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Fabio Augusto Barcelos Teixeira

Professor Michael Mutti


24 July 2015

Robots and Society Development

Before man could fly, he dreamed about it. Furthermore, that is what makes us human

being: the capability to propose new issues and solve them. This is an old idea; Aristotle once

spoke about it in the fourth century BC, he wrote: "If every instrument could accomplish its own

work, obeying or anticipating the will of others..." (Vulavala and Ulmer, 2015). Since the ancient

civilizations, humans used to invent devices, such as the automaton theatre of Hero of Alexandria

(Siciliano and Oussama, 2012) to Leonardo da Vinci`s inventions. Greece was the cradle of

robotics (Thomasnet, n.d., para 3). The term robot, derived from “robota”, which means

compulsory labor, was introduced by Karel Čapek (Siciliano and Oussama, 2012). Formerly, the

first robots were simple mechanisms to do some kind of work. In addition, they helped to change

humanity and society. However, today we are living an age which robots are one step closer to

promote a revolution in the world: an improvement in our society and in our way of life. Also,

robots changed our way to build things in factories and made workplaces safer. These changes

also promoted ways to improve heath quality by bringing back injured or disabled people to

retrieve their autonomy as provide by advances in medicine. They even improved possibilities

for space exploration. Although the future of robotics seems prominent, there are some issues

about robots and humans in society; sometimes people are afraid about what robots are able to do
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in the future and how it will affect humans and society. These changes and improvements in

technological resources and society will be treated, during this paper, as their future.

This paper is organized in three main sections. In the first section, the industrial field will

be treated, including the manufacturing needs, new possibilities and safety improvements. In the

second section, the health care with robots will be treated, including medicine with robots and

health care robots. In the third section, society will be under discussion, including what robotics

has changed in society, what society thinks about the future of robotics, and the future of robotics

and society.

Industrial Field

Modern robots were first designed to work as tools in factories as just a machine to carry

heavy parts; they are also called Industrial Robots. Industry needed tools to improve the

manufacturing process. With this in mind, robots were mainly introduced in the industry because

the modern manufacture requirements. At this, time industry needed high speed and

mechanization, and these factors demanded the introduction of robots into the industry. With the

development of new technologies, mainly the semiconductors and the transistors, the robots

became more precise, faster and stronger. Inside the industrial purpose, robots need to perform

human tasks. Therefore, some technological development was necessary to enable robots to these

tasks. With the advance of digital electronic computers, this development was possible and their

use in industry was improved; for example, now they are not limited just to carry heavy things

anymore, now they are able to operate some workstations. In addition, this improvement brought

new ideas of how to produce faster and with more quality; robots now are smart enough to do
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some analysis. Robots are now more than just one tool to make human action easier, now they

are sophisticated enough to execute thing far from human abilities (Vulavala and Ulmer, 2015).

The robots improvement expanded the production range and the products’ quality. The

industry with robots was more capable to attend to the society needs. Now, they are able to verify

the quality of the underbuilding parts, what the process is and what can be done about it. for

example, the flex manufacture, in which more than one model of part is built in the same

production plant and robots and a computer system manage the production using the resources of

the line of production to build simultaneously more than one type of part. Robots became an

essential part of the production process and bring a big economic benefit. (Vulavala and Ulmer,

2015). They also set a precedent to change some environmental problems in industry.

At this time, industry with robots is safer, produces complex things precisely, and can

produce a bigger variety and quantity. The possibility to avoid using humans to do dangerous

jobs or jobs that offer risks to health was a significant improvement. Many times, humans cause

injuries to themselves or to people around them, because they are subject to failure. Using robots

for these dangerous tasks avoids this problem, because they are more precise and highly

efficient; even if something goes wrong, nobody will be hurt. Humans suffer when they are in

contact with radioactivity, toxic chemicals, high temperatures or any other hazardous condition,

but robots do not suffer with these environments and they can also be highly exposed to these

conditions without any problem. Another big problem is the repetitive routines that cause several

health problems. Robots can be useful to do these jobs, they can do repetitive tasks without any

harm. Performing these jobs, robots can make the workplace much safer. It is more logical to use

robots for these tasks than humans. It set a precedent to realize tasks that a human could not do,

such as a car crash-test, for example. (Vulavala and Ulmer, 2015). They also can work with
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nuclear remains or any other harmful place, or do unhealthy routines such as tighten screws and

operate two machines in the production line in a safe way. Robots do not suffer with unhealthy

workplaces and routines of work. Robots also are faster, stronger and more accurate than humans

and they can do many routines at the same time.

The modern industry demands tools to build more complex parts and with high quality,

but it also needs tools with a high repeatability, accuracy, and high speeds to perform complex

tasks. As we know, robots can be stronger, faster and more accurate than humans, so they can

build products with a higher quality. A robot can weld a car structure with millimeters of

precision, much faster than a human can. In addition, they do not have troubles with carrying

equipment or having long journeys of work. Not only this, but they can also be always accurate

and fast, which impacts a process that can keep repeatability; therefore, to modern industry, the

use of robots is indispensable (Vulavala and Ulmer, 2015). Without them, the industry cannot

attend to society`s needs.

Health Care

Perhaps, robots have more to offer than just work in factories. A roboticist, Joseph

Engelberger, predicted in 1989: “the use of robots no longer remains exclusively in the domain

of the factory” (Wynsberghe, 2013). They can also be useful to medicine. Nowadays, robotic

systems are under development to assist the rehabilitation of people that were injured or severely

disabled. One cause of disability worldwide is strokes, also called cerebrovascular accidents.

This injury causes a dysfunction on sensory-motor functions, mainly gait. To recover the ability

to walk, rehabilitation is required. This rehabilitation consists in task-orientated repetitive

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movements to aid the patient to work with his neurological impulses and recover his muscular

strength. To help in this process of rehabilitation, robots can be utilized to assist the patient in the

gait training. Normally for this training, manual assistance is required, but this technique has

some limitations. Humans cannot measure online all necessary parameters to control the whole

process, a fact that led to poor coordination and synchronization of movements in both legs.

Sometimes, this limits the efficacy of the therapy. With robotic systems, it is possible to measure

the necessary parameters and simultaneously provide aid to the patient. Today, a good solution is

to combine the conventional therapy with the robot assistant. The robot systems works as an

additional tool, and it can provide the benefit of a faster rate of recovery (Bortole, Magdo, et al.,

2015). With the robots, people injured or disabled can recover some of their movements and they

can be helped by them. Some robotic prosthesis can help people injured to recover their lost

members as the exoskeletons, and there are some robots that can help at home or outside.

People injured or severely disabled also need more than assistance to their rehabilitation;

they need assistance with their main activities because of their condition. Robots can help people

to recover their autonomy and dignity. They mostly cannot do simple things by themselves, such

as shave or bathe. In many ways, this condition reduces their autonomy, and a person is needed

to help them in their daily activities. It also happens to elderly people. Another recent

development in healthcare is called care robots. It is mainly robots who help people with their

daily care, like lifting, feeding, etc. They can be useful to the daily activities and also can retrieve

their independency. With the robots they can do their duties by them self, without help of another

person, decreasing the necessity of care workers (Michael and Smith, 1999). Now the care-

receiver have chance to choose the assistance of an impartial caregiver. It keep the dignity and

independency (Wynsberghe, 2013). Also, they can be more than just a tool to support the basic
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activities; they can work as an interface between care workers, family and care-receiver (Pigini,

et al, 2012).

This tool set a precedent to give more comfort to the patient. Robots can be used as an

extension of the hospital and the medical staff. They are also useful for monitoring the patient`s

health status (Wynsberghe, 2013). In the sort past, the robots started to be introduced in the

healthcare to help the staff and the patient in many ways. By them the professionals now are able

to take care of the patients remotely. It provides a direct access in case of emergencies; also, it

can be useful in rural areas. It can provides diagnostics and many other resources. They are a

reliable tool, especially for patients with cognition disabilities. They are useful to reduce the

loneliness and stress; they can give constantly attention to the patient, a hard task for humans to

do. Also they are proving to be efficient to improve the patient`s cognitive skills (Alaiad and

Zhou, 2014).

Robots are under massive use in medicine. Computer-controlled robotic surgical systems

are being used to do surgery. Their use assists surgeons, providing more precision. Nowadays,

some procedures became feasible only because this improvement, and many more procedures

became easier and faster. The system provides vision source to the surgeon, permits more precise

movements and a great maneuverability. It also calculates the force necessary in each incision. It

provides a minimally invasive procedure that is also an advantage to the patients. Dr. Seth Lemer

works in the White Plains Hospital, in the city of Plains, NY. There he is the director of the

prostrate program at Dickstein Cancer Treatment Center. He said about the robotic surgery:

“With proper training, oversight, and clinical experience, robotic surgery is safe, and in select

surgical cases provides the benefit to the patient” (Kirkpatrick, para. 8). One of these robots is da

Vinci Surgical System, based on intuitive surgery. Also, this system is available in about 2,500
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hospitals in a global view. This is a very powerful tool, but as any tool, it is subject to human

failure. There were 174 injuries and 71 deaths reported in relation to da Vinci system surgeries

(Kirkpatrick, para. 8).

Robots and Society

There is a fact that people are afraid of: the robots’ intelligence. The robots’ freedom to

be autonomous is crucial in robotics research. Robots need to be intelligent enough to solve

problems by themselves, but they must not harm people and society. This topic generates many

discussions. In the beginning, before the modern development, people started to be afraid about

the future of robotics. To keep robots under control they should develop some universal rules.

There are three famous laws of robotics, introduced by the writer Isaac Asimov:

1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human

being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such

orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not

conflict with the First or Second Law. (qtd. in Leenes and Frederica, para. 1)

The problem with robots is deeper than it seems to be; it involves philosophy. How can a

machine follow a complex concept such as ethics? Even human beings do not have a clear

concept about it. More than that, the robotics development generates many social phenomena,

and it affects many other fields, including economy, politics, and science.
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Science and society are intrinsically connected. Social environment affects science and

science can change the social environment. Therefore, science looks for advances, but also have

the responsibility about their effects over society. Robotics development has many ethical issues,

but the central concerns to care about are: safety, appropriate use, capability, and responsibility.

When something in robotics is under development these four themes are reviewed. Robots must

grant that: they are safe to use, they are in a social acceptable use, they can perform properly

their duties, and they are not susceptible to have a bad use. For example, a health-care robot: it

need to be safe enough to perform the care-receiver tasks, it cannot help the patient to commit

suicide (Euthanasia), it need be able to perform multiple tasks, and it need to keep his record data

safe. (Wallach, 2011). The development mostly is done for more than one person. With this in

mind, it is hard to know who is responsible when the system present some failures. To establish

the principle that humans must be responsible for his creations, five rules was proposed:

Rule 1: The people who design, develop or deploy a computing artefact are

morally responsible for that artefact, and for the foreseeable effects of that

artefact. This responsibility is shared with other people who design, develop,

deploy or knowingly use the artefact as part of a sociotechnical system.

Rule 2: The shared responsibility of computing artefacts is not a zero-sum game.

The responsibility of an individual is not reduced simply because more people

become involved in designing, developing, deploying or using the artefact.

Instead, a person’s responsibility includes being answerable for the behaviors of

the artefact and for the artefact’s effects after deployment, to the degree to which

these effects are reasonably foreseeable by that person.

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Rule 3: People who knowingly use a particular computing artefact are morally

responsible for that use.

Rule 4: People who knowingly design, develop, deploy or use a computing

artefact can do so responsibly only when they make a reasonable effort to take

into account the sociotechnical systems in which the artefact is embedded. Rule 5:

People who design, develop, deploy, promote or evaluate a computing artefact

should not explicitly or implicitly deceive users about the artefact or its

foreseeable effects, or about the sociotechnical systems in which the artefact is

embedded. (qtd. In Wallach, 2011, p. 195 para. 3)

As science have to be responsible for his creations, society have to be responsible for

their own issues. Technological innovations are eminent; they bring new facilities, made possible

our modern livestock. Robotics bring big benefits and is society has the role to manage

technology and people (Saleh, 2015). Robotics is also pointed as one reason for unemployment.

Although, they were placed in industry to attend the society needs. These changes in the

production process; it brought a re-division of the workers tasks and their roles. Robots reduced

manual tasks, but they cannot replace humans in some roles (Misztal, 2015). This problem

already happened before. The mechanization in the farms, changed the way to produce, so people

was obligated to move to cities and work on factories. This change promoted one transition in the

economy; it made workers learn new skills and take new jobs. These changes are normal and

show that jobs just changed. These changes do not cause unemployment, not immediately (Ford,

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In conclusion I can say that robots are powerful, they have a great potential. They can be

applied in many fields and provide benefits. Their development helped society to improve

livestock and brought back autonomy and dignity to people. It also set precedent to improvement

in many fields, as in medicine, for example. It changed the way people work, made their life

safer. In the future it can allow people to work less time and live more. But they are just tools and

the ones who can decide what to do with them are us. That is true that robots still having a great

potential and their future just depend on us.

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