Rise of the Machines: Watch Boston Dynamics' SpotMini Robot Dogs Pull Truck

Friday, 19 April 2019 - 9:41AM
Robotics
Science News
Friday, 19 April 2019 - 9:41AM
Rise of the Machines: Watch Boston Dynamics' SpotMini Robot Dogs Pull Truck
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Screenshot: Boston Dynamics/YouTube
It's not difficult to watch a Boston Dynamics video and imagine a dystopian future where bedraggled rebels are hunted down by faceless robots or forced to retreat against packs of headless mechanical dogs, programmed for one thing and one thing only: to achieve their objective by any means necessary, even if it means their own destruction. Despite human attempts to create "friendly" digital assistants – even embracing absurdities like "genderless AI" – and helpful robots, the reality is that technology is, at its core, selfless. That is not some triumph of nobility, however: it's merely programming. Computers have no selves to speak of. They are machines: mindless, efficient, and indifferent to humanity.


This technophobia – and a deepening distrust of the military-industrial complex – informed late cold war science-fiction films like WarGames and The Terminator.  As Kyle Reese said in the first Terminator film, "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."


That said, there's something beautiful about that kind of singularity of purpose and focus that approaches – and perhaps transcends – art. In that sense, machines like those made by Boston Dynamics fulfill the aesthetic ideals proposed by the avant-garde Futurism movement of the early 20th century. In The Futurist Manifesto (1909), Italian Futurist Filippo Marinetti wrote:


Opening quote
We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
Closing quote



Now that I've buried the lede, I'll leave you with this: a promo video of a pack of Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robots pulling a truck. Whether you choose to view it with horror or awe is up to you. These robots are likely not going anywhere but forward. 

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