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Intelligent Machines are Different

Rodney Brooks (Rethink Robotics)
Location: Festival Pavilion
Average rating: ****.
(4.38, 8 ratings)

In the old days software seemed pretty deterministic. If you ran your program 10 times it got the same answer all ten times. Once software was connected to the internet however, the results became less deterministic. Apart from network delays and connectivity issues we are never surprised when search results for the same query change from day to day, or respond in different ways depending on what email we’ve recently received. And our smart phones change the things they can do as their software is upgraded. We’ve gotten used to that and expect it. But mostly we still expect our machines that do physical work to act the same way, day to day. We expect our car to perform pretty much the same today as it did last week, and our coffee grinder to grind just as before. But as our machines become more intelligent and as their software is continuously updated they are going to surprise us more and more as they change their behavior with macro scale impacts in the physical world. And some customers for machines don’t like that. We’re all going to take a while to get used to a new class of physically interacting machines, that continually surprise us, in our daily lives.

Photo of Rodney Brooks

Rodney Brooks

Rethink Robotics

Rodney Brooks is the Panasonic Professor of Robotics (emeritus) at MIT.

He is a robotics entrepreneur and Founder, Chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics (formerly Heartland Robotics). He is also a Founder, former board member (1990 – 2011) and former CTO (1990 – 2008) of iRobot Corp. (Nasdaq: IRBT). Dr. Brooks is the former Director (1997 – 2007) of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and then the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). He received degrees in pure mathematics from the Flinders University of South Australia and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1981. He held research positions at Carnegie Mellon University and MIT, and a faculty position at Stanford before joining the faculty of MIT in 1984. He has published many papers in computer vision, artificial intelligence, robotics, and artificial life.

Dr. Brooks served for many years as a member of the International Scientific Advisory Group (ISAG) of National Information and Communication Technology Australia (NICTA), and on the Global Innovation and Technology Advisory Council of John Deere & Co. He is currently an Xconomist at Xconomy and a regular contributor to the Edge.

Dr. Brooks is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), a Founding Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS), a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (the other AAAS), a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a Corresponding Member of the Australian Academy of Science (AAS), and a Foreign Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE). He won the Computers and Thought Award at the 1991 IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence). He has been the Cray lecturer at the University of Minnesota, the Mellon lecturer at Dartmouth College, and the Forsythe lecturer at Stanford University. He was co-founding editor of the International Journal of Computer Vision and is a member of the editorial boards of various journals including Adaptive Behavior, Artificial Life, Applied Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Robots, and New Generation Computing. He starred as himself in the 1997 Errol Morris movie “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control” (named for one of his scientific papers), a Sony Classics picture, available on DVD.