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A Man and His (Robotic) Dog

Maybe technology really is becoming man's best friend.

 U.S. Air Force
Source: U.S. Air Force

Man's best friend.

There are many reasons why dogs are considered such amazing companions, workers, and pets. From an irresistible personality to undying loyalty, our canine friends have become essential partners for families, small farms, and global businesses. This special relationship, thousands of years old, seems to grow stronger every year. Yet interestingly, it evolved from a bitter rivalry of survival and control.

Recently, the U.S. Air Force has taken its new "dog" out for a walk. The Vision 60, from Ghost Robotics, is called a Q-UGV or Quadrupedal Unmanned Ground Vehicle and is designed for tasks like inspections, surveillance, mapping, and security. I'm not sure Ghost Robotics or the Air Forces has come up with a more friendly name, but I'll bet that's just a matter of time.

What I find interesting with the evolution of the "robotic dog" is that it tends to evolve the nature of our relationship with technology. And while this may be partly the psychological association of using the robot in the form of an animal or even pet (why not wheels vs. four legs?), the connection between tech and humanity is expansive and the implications are vast. From surgical technique to gaming to voice, our relationship with tech is becoming personal and intimate. So intermingled, that the distinctions between both can be sometimes lost. Beyond the blurring of relationships, there might even been a reversal of perceptions and outcomes. The "unpredictable" nature of the robotic dog may become more the domain of humans, as technology becomes more reliable, predictable, and even more safe.

Our cognition and empathyIQ and EQ—are now subject to the intrusion of technology. Tech can enhance and partner with our cognitive capacity. It may also may drive interactions with aspects of our empathy—for better or worse. Yet, the technological reality of robotic dogs and electronic brain interfaces are out of the proverbial toothpaste tube, and there's little likelihood of putting them back in.

Our path forward, perhaps walking our own robotic dog, is to recognize that IQ and EQ will be evolved and enhanced by our ability to assimilate technology into our lives or our Technology Quotient (TQ). Simply put, our future is about IQ + EQ + TQ. These three components come together to create a technologically enhanced, yet very human construct.

Our future relationship between technology and humanity will be complex. As with our very early canine relationships, it may be based on some aspects, like the common conflict around tech adoption and acceptance. And this techno-relationship may even include a component of rivalry—on the part of humanity and machine. Nevertheless, our intertwined, synergistic relationship with technology will test the bounds of both our control and comfort.

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