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Sunday, March 29, 2009


It Takes Intelligence to Design a Human—oid
by Kyle Butt, M.A.

On Monday, March 16 the world was introduced to HRP-4C, a female, humanoid robot designed and created by developers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (Ama, 2009). This 95-pound technological wonder wowed onlookers with her animated facial expressions, lifelike walk, and human-like responses. Designers created her to be a fashion model. They hope that future models will be able to help “with daily chores or work side by side with people.” But Hirohisa Hirukawa, one researcher who worked on the robot, said concerning this dream: “Technologically, it hasn’t reached that level” (Ama, 2009). For all the money, man-hours, and technology applied to the field of robotics, robots simply cannot perform standard tasks that an average human does with little thought or exertion.

Models of the HRP-4C robot will soon be on sale for about $200,000. Japanese robotics developers, who are some of the leaders in the field, believe that the market for humanoid robots will soon be in the billions of dollars. They want to be the front-runners in this technological expansion.

As exciting as HRP-4C’s debut was, however, it was not problem-free. As Ama noted:

The demonstration didn’t all go smoothly. The robot often looked surprised, opening its mouth and eyes in a stunned expression, when the demonstrator asked it to smile or look angry. Its walk was also not quite ready for the Paris Collection, partly because its knees are permanently bent. It has sensors in its feet but it lacks the sensitive balance of a real human (2009).

If we wanted to list a few other things that limit the robot’s capabilities, we could mention that it does not have light-weight, super-strong bones that heal in a matter of weeks if they are broken, it cannot turn a banana into usable energy to keep itself going, it cannot do simple jumping jacks, does not have self-cleaning eyeballs, etc. To put it mildly, the robot’s abilities are dismal when compared to a living human.

Shuuji Kajita, the leading developer of the group, optimistically noted that HRP-4C “is just the first step” (Ama, 2009). He means this is the first step toward making a robot that can come closer to human functionality. But future steps in that direction will cost billions, consume massive amounts of research time, and require input from thousands of brilliant men and women across the globe. These things do not just happen by accident, which, of course, is the point. Robots don’t happen by accident; they require intelligent designers to bring them into existence.

Only the most obstinate mind can miss the clear implication. Robots are inferior to humans and they require intelligent, personal beings for their construction. Human beings are superior to robots in functionality and complexity; therefore they must also require an intelligent, personal being for their design. As the psalmist so aptly put it some 3,000 years ago: “I will praise You [God], for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well” (139:14).

Ama, Yuri Kagey (2009), “Walking, Talking Female Robot to Hit Japan Catwalk,” [On-line], URL:

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