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Robots are One Step Closer to Putting More Humans Out of Work [VIDEO]

Apr 03, 2013 10:39 AM EDT
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How does it look when earth is bombarded with dark matter?

The Pentagon has released a video of a robotic arm able to handle tools well enough to nearly complete a tire change.

And while the video is new, Gill Pratt, a project manager at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), told The New York Times it's already outdated as the team has moved on to more dexterous hands capable of actually threading a bolt

According to its site, DARPA is the "principal agency within the Department of Defense for high-risk, high-payoff research, development and demonstration of new technologies and systems that serve the warfighter and the Nation's defense."

Inventions to have come out of their labs include stealth fighters, remote-controlled vehicles and GPS. Furthermore, the agency played a leading role in the development of the Internet.

Despite the obvious benefits of these innovations, however, many who see the video of the robotic arm unscrewing bolts from a tire are seeing much more than a leap forward in robotics - they are seeing a world of even fewer jobs for human hands.

James Plafke, a reporter for Extreme Tech, is among the conerned.

"Humanity's greatest advantage over other forms of life is our ability to use tools (or, relatedly, that our intellect allows for the ability to use tools)," he writes. "So, what happens when DARPA develops a robot hand so precise that it is able to use a tool made for human use?"

Such moral dillemmas are not new to DARPA, however.

"We take on new, seemingly impossible challenges each year," DARPA's site reads. "In so doing, there is often a tension between novel concepts and an underdeveloped ethical, legal, and societal framework for addressing the full implications of such research."

To deal with such ambiguities, DARPA explains, they have chosen to "thoughtfully address these issues, while simultaneously pursuing our work."

This, the agency says, is what "we expect of ourselves."

In the future, DARPA hopes to have robots capable of unzipping bags and searching them for explosives, and is currently financing John Hopkins University to develop a kind of neural interface to allow for a direct link from a robotic arm to the human brain.

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