Hi-tech dream could easily become robotic nightmare

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 August, 1999, 12:00am

Scientists are creating hi- tech robots to perform arduous tasks, thereby saving a lot of time and energy that can be used for other meaningful purposes.

The early robots did only simple things. But there was a robotics revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, leading to machines such as the six-wheeled Sojourner which was sent to Mars. Then there are robotic arms which boost productivity in factories. These have become very useful, especially in the car industry.

Even if a nuclear disaster occurs, robots can come to our rescue by helping to clean up the mess because they do not have to worry about radiation.

Other robots are being produced to steer cars at high speed, ensure security at prisons and commercial areas and even to do common chores such as getting a glass of water or a packet of chips. Then there are pet robots for entertainment.

But are robots really benefiting mankind? First on the list of casualties are jobs. With labour becoming more expensive as countries pass minimum wage laws, businessmen could find that robots are a cheaper and more efficient alternative.

As a result, more factory workers are likely to be sacked and unemployment figures will soar throughout the world. There could be serious social unrest, threatening global stability.

Another disadvantage is that robots may have technical malfunctions. If one robot is not working, the whole process could be delayed, with the com pany being forced to suffer financial losses in the end.

There is always the possibility that robots might be made for evil purposes. Think about the harm which might be caused if robots with destructive powers got into the wrong hands.

It is true that robots have benefited many companies, but are they really the answer for a better, safer planet? We cannot speculate how robots are going to change the face of the earth. Robots and computers are going to have a great impact on our daily lives, but we should know when to draw the line.

Deepinder is a student at West Island School