We thought the Tesla Bots were meant to be cyber slaves, but Elon Musk has other ideas behind him. A new fad, or the start of a revolution?
This fall, Elon Musk unveiled the TeslaBot, a humanoid robot designed specifically to assist humans. A first foray into the world of robotics very noticed, but which also left many observers skeptical about the potential implications of such a project; and the most dubious are not at the end of their sentences, because the boss of Tesla recently declared that they could develop real personalities on the model of well-known robots.
That’s what he said on his friend Lex Fridman’s podcast, when the latter asked him if he was considering a companion role. At first, he took advantage of this stretched pole to reaffirm his wish to revolutionize human labor with a robot capable of freeing humanity from “boring, repetitive”, dangerous tasks, and so on.
. “I think the possibilities are endless,” he explains. “It doesn’t quite fit into Tesla’s core mission, which remains to accelerate the global transition to renewable energy. But it’s something extremely useful for the world to produce a humanoid capable of interacting with the world and helping us in so many ways. ”
But he kept the momentum going, claiming that these robots could “develop a unique personality over time.” It could even “evolve to match that of its owner.”, Says the billionaire. “They could make incredible companions, like C3PO or R2D2,” he says.
With or without AI?
This allusion to the famous androids of the Star Wars franchise is certainly not trivial; they are characters who enjoy a certain love rating, in large part because of their well-defined personalities. R2D2, for example, is a reckless prankster, while C3PO is more on the anxious side of the spectrum. This is perhaps a way of reassuring the public on a theme that is certainly promising, but which also includes a certain number of fairly obvious potential drifts.
But above all, this is a pretty amazing statement from someone who has never made a secret of his distrust of artificial intelligence. It has been almost ten years since he has been repeating regularly that this is a great danger to our civilization, and that it absolutely must be regulated. We therefore imagine that he wishes to use a other approach to give a semblance of life to his metal troops. On the other hand, it seems impossible to guess which one knowing that he did not even reveal a semblance of track.
Dream or reality ?
There is also the question of concrete feasibility, and as often with Elon Musk, this is where the shoe pinches. The billionaire is used to shattering and extremely ambitious statements; an approach which contributed to its success, but which also gave rise to some unreasonable projections. You just have to look at the Full Self Driving of its cars; Musk promised that this 100% automatic piloting system would be fully functional in… 2016. Since then, this deadline has been pushed back; it went to 2015, then 2016, then 2018… more than seven years after the initial deadline, the FSD has made great progress to the point of becoming quite impressive, but is still very far from absolute and unconditional autonomy.
The first Tesla Bot prototypes are expected in 2022. It would be impressive if Tesla could meet this deadline. And in any case, it seems totally unthinkable that these robots could benefit from such a personality (which is essentially generalized artificial intelligence, which most specialists do not expect for several decades) by this date. It is therefore advisable to take careful note of Musk’s statements, but also to take them with a grain of salt; it will probably take many years before seeing such personalities appear with his cyber-slave.