Rodney Brooks builds robots based on biological principles of movement and reasoning. The goal: a robot who can figure things out.

Why you should listen

MIT professor Rodney Brooks studies and engineers robot intelligence, looking for the holy grail of robotics: the AGI, or artificial general intelligence. For decades, we've been building robots to do highly specific tasks -- welding, riveting, delivering interoffice mail -- but what we all want, really, is a robot that can figure things out on its own, the way we humans do.

Brooks realized that a top-down approach -- just building the biggest brain possible and teaching it everything we could think of -- would never work. What would work is a robot who learns like we do, by trial and error, and with many separate parts that learn separate jobs. The thesis of his work which was captured in Fast, Cheap and Out of Control,went on to become the title of the great Errol Morris documentary.

A founder of iRobot, makers of the Roomba vacuum, Brooks now heads Rethink Robotics, whose mission is to apply advanced robotic intelligence to manufacturing and physical labor. Its first robot: the versatile Baxter. Brooks is affiliated with CSAIL, MIT's Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

 

What others say

“When I look out in the future, I can’t imagine a world, 500 years from now, where we don’t have robots everywhere.” — Rodney Brooks

Rodney Brooks’ TED talks

Rodney Brooks on the TED Blog

Live from TED2014

Lies, sex, an even freer Wikipedia and Sir Ken at a slaughterhouse: A recap of “The future is ours,” All-Stars Session 5 at TED2014

March 20, 2014

By Kate Torgovnick, Morton Bast, Thu-Huong Ha The future. When it comes down to it, it’s not about flying cars, flashy robots, jetpacks, or awesome sunglasses. It’s about the little things we can do to advance healthcare, better education, create opportunities, improve connections between each other, and make lives just a little bit easier. In […]

Continue reading
Entertainment

10 old movies about new technology

June 28, 2013

Roy Amara’s classic quote goes: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” In today’s talk from TED2013, Rodney Brooks invokes this law to talk about robots. While people panic about robots taking their jobs over the course of the next few […]

Continue reading
News

Progress Enigma: The speakers in Session 1 of TED2013

February 26, 2013

As we assembled TED2013’s lineup of speakers from around the world, talked with the TED brain trust, and listened to online conversations, one theme emerged: What is the future of work? Technology and new business practices are, in many ways, putting an end to the classic “good job,” the kind that millions of people once […]

Continue reading

Quotes from Rodney Brooks

If we are machines, then in principle at least, we should be able to build machines out of other stuff, which are just as alive as we are.
Rodney Brooks
TED2003 • 506K views Sep 2008
Informative, Fascinating
Two big questions that people ask me are: if we make these robots more and more human-like, will we accept them — will they need rights eventually? And the other question people ask me is, will they want to take over?
Rodney Brooks
TED2003 • 506K views Sep 2008
Informative, Fascinating
We have to accept that we are just machines. That’s certainly what modern molecular biology says about us.
Rodney Brooks
TED2003 • 506K views Sep 2008
Informative, Fascinating