misunderstanding and that he promises to be good if only he’s not disconnected from his power source.

I need to get over it. Robots are going to be part of our lives whether we like it or not. As a matter of fact, Robots already have their own web site.

The Beeb reported on Friday that robots are now talking to the cloud. The Europeans, it seems, have developed something called Rapyuta, which is sort of a help center for robots:

“Instead of every robot building up its own idiosyncratic catalogue of how to deal with the objects and situations it encounters, Rapyuta would be the place they ask for help when confronted with a novel situation, place or thing.

“In addition, the web-based service is able to do complicated computation on behalf of a robot – for example if it needs to work out how to navigate a room, fold an item of clothing or understand human speech.

“The system could be particularly useful for drones, self-driving cars or other mobile robots who have to do a lot of number crunching just to get round, said Mohanarajah Gajamohan, technical head of the project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.”

In a way this sounds a little bit like Google’s Chrome OS, where most work is actually performed in cyberspace, doesn’t it? In a way, it’s very Zen. We have all these robots running around doing our bidding, each with its own separate identity, but all ultimately relying on a single brain.

My valet-bot is busy dressing me, folding my clothes and such, thinking about all the things that concern valet-bots. Meanwhile, my butler-bot is answering the phone, attempting to discern whether the caller really needs my attention or not, because I get cranky when you hand me the phone and it turns out to be yet another person who wants to sell me burial insurance. My banker-bot is counting my liabilities, contemplating closing my account, while the cop-bot is wondering whether I should be pulled over for doing five over.

All these bots with separate jobs and separate identities, but they all share the same brain–God-bot–who lives up in the cloud.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Yup. This is going to work out just fine. Absolutely nothing can go wrong with this plan.

Until some country that hates us hacks into God-bot and runs all of our cars off the road at a hundred miles an hour, while having all of our butler-bots set our houses on fire while we’re asleep.

It’ll be just great! Here in the U.S. our government will be able to use some Draconian cyber-security law to gain access to God-bot to trick all the bots running the nuclear reactor in Tehran to turn all the gauges up to “maximum plus,” thereby overheating everything, blowing up the reactor and putting an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions forever.

Isn’t that great! And then some mob somewhere is bound to hack in and get teller-bots at banks everywhere to transfer funds to the Cayman Islands.

Ah yes, the world of robotics is upon us. It’s going to make for some very interesting television, don’t you think?

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

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1 comment to The Robo Cloud Is Coming

  • Eddie G.

    I see it as, as long as we don’t give the robots “full control” over technologies that can decimate and obliterate mankind, then we should be able to live in a peaceful agreement, but when one side decides the other side is no longer needed, then THAT is when you will have a “war” breakout. There should be a way to live peaceably with a mechanical / biological hybrid being, or with a machine that is designed to assist humankind with developing future technologies…