Let’s all learn to relax, and trust the robot.

Despite what we once thought our future would be, and despite consistent technological advances, one area that remains largely blurry is that of robotics.  There are the sophisticated automated machines that do a variety of originally manual factory jobs.  There are the tiny bots build in backyards and beaten against each other for sport on shows like Robot Wars.  There are medical devices and prosthetics that remain attachments, rather than turning us into weird cyborgs.  There are computers capable of running a dozen complex systems and programs.  Yet there is nothing approaching the human world we have envisioned.

There’s no Robocop, no Terminator, no Transformers, no Batman, no Iron Man.  There’s no AIs, no incomprehensible combinations of machine and flesh, no superheroes with technology or even radioactivity to support them, just man, a little more advanced maybe than he once was.  And yet…we still hope.  We hope for something outside our current situation that will reinforce the dignity of man.

The army has for years been searching for a robotic suit that will increase the muscle strength and power of a man.  Can you imagine the impact of shock troops that can lift 500 lbs with average or even skimpy muscle mass?  Most designs have met with complications dealing with reaction times and power drains, but they think they may have come up with something.  The new suit does the appropriate tricks – even letting you recover from stumbling without dying or being incapacitated – and can run on power from a generator, tank, or helicopter.  Despite the political and moral implications of whether or not we should be designing something like this for use in war, there are some potential advantages.  It could be used to help factory workers move goods, or help firefighters carry gear.  Heck, it may even address the current lack of women firefighters – if they can use a suit to lift a ladder, carry people out (or even break through walls?), they don’t need to have the upper body strength of men.  But still, I’m not sure I trust the reasons for the original research.  Sure, it would be useful for toting weapons or repairing fragments of a tank, but visions of angry berserkers in suits leaves me a little cold.

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