Industrial engineers: Future world overlords?

Rich Pell -August 26, 2008

Most of us are familiar with the bomb diffusing/disposal robots now found in use by many police departments. It turns out these relatively basic, non-autonomous machines may be just the tip of a future iceberg of policing and security robots that will oversee all aspects of our lives.

However, says robotics and artificial intelligence expert Noel Sharkey in a recent report "2084: Big robot is watching you," it's not the robots that we'll have to fear, but the humans who control them. In a timeline to 2084 of future developments in robot policing he predicts that we'll eventually see advanced "squidgy" humanoid robots that will appear almost human and have beyond human capabilities including "speed of process, being able to run faster than humans, and deformable bodies."

But even by 2084, he concludes, although robots will have "considerable autonomy," humans will still be required for critical judgments about the nature of data, and that "artificial intelligence will not be producing robot detectives." However, Sharkey, who is based in the "current surveillance society" of the UK, doesn't necessarily find this comforting:

I am not talking about super-intelligent robots taking over the world. I am talking about dumb quasi-autonomous mobile machines moving through our lives in an unprecedented way; machines that may be under control of governments and police or even the local utility companies.

In other words, "those in control of the machines will control society." Sound like anyone you know?

Comments, questions or suggestions? Email me at

Related links:
10 things you don't know about robots
Robots vs. Man (and other Robots)

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