And in a coming section on robotics, we will discuss the molecular machines called nanites—tiny, molecular-sized robots that will swim around in your body fighting disease, repairing damage, and alerting you to problems (and will likely dramatically increase the human lifespan).
We are about to enter a world where robots do more and more of our work for us.
And when I say robots, I don't mean androids, which are people-shaped machines doing the work of people.
People are not machines (see my thoughts on that, at right), so modeling robots after our bodies makes about as much sense as modeling machines after radishes or daisies.
Depending on function, robots can come in all shapes and sizes, and I see no compelling reason to make them like humans.
We have fallen into the habit of anthropomorphizing computers and robots for a simple reason: The more we program them to do things that we presently do, the more we think of them as being like us.
A second reason we think of robots as mechanical people with personalities is that historically they have been portrayed this way in entertainment media.
From the time mechanized workers were first called "robots" in a 1921 play, there has been high drama—and even higher comedic value—in portraying robots as metal people.
From Data on Star Trek and C-3PO in Star Wars to Twiggy in Buck Rogers, robots are wise-cracking sidekicks and sage philosophers reflecting on "the human condition."
But in terms of wanting to converse with robots at an emotional level, I just don't see it.
So, spare me your cute robots with human names.
The robots I watched making Legos had no human operators because no human can keep up with them.
I branched off into this discussion of robots and nanites to give an idea of the kinds of massive gains in efficiency with declining costs.
If we obtained this ten-thousand-fold increase simply by allowing specialization and dividing work up among people, then what astronomical gains will we achieve by outsourcing that work to robots capable of working with unimaginable precision at unimaginable speed?
Robots are free from the physical limits our human bodies have.
Robots can perform thousands of operations flawlessly every minute.
Robots can manipulate matter smaller than we can even see, and robots can effortlessly manipulate objects that weigh many tons.
Robots can work without ceasing in environments where the temperature is a thousand degrees.
These robots can be powered by computers capable of performing a billion calculations a second.
Houses will be built by robots using materials not yet invented that are cheaper and more energy efficient.
As I observed a few pages ago in "Let Robots Be Robots," an intelligent system like this won't be creepy because we do not want it to be creepy.
About clothes, and how robots will weave garments that never wear out from materials not yet invented that will cost very little.
Now, what if the bottom half of jobs disappeared and were replaced by robots who did them for almost free?
In the not too distant future, tiny robots will detect pests on produce and emit a signal to shoo them away.