European scientists at RoboEarth have created the first Internet for robots, called Rapyuta. Not because robots need a place to look at porn and tweet their bad pope jokes, but to help robots get along in this strange, confusing world in which they play an increasingly prominent role. “Instead of every robot building up its own idiosyncratic catalogue of how to deal with the objects and situations it encounters,” BBC reports, “Rapyuta would be the place they ask for help when confronted with a novel situation, place or thing.”
It sounds fine in theory — if you trust robots. But for those convinced that providing robots with a common brain will only hasten the arrival of the robot uprising against mankind, then Rapyuta is more like a dark harbinger of the apocalypse. We happen to be one of those people, so we reached out to Dr. Heico Sandee, RoboEarth’s program manager at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, to reassure us that Rapyuta will not lead to our destruction.
“That is indeed an important point to be addressed,” Sandee acknowledged in an-email. But he assured us that robots will use Rapyuta for no such thing.
“The cloud computing systems we are developing are great for helping the robots for instance with recognizing specific objects, [but] they are far from making decisions on the scale you mentioned,” he insisted.
Sure. For now. But what about 10, 20, 30 years into the future, when robot chefs lose interest in identifying fruits and vegetables, and decide, you know what, let’s nuke the moon? What will stop them then?
“In order for that to happen, the robots need to become incredibly smart,” Sandee told us, patiently. “Even smarter than the people that can circumvent those situations, to become realistic. Personally, I don’t believe that that will ever happen. In the end, it is us humans that also program the robotic systems to behave the way we want them to.”
We did not find this totally convincing. Couldn’t the robots simply bribe or threaten their human overlords? After all, humans, unlike robots, are emotionally frail creatures.
“I’m afraid you are watching too many movies,” Sandee replied.
That’s probably what Miles Dyson would have said, too.