NY Times reporter John Markoff expresses the concerns of some scientists who want to slow or stop research into robotic autonomy, fearing that loss of human control may lead to a “robot revolt.”
Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.
Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.
Earlier this year (in February) a group of scientists from the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence met in California’s Asilomar Conference grounds to discuss possible impacts of human-level artificial intelligences, aka “The Singularity.” A report from the conference will be released later this year… we hope. The conference was about discussing certain issues that might arise due to the Singularity and loss of human control of cybernetic technologies. Topics included the possible effects of a “robotic takeover” leading to massive job loss, legal and ethical problems in dealing with human-like AIs, and maybe some plans in case a HAL, SHODAN, or Skynet should go online.
The Singularity Time Table. Depending on who you ask, the Singularity will appear definitely before 2050, and possibly as soon as 2020. Even so, that may be latter than we think, as scientist say that they can create a working human brain in 10 years. More recently, Chinese scientist have reportedly been able to grow mice from skin. It shouldn’t be too hard to think of human clones before long, and the possibilities of the Singularity. But just as another meeting at Asilomar dealt with genetics in the mid-70s, this conference deals with cybernetics. Specifically, how to proceed with AI research that will benefit humanity and eliminate the possibilities of a HAL/SHODAN/Skynet.
The A.A.A.I. report will try to assess the possibility of “the loss of human control of computer-based intelligences.” It will also grapple, Dr. Horvitz said, with socioeconomic, legal and ethical issues, as well as probable changes in human-computer relationships. How would it be, for example, to relate to a machine that is as intelligent as your spouse?
Dr. Horvitz said the panel was looking for ways to guide research so that technology improved society rather than moved it toward a technological catastrophe. Some research might, for instance, be conducted in a high-security laboratory.
Robots that think, move like humans and fight our wars–Real Terminators–may now be possible. At leading universities and covert government labs, robots are now being developed in man’s image; cyborgs with superhuman strength, machines that may eventually be able to make decisions, even kill on their own. But will these very robots designed to protect us ultimately turn on their masters?
Rise of the Robots. When I first heard about this episode of That’s Impossible while watching Ice Road Truckers, I just had to watch to see where we were with military robotics… and where we may be headed. Real Terminators is second episode of the That’s Impossible series, which includes other topics like invisibility, immortality, and “weather warfare.” I managed to catch the Tuesday (July 14) night premiere of Real Terminators, while they repeated the episode early Wednesday morning. History won’t rebroadcast Real Terminators until Saturday, July 25 @ 3pm, so make certain to have your TiVos programmed to record it if you can’t watch it on time, or there’s always the Torrent route.
Real Terminators shows how robot combat has evolved to its near-current state, and what other robot technologies and breakthroughs can affect what the battlefield mechs will be like. Hint: It won’t be like BattleBots or Robot Wars.
You might think that this is a scale model of a WWI-era tank, but this little bugger is the father of all battlefield robots. Click the image to see the Wikipedia article about it.
Humble beginnings. Battlefield robots actually got their start in WWII, thanks to Nazi Germany. They used a remote controlled tank-bot called the Goliath tracked mine, which was driven to its target and detonated. It was considered a failure due to the control cables being easily cut or damaged and the vehicle itself being too lightly armored, but the Goliath has since become something of an inspiration to future war-bots… though it would take some sixty years after the first tracked mines were produced before battlefield robots would begin to emerge with the SWORDS robots. But robots were already in the air, thanks to the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.
The Next Big Step is to get the drones out of the sky and back on the ground, but without the tank treads or wheels being used today. Drones need their legs, and the Big Dog shows why:
Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog robot is intended to be a pack-animal, but some can’t stop thinking about weaponizing it.
Already, Boston Dynamics is developing a two-legged robot, the PETMAN, to better navigate human environments.
Organic components. DARPA is not looking at just a mechanized future for the military. They intend to keep a human element to the machines through the use of robotic exoskeletons:
Other pieces of the puzzle. In order to make terminators possible, one major breakthrough must happen: Artificial Intelligence. Future robots will need highly-developed (almost human-like) AI to do seemingly simple things like identify targets and allies, use strategies, and know when to fall back for repairs and recharging/refueling. Also, robots will need to show “instincts” like gauging a person’s emotional state to recognize when s/he might attack. Those “instincts” may come courtesy of a brain scanner. This will allow a robot to decide if they should kill on its own, without some human operator needing to pull a trigger.
But there’s more being considered. Robots will need to recharge or refuel. That may be alleviated by the EATR project, which will allow robots to consume organic matter for energy. Also, repair and construction/replication of robots, where nanaotechnology is being considered to fill these needs.
Now consider what can happen with all the pieces in place. A robot soldier, hundreds of time stronger than a human, with an appetite for organics and programmed to kill, and able to repair itself.
Brain-Computer Interfaces are just in its infancy, but security experts are worried that hackers may be able to pull off the ultimate “mindfuck.”
Mind control. Using everyday objects requires using your brain, mostly to control your arms and legs to manipulate them. Lately though, there have been some major breakthroughs in interfacing directly to your head, including a thought-controlled wheelchair and mind-reading machines, which have stirred up some controversy of its own. William Gibson’s vision of a computer that you can “jack” into your head is ever so closer.
And that has some security people concerned…
“Neural devices are innovating at an extremely rapid rate and hold tremendous promise for the future,” said computer security expert Tadayoshi Kohno of the University of Washington. “But if we don’t start paying attention to security, we’re worried that we might find ourselves in five or 10 years saying we’ve made a big mistake.”
Hackers tap into personal computers all the time — but what would happen if they focused their nefarious energy on neural devices, such as the deep-brain stimulators currently used to treat Parkinson’s and depression, or electrode systems for controlling prosthetic limbs? According to Kohno and his colleagues, who published their concerns July 1 in Neurosurgical Focus, most current devices carry few security risks. But as neural engineering becomes more complex and more widespread, the potential for security breaches will mushroom.
Can’t happen… can it? It would seem that trying to upload malware into your cortex would be difficult at best, if you consider that most BCI are read-only (that is, they can only read your brainwaves). Then again, if the “sex chip” proves viable, that connection will become read-write which can be “influenced,” and not by outside hackers alone:
In some cases, patients might even want to hack into their own neural device. Unlike devices to control prosthetic limbs, which still use wires, many deep brain stimulators already rely on wireless signals. Hacking into these devices could enable patients to “self-prescribe” elevated moods or pain relief by increasing the activity of the brain’s reward centers.
They’re already hacking brains. If the attacks on Epilepsy support sites are any indication, brain hacking is already occurring if not directly. Having a hacker hijack your brainstem is not possible just yet, but on the day when neural interfaces and neuron reprogramming come together, you can bet that meatbots will abound and we will be facing a real zombie apocalypse…
If you’re into Tetsuo and Machine Girl, have I got a treat for you; A trailer for the upcoming movie RoboGeisha, due to hit theaters this fall… at least in Japan… hopefully for the rest of the world as well. There’s already a RoboGeisha website to browse. Not much there for now, but bookmark it as new info will become available in the near future.
I’m not going to try to explain this, as there’s not much info available for now. All I can say is, watch at your own peril… and use some eye bleach if needed. Meanwhile, I’m going to look for Machine Girl and Tetsuo 2 to review. Enjoy!
DISCLAIMER: Cyberpunk Review is showing this trailer for your personal information only. We cannot be held responsible for your welfare if what you see cannot be unseen. Viewer discretion is HIGHLY advised.
Not safe for work, church, school, families, PTA meetings, governments, children, pets, prudes, conservatives, Republicans, religious zealots, right-wing nutcases, robophobes, or weak stomachs, hearts, or minds.
Famed defenders of file-sharing has reportedly sold out to the tune of $8M US, and there have been some backlash among the torrent community. But TBP says it all for the better.
All hands abandon ship? Word came down the wires yesterday (June 30, 2009) that The Pirate Bay, historic torrent-tracker and copyright nightmare, has been sold to Swedish company Global Gaming Factory X (GGF). It should be noted that the sale has not yet occurred. It is only scheduled for August 2009, during which either side may change their minds.
TPB’s reason behind the sale:
We’ve been working on this project for many years. It’s time to invite more people into the project, in a way that is secure and safe for everybody. We need that, or the site will die. And letting TPB die is the last thing that is allowed to happen!
Pirate Booty. Among the major changes may be an inventive way to make file-sharing more “legitimate;” Actually pay users to share files, and even give copyright holders their fair share:
BBC - Mr Pandeya said that one of the biggest hurdles in overcoming illegal file-sharing was that there was zero cost to the users, while legitimate sites required users to pay for content. The only way to make something more attractive than free was to pay users to share files.
“The copyright holder still gets paid, the users still get their file, the ISP doesn’t have a million people all grabbing a file and - for the users who share that song - a payment for putting that file on the P2P network.”
TorrentFreak - The company says that after it has completed the acquisition it will launch new business models so that copyright owners get paid, which is clearly a huge diversion from TPB’s previous modus operandi.
“We would like to introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site,” said Hans Pandeya, CEO GGF.
“The Pirate Bay is a site that is among the top 100 most visited Internet sites in the world. However, in order to live on, The Pirate Bay requires a new business model, which satisfies the requirements and needs of all parties, content providers, broadband operators, end users, and the judiciary,” said Pandeya.
“Content creators and providers need to control their content and get paid for it. File sharers’ need faster downloads and better quality,” he added.
Exactly HOW these pay-outs are going to be made… ?
Will it be worth it? There have been some people who have already abandoned ship upon hearing the news of the sale… some 4000 out of 3.7M registered users… and even some nasty comments on their blog. But TBP says it will all be worth it, since ISPs will also get paid for the bandwidth use and upgrades, and other groups can also benefit:
The profits from the sale will go into a foundation that is going to help with projects about freedom of speech, freedom of information and the openess of the nets. I hope everybody will help out in that and realize that this is the best option for all. Don’t worry - be happy!
That’s probably what they said about the “new” Napster.
We won’t know until August if the sale is worth it. That’s IF nobody has second thoughts before then.