It's rare that exploring technology doesn't lead to improving lives, even if those improvements apply to only a handful of people.
Take robots, for example. To most people, having a robot to clean the house or walk the dog would be nice, but we can function without them. And the robots that most consumers could afford are simple. They might vacuum the floor and dance. While those features are fine, it's hard to argue that they improve our lives greatly.
The thing is that if robots were more human they could improve lives – particularly the lives of people with disabilities and children. Cynthia Breazeal, director of the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab focuses her work on creating robots that can interact with people in natural ways. Her goal is for robots to read and respond to human expressions, know how not to hurt people and how to help teach children. If she accomplishes her goal, responsive robots could help people with different abilities lead independent lives. So far, Breazeal's work is finding that responsive robots can not only help people with mundane tasks, but also enrich lives. Personable robots have been found to be better at helping people lose weight than a simple online tracking program, because the robots, for lack of a better term, had that human touch.
While helpful robots are a way off, the exploration of technology -- with its delayed gratification, successes from failures and crosspollination -- marches on. And no matter if we're talking about personal computers, GPS navigation, hypersonic flight or getting the latest bestseller on your Kindle, exploring technology is as natural to the human race as breathing. The difference is, we breathe the same way we did thousands of years ago, but our relationship with technology keeps progressing.