Going too far

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 December, 1999, 12:00am

I refer to the article headlined, 'Creating a world of artificial life' (South China Morning Post, November 20).

I was astonished to learn just how fascinated the Japanese are by robots. Little Hachibes, animal-like robots, were sold out within 20 minutes of going on sale in Japan. I agree robots can be useful, in industry (assembling cars) and in space exploration (collecting samples from the surface of Mars). However, I am concerned about attempts by Japanese researchers to build a robot that has emotions.

These robots will be designed to help ease the loneliness of their owners. But if a Japanese person has so much love to give, why not give it to another human being who is also starved of affection? Researchers believe that the 21st century will be the 'age of digital creatures'. Attempts are to be made to have a robot with a kitten-sized brain, then one with a human-sized brain, with researchers predicting that before the end of the next century, robot intelligence will outstrip human intelligence.

Who could have thought that we would start with the simple fireworks thousands of years ago, and through various stages of weaponry arrive at the atom bomb? We should learn from history. Researchers in robotics must proceed with caution.

ZOE CHOW Kowloon