The product announcements coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show indicate automation will continue to move deeper into the mainstream. Robots will make life more convenient, enhance efficiency, and bring benefits such as the ability to rescue people from hazardous areas, but the machines also will compete with human labor and could cause large-scale economic and social dislocation. The technology itself may not be as challenging as the emerging social, ethical, and economic issues, says Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) professor Illah R. Nourbakhsh, whose new book, "Robot Futures," discusses a future in which people share the planet with superhuman robots. "I think we need a serious public discussion...about the relationship between people and robots, which is like a new species that we are inventing," Nourbakhsh says. The technology will need to be more fully developed in order to understand the social implications, and Nourbakhsh believes this future "is coming much faster than we think." To prepare for this future, Nourbakhsh founded the CREATE Lab at CMU, with the mission of funding projects that put robotic technology in the hands of communities and non-profit groups.
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