Today we present the second installment of my wide-ranging interview with the world-renowned roboticist and AI pioneer, Rodney Brooks. Part one ran yesterday—so if you missed it, click right here.
Today’s installment starts with the new robotic era that dawned when Brooks’ latest company—Rethink Robotics—launched its Baxter robot. Baxter and its successor, Sawyer, shifted the industry in both obvious and subtle ways, which we discuss.
We then consider the ancient legacy equipment and standards that still plague so much factory automation. Next, we dive into society’s urgent need for robots to assist with elder care in the coming years. This capability is currently remote, though many are starting work on it.
One of the most entertaining and provocative sections of the interview follows, when we get into self-driving cars. Brooks finds most of the industry’s launch forecasts and timelines to be absurdly aggressive. This is unwelcome news for those of us who want fully autonomous cars yesterday! But this realm sits at the very intersection of robotics and AI—two fields that Brooks has occupied for decades—and his arguments are powerful (and often quite funny).
We close with Brooks’ fascinating take on how a poor understanding of a technology’s history distorts perspectives on its near-future prospects. This is a terrific cognitive lens, which can be broadly applied, and one of my favorite takeaways from the interview.
If you enjoy this installment and just can’t wait for part three (which goes up on Ars tomorrow), you can find it in my podcast feed, where it first appeared in March. A full archive of my episodes can be found on my site, or via your favorite podcast app by searching for “After On” (the podcast’s title).
There you’ll find deep-dive interviews with other world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists—tackling subjects including synthetic biology, cryptocurrency, astrophysics, drones, genomics, neuroscience, consciousness, privacy and government hacking, and a whole lot more.
This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed in the following places:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ars-technicast/id522504024?mt=2 (Might take several hours after publication to appear.)