Monday, October 10, 2005


(this is part of a larger study I'm working on about robots)

With so much recent interest in robots, and with the possibilities that emerging technologies afford in working with and developing robots, I think its a good occasion to talk about robots.

Robots can do many things. For example, they can talk, walk, make cars, play soccer, and do the dishes. Probably the best robot is Richie Rich's robot maid, Irona. Also, electric Grandma--herself a robot--is a great robot. Probably the best feature about the electric Grandma is that she can pour juice out of her finger. There are also lots of different names for robots like mega-bots, junk-bots, humanoids, automatons, circuit-bots, microbots, and such.

People that don't like robots usually just don't understand robots, or haven't taken the time to get to know robots. There are some problems with robots. For example, if a robot runs into a wall or door or something else, it keeps walking. Also, their voices are a little bit wierd, here is a sample of how robots talk. Also they have a lot of things that can pop out of them, like different robot parts. You can learn about robots from a variety of sources: movies, TV, books, magazines, the internet (computers), robot experts, and history. I encourage you, if you haven't already, to learn more about robots.

Although most robots in movies move in mechanical ways, this can be misleading. For example, many robots don't even look like people, like some look more like dogs, or electrical boxes. Robots can move, compute, clean, lift up a piece of furniture with one hand and vacuum under it with the other, measure, add, and, as mentioned earlier, talk. One thing that allows some robots to do this is artificial intelligence. Probably the best way to describe artificial intelligence is to imagine a bowling ball that thinks. That is what artificial intelligence is like--a thinking bowling ball. What allows robots to have artificial intelligence? Simple: circuits.

The most basic, important feature of robots is probably circuits. No circuits, no robots. Know circuits, know robots. Unfortunately, many popular images of robots focus on wires, controls, and switches, not circuits. I think that we should probably learn more about circuits, and that would help us better understand robots. I think this is especially important if you want to become an expert on robots. Robots can be found all over the world, but most everyone in the world is not a robot.

If you want to learn more about robots, you can learn more about them here, here or here (this last link is a commercial site where people can buy robot parts. I don't make a commission if you purchase robot parts from them, but you might be interested in it anyway.) Here is an exciting blog about robots.


  1. Anonymous4:16 PM

    Wow. I love your blogs, I just read all of them this weekend. I could have done some cool stuff but i CHOSE to stay home and read your blogs.
    I just saw a news spot for a recent development you might be interested in... robot VEHICLES. Ths size of SUVs. Sounds pretty sweet. I think a lot of people in NJ are already PRETENDING they are driving robototic vehicles with the kind of stuff you see on the highways here. My question for the robot expert (that's you, Ben) is who controls the robotic car? If it's the driver, which is the only logicical and safe choice, is it really considered a 'robot' or is it just a mechanical machine with a human inside- which seems oddly similar to what's on the roads today?

    Liz Stanley

    Liz Stanley

  2. Liz, the only other explanation than the one you offer would be that the robot cars are controlled by artificial intelligence. I give a description of artificial intelligence in this post. Artificial intelligence machines don't have humans inside them, they are independently (albeit artificially) intelligent.

  3. Ben you cannot really expect us to believe all this garbage about "robots", and "circuits". Until you back it up with some credible evidence I just refuse to believe any of it.

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  5. Sorry, I can't believe Salem is saying this stuff. Salem, have you ever seen anyone walk or dance like a robot? Where do you think they learned it?

    To call robots and/or circuits garbage is insulting to robots, circuits, and those of us (the great majority of humanity) that believe in them. Maybe you could look at this, or this or this or this or this. Still think that's garbage?

  6. Salem, I am about to delete your comment. I don't want to have that kind of insult on my blog. In my post, I just was giving a brief overview of robots, I wasn't saying that we should become robots, or that we should increase taxes to support robots, or that we should cut funding to schools to make robots. I just thought that it was a good opportunity to discuss robots a little bit. I do think that it is important, especially if you are (or anyone is) interested in becoming a robot expert, to learn more about robots and circuits. I think part of learning about robots is learning about their culture--how they talk, how they walk, how they dance, how they respond to obstacles--like if they run into a wall for example, and of course to learn more about circuits. Do you think that people that want to become robot experts shouldn't learn more about robots and circuits?

  7. Salem, I meant to say at the end of my comment before my most recent one, the one that ends "Still think that's garbage? I also meant to say: "How you like them apples?"

  8. Salem: What's not to believe? This isn't science fiction, it's science, plain and simple. I'll grant that understanding circuits is (or can be) a tough task, but that's not to say it's nonsense--or as you put it "garbage". You want credible evidence? Guess who plays a large part in car manufacturing? You guessed it: robots. Guess who can man spacecrafts to distant planets? You guessed it: robots. And, Liz mentioned robot vehicles--are you questioning her credibility?

  9. I am just amazed that an intelligent man like yourself could be so easily duped. Why do you think its called car manufacturing? And don't you think it odd that "NASA" has "robots" "man" spacecraft to the moon. Liz even points out who operates the so called "robot" vehicles, that's right, man.

    Your pictures of robots prove nothing more than the wonders of photoshop.

    And to answeer your question, I don't think it is appropriate for anyone to choose to become a "robot expert" much less learn about robots or circuits. It's nonsense. I have yet to see one iota of evidence. Your bowling ball description of artificial inteligence needs some major overhauling. First of all, bowling balls cannot, let me repeat CANNOT think. Even if they could what good would that do. Next thing you know they wouldn't want to roll into pins. That's what bowling balls do is roll into pins.
    Finally, the "robot" you have talk on your blog is obviously you. Unless you are saying that all robots talk like you. Are you?

  10. I got really nervous reading this, because I was afraid you weren't going to mention Vicky from 'Small Wonder.' But then you sort of alluded to her. Great!

  11. Salem: Are you saying that, because the word 'manufactur(ing)' begins with the letters 'man' that it is an exclusive activity of humans? The root to the prefix 'man' is latin, and it means 'hand'--do I need to mention here that robots have hands? You also seem to disregard the fact that 'man' has multiple meanings, including 'a male human', 'human being' and 'to drive or control a vehicle'. When I said robots 'man' spacecrafts, I was referring to this last meaning. I guess I don't understand, do you not believe in robots? That seems like an odd, and outdated belief. Are you just not supportive of robots? Well, OK, you go with that and see how far into the 21st century it gets you. Also, I gave a sample of how robots sound, I never said it was a robot. I could also give a sample of how a dog sounds without having a dog, it's simple logic. And, I never said that artificial intelligence was a bowling ball, I agree, that would be a stupid claim. I said that artificial intelligence was like a thinking bowling ball. Whether or not bowling balls actually think is an empirical question. Please don't use my blog to spread anti-robot propoganda. But I am happy to discuss legitimate robot questions and concerns. Thank you.

  12. Chris: I also included an image of Vicky in a comment.

  13. Liz Stanley2:27 PM

    Well I agree with Ben that it is important to learn about robots if anyone were thinking about becoming a robot expert per chance but also if at some point one finds themselves in a situation where they might need expert robot knowledge (like battling a robot at the liberty science center to impress 5th graders on their school field trip), however I do not think we should cut school funding to support robot research, nor do i think robotic bowling balls should replace MTA station operators in the new york subways (clarification: no one said that, but i just wanted to make sure that wasn't anyone's conclusion. Primarily for safety reasons and also i can't imagine a bowling ball can learn all the daily route changes and also survive several muggings a day of the toll booth)

  14. I agree with Liz completely. Bowling balls should not drive the subways In New York. Thats a stupid idea Salem and Ben, it will never work.


  15. So Ben if I understand you correctly there is no such thing as a thinking bowling ball, yet artificial intelligence is just like a thinking bowling ball. That comes to the conclusion that artificial intelligence does not exist. If AI doesn't exist then that must mean that circuits and robots do not exist either. That's right you heard me ROBOTS DON'T EXIST! You may think that is an odd and outdated belief, well here's another belief that you may think is odd and outdated...

    O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
    What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
    O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
    And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
    O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

    In this the twenty-first century its time we give up on the notion or robots. The whole concept is absurd. Although I do admire your conviction of the whole idea, I think its time to grow up Ben.

  16. Salem: You just don't get it, do you? You just don't get it. I'm not writing some hypothetical about robots. There are robots, and they are doing many things. Oh, and uh Salem, robots aren't un-American! Not to rub it in, but my list of things that robots do was not exclusive, that is, robots do all those things, PLUS many other things.

    Fact: robots assemble products.
    Fact: robots handle dangerous materials.
    Fact: robots spray finishes on
    Fact: robots inspect parts, products and even livestock.
    Fact: robots cut and polish products
    Fact: there are many benefits to using robots instead of humans.
    Fact: robots will never get bored and they will do things more efficiently than humans.
    Fact: Robots do not need to rest.
    Fact: robots have travelled in space, deep in the ocean, and in volcanoes.
    Fact: robots are regularly used around the world to disarm bombs.

  17. Liz and Josh: artificial intelligence is like, LIKE a thinking bowling ball. Does that mean that bowling balls should rule the world? Of course not. It also doesn't mean that bowling balls should drive subway cars. Simple logic.

  18. Liz Stanley3:18 PM

    Well Ben, at least we finally convinced you not to support bowling ball run subway cars. I was getting nervous.

  19. Wow this is all a bunch or hear-say. Let me ask you something Ben, have you ever seen a robot do all the things you say they can do?
    Think about it, if robots were as great and powerful as you say, and they could think for themselves why have they not taken over the world? You seem to like robots more than humans, and apparently more than America too.

  20. Salem: Though you build your case against mine based on misunderstandings and misreadings, and refuse to do any investigative research on robots to see if my facts can be verified by an outside source, and though you have some very strange interpretations of what I'm saying, you ask a question that has fascinated science fiction authors for decades. To be honest, I don't know why robots haven't taken over the world, except that they are not developed enough. Think about it, would you want a robot to be in charge of the world? For one, what would he do if he ran into a wall? I certainly wouldn't want one as the leader of the world right now, but I'm not so sure how I would answer if robots continue to develop over the next several decades. This is not to say that I like robots more than I like humans, because I don't. Nor do I like them more than America. I think--no, I KNOW that I would prefer that humans remain the leaders of the world. Another explanation could be that robots have indeed taken over the world, but then how could you explain the seeming ease with which most people, including world leaders navigate around walls, doors, etc. and don't talk like robots?

  21. Ben, so I have taken your advice and done some independent research on the subject of robots and have found some very interesting things.

    1. Robots are for real.

    2. Robots can do all the things you have reported they can do with these exceptions
    a. lift up a piece of furniture with one hand and vacuum under it with the other
    b. play soccer

    3. Bowling balls cannot think, yet

    4. Even a thinking bowling ball
    would not qualify to operate a subway car. However, a thinking bowling ball could actually get hired to work in the subway station, or subway the restaurant.

    5. Know circuits, Know Robots

    6. Robots can and will take over the world in the year 2033.

    I just want to thank you for helping me to understand robots a little better. Without bloggers like you where would I be?

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  24. Try telling the people at robocup that robots can't play soccer. I also have seen a lot of footage of a robot lifing up a piece of furniture with one hand and vacuuming under it with the other hand.

  25. Liz, I think this is the article about the robot car you mentioned.

  26. this is rad