With robots, we are inventing a new species that is part material and part digital. The ambition of modern robotics goes beyond copying humans, beyond the effort to make walking, talking androids that are indistinguishable from people. Future robots will have superhuman abilities in both the physical and digital realms. They will be embedded in our physical spaces, with the ability to go where we cannot, and will have minds of their own, thanks to artificial intelligence. They will be fully connected to the digital world, far better at carrying out online tasks than we are. In Robot Futures, the roboticist Illah Reza Nourbakhsh considers how we will share our world with these creatures, and how our society could change as it incorporates a race of stronger, smarter beings. Nourbakhsh imagines a future that includes adbots offering interactive custom messaging; robotic flying toys that operate by means of "gaze tracking"; robot-enabled multimodal, multicontinental telepresence; and even a way that nanorobots could allow us to assume different physical forms. Nourbakhsh follows each glimpse into the robotic future with an examination of the underlying technology and an exploration of the social consequences of the scenario.
Each chapter describes a form of technological empowerment -- in some cases, empowerment run amok, with corporations and institutions amassing even more power and influence and individuals becoming unconstrained by social accountability. (Imagine the hotheaded discourse of the Internet taking physical form.) Nourbakhsh also offers a counter-vision: a robotics designed to create civic and community empowerment. His book helps us understand why that is the robot future we should try to bring about.