What Role Will Robotics Play in the Future?

Scientists predict that robotics will play a role in the future in fields such as elder care, surgery, manufacturing and agriculture. Some also speculate that robots' intellectual capabilities may grow and that artificial life forms may interact with people in daily life, creating ethical dilemmas and further stressing resources.

Scientists predict that agricultural robots will take on labor-intensive tasks such as harvesting produce, as well as monitoring crop and soil properties. Mechanical weeders will reduce the use of pesticides. Small robots will replace heavy machinery currently used and reduce soil compaction.

Robots might perform surgery in the future. The Robotics Industries Association suggested in 2001 that small robots might travel through the blood stream to deliver medications.

Due to advances in sensor technology, experts predict that robots will learn like children and take on customer service, cleaning and transportation roles. Scientists predicted in November 2014 that Europe's elderly population would exceed current resources and that robots with social capabilities might be employed in their care. Another future use might be to help prisoners readjust to society.

Some fear that these advances might create military robots that make their own judgments about appropriate targets, although many in the robotics field say that robots' intelligence capabilities are not likely to advance to that point. Groups such as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots work with several human rights groups and non-governmental organizations to prevent the development of machines with these capabilities.