Home' Technology Review : May June 2013 Contents 12
MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
entertainment, medical training, and pos-
sibly other domains, but human-friendly
robots are not necessarily humanoid.
in fact, by setting user expectations too
high, looking too human could make it
more difficult for a robot to interact with
people. We are often disappointed and
frustrated with the limited capabilities of
robots that look as if they should be just
as smart as we are.
These robots also do not need to
behave just like humans. They might, for
example, behave more like service dogs.
As long as they are predictable, robots
have a hope of making it in the everyday
world. Many people know how to com-
municate with dogs just fine without
needing language at all.
Finally, these human-friendly robots
must meet real human needs, not only
the needs of their inventors. Fetch-a -
beer and fold-a-towel demos are nice
scientific steps toward building more
general robotic capabilities. But what we
need now is for human-centered-design
researchers and product-minded entre-
preneurs to do the dance of the neces-
sary and the possible with the robotics
Why does this humanist stuff mat-
ter? Because it will help us realize the
true potential of the technology. Too
many long-term studies of robots in hos-
pitals, offices, and homes have revealed
the problem with ignoring the impor-
tance of human-to-robot interaction: the
robots end up interred in closets, retired
to garages, or “mysteriously” disabled and
shoved under desks.
Many of my robotics colleagues cringe
at the challenges presented by unstruc-
tured environments that personal robots
need to navigate. But the untrained
people around these robots present an
entirely different set of equally important
challenges. Without serious involvement
from the interaction-design, product-
design, and entrepreneurial communi-
ties, personal robots don’t stand a chance
of surviving out in the “real world.”
Leila Takayama, a member of MiT Tech-
nology Review’s Innovators Under 35 list
in 2012, is a research scientist and man-
ager at Willow Garage.
The rhetoric about “cyberwar” is
getting out of control, says Bruce
For something that was supposed
to ignore borders and bring the
world closer, the internet is fos-
tering an awful lot of nationalism right
now. We’re seeing increased concern about
where iT products and services come from:
U.s . companies are worried about hard-
ware from china, European companies
are worried about cloud services in the
U.s ., and Russia and china might each be
building their own operating systems to
avoid using foreign ones.
i see this as an effect of the saber-
rattling that has been going on. The major
nations of the world are in a cyberwar
arms race, and we’re all being hurt by the
our nationalist worries have recently
been fueled by reports of attacks from
china. These attacks aren’t new—cyber-
security experts have been writing about
them for at least a decade, and the most
recent allegations aren’t very different.
This isn’t to say that the chinese attacks
aren’t serious; the country’s espionage
campaign is sophisticated. But it’s not
just china. All governments have discov-
ered the internet; everyone is spying on
everyone else. china is certainly worried
about the U.s . cyber command’s recent
announcement that it was expanding from
900 people to almost 5,000, and about the
National security Agency’s massive new
data center in Utah.
At the same time, many nations are
demanding more control over the inter-
net within their borders. They reserve the
right to spy and censor, and to limit the
ability of others to do the same.
But remember: this is not cyberwar.
it’s espionage, something that’s been going
on between countries ever since countries
were invented. Yet the rhetoric we’re hear-
ing is of war.
Unfortunately, that plays into the hands
of the military and corporate interests that
gain power and profit from the cyberwar
arms race in the first place. The more we
believe we are “at war,” the more willing we
are to give up our privacy, freedoms, and
control over how the internet is run.
Arms races are fueled by two things:
ignorance and fear. We don’t know the
capabilities of the other side, and we fear
that they are more capable than we are. so
we spend more, just in case. The other side,
of course, does the same. That spending
will result in more cyberweapons for attack
and more cybersurveillance for defense.
it will result in more government control
over the protocols of the internet, and less
free-market innovation in the same arena.
At worst, we might be about to enter
an information-age cold War: one with
more than two “superpowers.” This is
inherently destabilizing. it’s just too easy
for this amount of antagonistic power and
advanced weaponry to get used: for a mis-
taken attribution to be reacted to with a
counterattack, for a misunderstanding to
become a cause for offensive action, or for
a minor skirmish to escalate into a full-
Nationalism is rife on the internet,
and it’s getting worse. We need to tamp
down the rhetoric.
Bruce Schneier is chief security technology
officer of BT.
4/10/13 7:55 PM
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