I ain’t afraid of no robot: expert says ‘robolution’ has ‘already started’ at Innorobo | Video
The New Economy visited the Innorobo conference in Lyon this week and talked to robotics expert, Bruno Bonnell, about what a ‘robolution’ could mean for humankindShow transcript
The idea of a robot revolution is something that divides the masses – leaving some optimistic, and others concerned, about the role of our metal counterparts in the future. At the Innorobo conference in Lyon this week, The New Economy spoke to one of the leading experts in robotics in France, Bruno Bonnell, to find out what kind of robots are currently being developed, what jobs they might replace, and whether a ‘robolution’ is really such a bad thing
The New Economy: Bruno, what kind of robots are being developed now, and is there a kind of trend in robots?
Bruno Bonnell: Robotics is changing the whole world, but we don’t see exactly trends. You know, we lived an industrial revolution; now we’re living an industrial robolution, as I call it. Meaning that every single object, every single thing we do in life, will be changed by intelligence brought to machines.
So for instance: having a driving licence in 20 years might just be a hobby, or a luxury, because you’ll see cars that will be able just to drive you by themselves. If you look at health services, a lot of surgical operations will be made by robots, with an efficiency probably significantly better than the ones we have today.
[H]aving a driving licence in 20 years might just be
The New Economy: So what timescale are we looking at?
Bruno Bonnell: Well, the robolution already started. For instance, the vacuum cleaner business. Five years ago, worldwide it was something like 100,000 units sold. Last year it was 10m products sold. So, you can see that in some categories of robotics already, you have efficient sales, and significant sales, of robots.
The New Economy: Well we obviously have to talk about jobs, so, what kind of jobs will robots replace in the future? And should we be worried about this?
Bruno Bonnell: We have to remember that in the industrial history of the world, a lot of jobs have actually vanished, right? When machines came on board, a lot of traditional businesses went, just… off. But at the same time, you had a generation of brand new jobs. So if we want to talk about what is going to disappear because of robotics, you want to talk about what is going to happen in robotics.
The New Economy: What sectors do you think will benefit most from robots?
Bruno Bonnell: All the sectors! Something as surprising as agriculture; nobody would have believed that agriculture would have used drones, you know, to see how corn is growing. Nobody would have that thought one day you would trust a robot enough to actually perform an operation inside a human body. And we’ve even seen robots operating on the brain now. So I think that the size of the market – that’s why I call it a robolution – the size of the market is simply everywhere.
The New Economy: Well moving on to humanoid robots now; I read a report that some scientists argue that there’s no point in developing robots like people, because we’re far too complex. What are your thoughts on this?
Bruno Bonnell: The world was created in seven days, they say, right? And man was the last one, was right before Sunday, and to get some rest. We’re probably on Monday afternoon. Meaning that there is a long way for this incredible success of making something that is close to human. Right? But as a research platform, to analyse problems like vision, balance, mechanical issues, or even energy issues, they are wonderful platforms to work on.
So, you shouldn’t see the humanoids as a solution in the short-term, but definitely it’s a goal for a lot of roboticians.
[W]e should have called it artificial deduction, or artificial reasoning
It’s a bit like in Star Wars. You have R2D2, which is this kind of bright can, right, on wheels? And you have this humanoid robot who is helping. But people for the moment, they focus on R2D2, because they find R2D2 more useful. It’s the same thing. Today, when you have dedicated robots for dedicated usage, they are used effectively, and the dream of humanoid remains a goal for researchers. It’s an important goal for research, but let’s wait until Saturday to see if they’re successful.
The New Economy: Do you think robots will ever have a thought process, and be able to act on that thought process? And isn’t that a little bit scary?
Bruno Bonnell: You know, at the beginning of all this, we talked about artificial intelligence: AI. When effectively, we should have called it artificial deduction, or artificial reasoning. Because all this is based on programs. And it can be very sophisticated like the last Watson from IBM, but at the end of the day they are based on programs. They don’t really include intuition, emotion, humanity, love… and that’s where intelligence sometimes is the most efficient: when you include those elements into your reasoning. So no doubt in pure deduction the machine will one day be more efficient than humans, because it can just manage more data. But, no doubt as well, human will keep its humanity.
The New Economy: So finally, what role do you hope robots will play in the future?
Bruno Bonnell: When I speak about industrial robolution, I put myself in the shoes of this guy of the 19th century, who was speaking of industrial revolution, right? And if I had the same question then, he would have said: well, the world is just going to change. And the people are going to adapt to this world. So, it will be just natural to see robots in our surroundings.
The New Economy: Bruno, thank you.
Bruno Bonnell: Thank you.