Robonaut Update


Update on NASA’s robonaut (previous coverage here), who is now en route to the International Space Station. Aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, Miles O’Brian reports that Robonaut 2 will become “a permanent resident of the station” and support orbital research and experiments. But what’s more, it has a twitter account!

I previously discussed the Robonaut (then in works to go to the moon) with regard to its resemblance to past Sci Fi franchises and the general futuristic aesthetic this blog opposes. Now it is worth visiting the Robonaut as a communicative phenomenon. In the many ways androids have communicated with humans in films and comics past, twitter has never come up (feel free to correct me) – and more than simply a result of the unprecedented evolution of the Internet, this form of robotic communication seems altogether friendlier and more human than what we have come to expect from their kind. Indeed, shaping the machine like a humanoid was the first step towards this goal, and after that giving it a twitter account seems only logical. Perhaps we not need a Turing Test of sorts on Twitter to distinguish the people from the programs? 140 characters sounds like a good length for that. Jaron Lanier warned in his book You Are Not a Gadget, that giving human qualities to machines lessens our own vague definition of what it is to be human. Behind the anonymous screen of the Web, I must agree that  Robonaut 2’s tweets are a subtle step towards the nullification of that distinction.

[Orginally seen on BoingBoing]

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