Date & Time

Wed, 03/04/2009


* In Scientific American 2008, Bill Gates has called for a robot in every home by 2020.

San Diego Science Festival

In Japan, South Korea, and Norway, robots are quickly becoming the companions of the elderly, in some sense their friends. Georgia Tech roboticists have announced a new model that fetches objects for the elderly, while pet robotic seals have become increasingly popular among the elderly in Norway. Robots from the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla compete in robo-soccer games against Carnegie-Mellon. Soon they will be providing a similar role for children. Robots—some built by the same company that makes the robotic home vacuum, the Roomba—have quickly become the infantryman’s friend in Iraq and Afghanistan, ready to risk their existence to blow up enemy bombs or provide real-time battlefield intelligence. Some of us feel great affection toward our robotic vacuums that clean our floors with unerring regularity—and we wish others in our lives displayed a similar dependability. In South Korea, robotic machine guns are installed along the DMZ to automatically repel any invaders from the north. Autonomous robotic systems now oversee parallel parking in some new cars, and other autonomous systems are integrated into cruise control to automatically slow down your car when it gets too close to the vehicle ahead of it. Is the car itself becoming a robot, transforming us from drivers to passengers? Will this be a metaphor for larger transformations in our lives?

This event considered the future of robots in homes and what it means for our daily lives.


Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge, a professor emeritus of mathematics and computer science at San Diego State University, is a five-time Hugo-award winning science fiction author as well as a thoughtful and imaginative voice in the discussion of the impact of computing in the coming decades. Among his non-fiction works are The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era and “2020 Computing: The Creativity Machine”, Nature, 2006. His most recent novel is Rainbow’s End: A Novel with One Foot in the Future (Tor Books, 2006) was the 2007 Hugo Best Novel winner.

Lawrence M. Hinman
University of San Diego

Dr. Hinman was the founding director of the Values Institute and is a professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego, where he has been teaching since 1975. He is co-director with Dr. Kalichman of the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology. Dr. Hinman is also actively engaged in developing Ethics Across the Curriculum (EAC) programs at the University of San Diego and around the country.  Most recently, he has been developing ethics-related workshops and components for middle school and high school students in the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Hinman is a former member of the board of the American Philosophical Association and also a past member of the Executive Committee of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.

Event Resources