Saturday, July 01, 2006

That's Technology!

The lady in this picture is not a woman! No, She's not a man either.

She, or rather it, is an android: a human-like robot covered by a skin of silicone. I came across this photo while browsing through the National Geographic website. You may read more on this here and here. (By the way, I feel the term "Android" is a misnomer as it literally means "man-like" while these robots are "woman-like". Probably "humanoid would be a better word)

Interesting? Sure, it's a great achievement. Yet to me it seems kind of scary. I have read too many Asimov stories about androids, not to mention a few by Satyajit Roy and other writers. I am a big fan of the old TV series "Small Wonder". All this seems fine when it's in movies or books.

Somehow reality is different. Or rather, it should be different. I cannot help recalling a story where Russian androids had gone to blow up the US posing as kidnapped US scientists. I also remember a story where an android had taken the place of the US president. Can that day be far when we will not be able to distinguish between people and robots? As this robot's co-creator Hiroshi Ishiguru said, "When a robot looks too much like the real thing, it's creepy."

I also read one Asimov story where two robots were talking to each other and discussing the future of mankind. Is it possible? Only time will tell us that, but machines talking to each other is quite normal these days. Here’s what happened during my trip to
Hooghly. One morning when my sister was busy playing with my cell phone, it received an SMS message saying “You have been logged out of Yahoo Messenger as you have logged into another machine…” etc. I was a bit surprised to see that message and did not understand its implications at that moment. It was only much later that I realized that was a message sent from my office PC. Someone had started my PC (I gave my password to my team before I left), and Yahoo Messenger logged in automatically, logging out my phone. Theoretically there’s nothing odd about it… only practically it felt as if my PC had sent a message to me on my phone 1600 kilometres away. We are living in a world where even the machines find you out, no matter where you are.

This reminds me: last week I checked out Google Earth after a long long time and got the shock of my life. They have added details for a lot of places and now our house in my hometown
Hooghly was visible from the satellite! Now you must remember, my house is not in Kolkata. It is a small suburban town 40 km from Kolkata. It was a pleasant surprise exploring the roads of my hometown, but I was just out of words to see the mango tree in our garden. Although a cynical part of me was trying to convince the rest that it meant someone was watching over us all the time, I really loved it. Now that's what I call technology. We are finally entering the age of Sci-Fi.


  1. the area around your house looks so beautiful from the photos. and the trip description was really nice.

  2. Yes, I saw that picture on cnn news. Technology can be very scary sometimes. But we might be quite old or dead before that humnoid starts talking and thinking, but I think its quite probable.

  3. @bidi-k: Thanks. That's the reason I prefer Hooghly to Kolkata. You get most of the modern facilities, and you get a bit of nature as well.

    @shreemoyee: That humanoid is already talking... maybe not well enough to pose as a human. We won't probably see truly life-like robots in our lifetimes, but we have taken a step in that direction.

  4. Sugata,thanks for blogrolling me. Technology is indeed on a fast track these days.Sometimes I wonder how our earlier generation is dealing with these evolutions and what all we will see before spotting the grey streaks on our head. Personally I would love an interplanetary trip before I write my memoirs.

  5. Yeah...very nice observation. The new age concept of ".....less" itself suggests the extent of technology use.

    Only thing I don't know why some scientists or ambitious politicians are interested to dominate Nature or god's creation. They want to show see we can also create a Man like robot/Sheep/Monkey as GOD does. Thats why Sometimes I feel we are overdoing things. Like mission Mars/Moon etc.

    May be after few centuries we may need to find some shelter outside earth. And like human evolution from monkey to homo sepien, this is also another kind of technical evolution which is making us able to do so.

  6. @bishu: No need for thanks. And yes, even I'd love to go on an interplanetary trip. :)

    @abhijit: Let me share a small joke with you:

    Once man felt he had become as powerful as God, and so some scientists went to God and said, "We are as powerful as you. We can prove it." God said, "Fine, let's test your skills... I created the universe and everything in it from dust. Can you do that?" A scientist said, "Sure! We can create anything, living or non-living, from dust," and he picked up a handful of dust.
    God said, "Wait! First you get your own dust."

    Hope you got the point... ;-)

  7. We are in for good times indeed. I almost wish I was a student again and had the time to absorb all this. India too should be headed in the direction of one computer for each house. If only there was some organization to cater to the servicing part as well.Tha hand is the cutting edge of the mind and one really wonders when there shall be commensurate improvement in service as well.

  8. i guess it wudnt be long b4 u walk around the street corner and greet someone coming opposite to u, with an unstartled Hi ~ telling urself that the caricature of urself that just brushed past u, must be one of the androids that they let outta the lab the other day!

  9. @hiren: In India, we are more concerned about using technology invented by others. But we can't really progress until we create some technology of our own.

    @velu: Or it could be one of my clones too... scary idea!