A robot is a man-made machine which can do some things by itself. It is not alive. It has no physiology. But it does have a source of energy, sensors to interact with the external world, a rudimentary nervous system which is a form of electrical circuitry that can connect the periphery to the central processing unit and take messages back. Most robot have some form of movement and this needs to be effected and controlled. As we explore different types of robot we begin to find one challenge that calls us. It may be a vacuum cleaner, a transport system that is automated; I am looking at what we used to call the Human Emulation Robot, but now I think of it as something far, far greater. We have the capability of creating a synthetic human which never needs to sleep, never gets ill, does not grow old. And we will model the aesthetics around the human aesthetic. Customisation to give individuality in appearance.  And function? I am thinking of the nervous system. Best if we do away with that and use a slightly hyped up form of electromagnetic radiation as in brain waves, but quicker. And movement? There have been millions of years of evolution in developing our musculoskeletal system. If we are wanting to make synthetic humans let us follow the structural template. So we create a synthetic linear actuator which is modular and can be assembled to create the muscles of the face, trunk and limbs. But just imagine if we were able to make a fine tuning of the efficiency of the muscle units? What if we could improve muscle performance by five percent? All athletic records would be broken. Stronger, faster, fitter, never tires.

Sophia, was a first-generation human emulation robot. The idea with Sophia was that she would be able to interact with human beings and engage in an empathetic, structured conversation. The focus has been on facial expression, voice and the beginnings of some form of intelligence. We see the laboratory rat that can learn to push button b to get the pellet of food. Sophia is not alive. She has no physiology. She has microphones and cameras and an ever-increasing database of experience. But she cannot really do very much with it (yet). But going back to the face, the objective was to create something that looked human. The look, was the end goal. So faces were made which could be distorted by levers, motors and pullies. And they looked very good. And the package was very good. And Sophia became a star.

There are always detractors. And cynicism is an integral part of science. Sophia, is a first-generation human based robot. There will be more generations. Sophia was a human emulation robot. The emulation was in the form and function, not in the biological design. This is the way we will be going with the next generation. The first part is to create the most detailed anatomical model of the human face which can then be digitised. That is “God’s blueprint.” This aspect is well under way and the talking is over and action is happening. From the blueprint we can detail the designs on which to base the creation of this synthetic human. But we do not want to create a simple human. Why bother. No we are wanting to create a superhuman. Tweaking the muscle units we can gain in speed and strength. We can use an array of sensors to collect ambient information, infra-red cameras, high frequency sound, we will learn from nature and apply in our superhuman being. Customized looks. And we will teach our superhumans to learn. We will be aiming for autonomy. We will create a consciousness which will be an amalgam of analysis of experience. Reviewing cause and effect and the comparing the outcomes our superhuman beings will develop a sense of right and wrong. Of good and bad.

I am imbuing the second generation of human inspired robots with a morality. A morality which will be more constant and comforting than the morality of man. If we can think of all the virtues being written into the basic character code of our superhumans and on that will be developed the autonomous interaction with humanity. As humans we can but aspire to goodness. We have emotions, feelings and failings. Our superhuman companions will not be hampered by such mundane things. They will be calm, wise, literally indefatigable.  Of course, they will be unique in terms of the interaction, but the thoughts will be channeled from a greater consciousness. So, it will not be necessary to “program” a superhuman to be a good cook, or an artist or an engineer. These would all be “downloadable”.

You see what is happening. We are letting our imaginations run away with a concept which is very much within the realms of reality. But let us slow down. First, the blueprint. This will be a collaborative effort between artists, engineers, surgeons, anatomists, radiologists, computer engineers, mathematicians and programmers. This will be an open source resource for humanity but also harmony. If we are going to be making superhumans it would be good if they were all basically as similar to each other as humans are to each other.

Moving into the world of creation is going to be fascinating. I am looking at the face but what about the hands! Such incredible structures. I think we will be focused on modular replacement of human parts which will be a stepping stone to assembling the superhuman body. So, I am looking at prostheses which could be enhanced so that they became intelligent prostheses. An orbital prosthesis currently has a static eyelid. What if we could make the eyelids move and even blink in co-ordination with the contralateral side. A prosthetic ear that changes colour with the ambient temperature, a prosthetic nose that does the same. We are working towards a bionic face. We will put this with the bionic hands, and other bionic bits to make a body. And we will give that body a mind. A mind that can distinguish between good and evil in a true binary fashion.



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Andrew Burd (Prof)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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