November 27, 2013 6:30 pm

This Sunday, “StarTalk Live: I, Robot (Part 2)” Explores Robot Inchworms, Predator Drones and Free Will

Image of Predator Drone, for StarTalk Live: I, Robot (Part 2)

How do Predator drones and killer robots fit in with Isaac Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics? Find out on StarTalk Live: I, Robot (Part 2) with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

  1. A robot may not injure 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.

If you’re a science fiction fan, you’ll instantly recognize Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”, which Neil deGrasse Tyson reads in StarTalk Live: I, Robot (Part 2).

But, while they’ve influenced the robotic science fiction landscape ever since Asimov put them into his short story, Runaround, in 1942, they have no place in the real world of Predator drones and land-based killer robots being developed by our military.

In fact, when it comes to real-world robots, there’s very little similarity to robots in the movies, at least, according to guest Stephen Gorevan of Honeybee Robotics. And while Star War’s R2D2, the Terminator, HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis all get their moment in the sun, so to speak, the more exciting robots up for discussion are the robot inchworm that crawls through the steam pipes below New York City, welding shut the holes it finds, and the robot spacecraft Honeybee is developing for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) designed to refuel our satellites with hydrazine “station-keeping fuel” to maintain their orbits.

For me, though, the really interesting conversation between Neil, Stephen, comic co-host Eugene Mirman, and comedians W. Kamau Bell and Jason Sudeikis had to do with the more philosophical aspects of robotics, and the crowd at the Bell House was up for the task. After all, where else would a mention of the Turing Test be met with applause? The StarTalk Live crew discussed the nature of intelligence, and whether IBM’s Watson’s organized, accumulative knowledge approached the human version. They grapple with free will, both in humans and in robots. And they even discuss whether someday we’ll be able to transfer our minds into a cyborg as an alternative to death.

Listen to StarTalk Live: I, Robot (Part 2) this Sunday, December 1st at 7:00 PM ET on our website, iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher.

Thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday, we won’t be having a newsletter tomorrow, and we may not be that active on our Twitter, Facebook and Google+ channels for the rest of the week and weekend.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving from the team at StarTalk Radio.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons