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What is a Robot?

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For the last 150 or so years, engineers have been fascinated about creating intelligent beings from inanimate, or otherwise crafted matter. Stories of Frankenstein, Terminator and Star Wars’ C3PO captivate our minds. Or then it’s the super fast ABB or Kuka arm working on the car assembly line. Today we talk about Machine Learning and AI, but most thought processess still center around a physical object acting – yes – very much like us.

This thinking might have biblical origins. God created Man as the image of Himself, right? So Man creates the Robot as the image of Man? Although, most technologically advanced societies are nowadays quite secular, our upbringing might introduce almost invisible thinking boundaries.

Today’s digital world is, however, very different from the analog Eden. We (and things) can communicate in milliseconds across the planet, and reach even the farthest objects like the Voyager space probe with the speed of light, the current speed limit before potential quantum technologies (Yes, I’m teasing Einstein, it’s important to have an open mind).

Today’s robot, be it the assembly line Kuka or an automatic lawnmower, is only the user (physical) interface. Much more engineering work is required in the Digital Twin, or ultimately spime, which orchestrates the physical infrastructure while residing in the digital domain. It can run in the nearest 5G base station, or in a vast data center 1000km away – or both. Sometimes it moves from one place to another. From popular culture, think more of a HAL9000 of 2001 Space Odysseia.

We currently have concept hardware and software, with connotations that hardware is something more tangible. With everything being originally digital today (think of CAD/CAM, 3D printing recipes and Digital Twins) this is no longer true. It just takes some time for people to embrace new thinking models. Hardware is the easy part, creating sustainable digital models, without losing wisdom in the process, is one of today’s great challenges.

So the Robot, in BaseN language, is a spime, or a combination of spimes purveying different functions that serve a defined purpose. Similarly to biology, these spimes are evolutionary and retain full history of adaptation, just like DNA does. It’s time to think beyond our religious boundaries.

//Pasi

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