Robots are everywhere. And, though most of them carry out pre-programmed tasks or remain remote-controlled by human beings, increasing numbers are equipped with Artificial Intelligence, enabling them to operate more and more autonomously, stresses Pierre Bonnaure in this article.
While they have become essential in space exploration, for example (we remember the two “rovers”, Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004), and undersea exploration, they also provide precious assistance on wartime reconnaissance missions or in the searches undertaken after natural disasters. And let us not forget also that they are increasingly used in industry (the car industry, in particular, but also in aeronautics, pharmaceuticals, the agrifood business etc.), agriculture, medicine (surgical robots, for example) and even in the sector of personal services (robotic household cleaners, pavement snowploughs etc.).
Pierre Bonnaure provides a detailed introduction to this ‘artificial species’, outlining its various applications and describes the many projects that are ongoing. Among other things, the American administration plans to replace one third of its armed forces with robots by 2014; South Korea is planning to provide its schoolmistresses with humanoid assistants; while Japan is proposing to equip its senior citizens with synthetic home helps, these being the three most dynamic countries where robotics are concerned.
Bonnaure then raises the question of the future of work and of the social bond in these increasingly robotized societies. “The coming wave of robotization will impose a radical change on mentalities and society”, he notes, before musing on the role Europe will play in the development of these new technologies.