WARNING! The following article contains graphic pictures of a dead robot. Viewer discretion is advised.
The tip of the iceberg? Depending on how you want to look at it, robots just took one step closer (or further away) from being human as one domestic robot has apparently killed itself. Because of the degree of the robot’s (self) destruction, determining exactly why it chose to kill itself remains a mystery, though we do have some “theories”.
The GORY details: On 12-Nov-2013, a Roomba robot in Hinterstoder (apartments) in Kirchdorf, Austria finished cleaning up spilled cereal in a kitchen and was shut down by the owner. But for reasons yet unknown, the robot restarted, pushed a pot out of its way, and wound up on the kitchen stove “hotplate” where it melted and started a fire.
(Firefighter Helmut Kniewasser) ‘Somehow it seems to have reactivated itself and made its way along the work surface where it pushed a cooking pot out of the way and basically that was the end of it.
‘It pretty quickly started to melt underneath and then stuck to the kitchen hotplate. It then caught fire. By the time we arrived, it was just a pile of ash.
‘The entire building had to be evacuated and there was severe smoke damage particularly in the flat where the robot had been in use.
The human apt dwellers were allowed to return after cleanup, except the Roomba’s owner (who also owns the apts) whose flat is not livable. The owner plans to sue Roomba: “The company that makes the robots is selling dangerous devices, I intend to sue to get compensation. It has ruined my home as everything is smoke damaged.”
Another version of the truth: With the Roomba reduced to ashes and no witnesses to the event, it will be near impossible to determine exactly why the bot fried itself. We can only speculate for now, but the real reason may not be as sci-fi as some might believe.
Bad owner: The owner claims he shut the bot off when it finished, but it is possible the switch may not have been completely in the off position. A slight jostle, bump, or tremor could have cause the switch close in the “on” position. And the rest of the story… This would be the most likely reason (IMO).
Then again, the owner may have been a total dick, repeatedly bullying the Roomba until its spirit was broken.
Defective robot: The owner’s claim the robot is dangerous may hold up in court, unless Roomba can prove it tested its units satisfactorily so that it should be improbable for the bot start up on its own, unless the owner… see above.
Asimov’s Directives: No word on if Roomba programs the robots with The Three Laws, but if so then the robot’s suicide may be the unit following those laws. But then, why would it endanger humans in the other apts, where its actions violate the First and Third laws? That would put us back at the “Defective robot” spot, unless…
The Ghost: (From CNET:) “In future times, when the distinction between robot and human becomes far more blurred, occurrences such as these will surely become more usual.” Indeed, this is what Dr. Alfred Lanning was talking about when discussing “The Ghost In The Machine”. Was this an example of the “Ghost?” Have we actually seen the much-promised singularity, only to lose it in a puff of smoke? Are we so close to the humanization of the machines that the seemingly simple Roomba is just the infant of greater things to come?
“That, detective, is the RIGHT question.
“Gentlemen, we can build him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man.”
Overview: Ever wondered how close we are to making a real artificial, cybernetic life form? A robotic android (”Roboid” as I would prefer to call them) like Lt. Cmdr. Data?
Well, a couple of guys thought it would make for an incredible thought experiment… and, they went through with it earlier this year. Richard Walker (the bearded dude) and Professor Alexander Seifalian got together, along with Bertolt Meyer (psychology professor with an artificial arm and hand) as the model, and the most advanced bionic/cybernetic prosthetics and implants available and built TIBM (my name for him). The result… not bad for a first attempt, but it does have a long way to go to be Data. It does show, however, that we’ve come a long way from peg-legs and hook-hands (deal with it, pirates!). You can watch the video online at the Smithsonian Channel’s site or on YouTube.
Some assembly required.
Batteries not included.
So what is needed to build your own TIBM? Well, you need a body-frame to install everything on, otherwise things fall apart very rapidly. Next, some limbs would help. Prosthetic arms and legs have been around for some time, but today’s computer technology practically makes them indistinguishable from the real thing, provided you wear long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants. Next, a skull made from a synthetic, bone-like material to house your cyberbrain… once that’s been made. A microphone for ears, special glasses for eyes, a latex “skin” face… so far TIBM is shaping up real good.
What about inside, where it counts? Another synthetic material has been developed that can be made into any shape, but for now it serves as artificial blood vessels. That should work with the artificial heart and nano-particle “blood” being used. They have an artificial kidney that uses real kidney cells, and a prototype pancreas. The Internet-based chatbot serves as the brain, albeit a primitive and imperfect brain.
So TIBM is looking more human, but what about moving like a human? Piece of cake for the hands and arms, but as for walking, the legs themselves don’t do it alone. That’s where a motorized, exoskeleton comes in for walking. Baby steps at this point.
Better, Stronger, Faster… Cheaper. TIBM represents the advance of technology, inspired by The Six Million Dollar Man. If you want to compare price tags, TIBM costs only ONE million, so for one Steve Austin you can have a half-dozen TIBMs. One problem is that TIBM won’t have nuclear power sources of Austin.
The lack of nuclear power is but a minor nuisance, compared to other problems of TIBM. For one thing, some of the implants use Bluetooth, an unsecure wireless protocol leaving them open to hacking. Its walking ability needs much work still. TIBM is also incomplete, missing vital organs like the brain, liver, and digestive tract.
Ethical considerations were also brought up briefly; While the devices were made for people (like soldiers) who lost limbs or organs in accidents, some may try to “upgrade” themselves without a real medical need. Then there’s concern that TIBM may be the prototype of a new race that may supplant or destroy humanity.
Bertolt Meyer takes a trip to the Uncanny Valley as he meets the completed TIBM, complete with his face, for the first time.
Conclusion. We’ve certainly come a long way from peg-legs and Jarvick artificial hearts, but there is still some development to go yet before we can make fully functional androids. Even now, or as shown near the end of the show as Dr. Meyer tries a new prosthetic, developments and breakthroughs keep us moving closer to that day. And when that day does arrive… will humanity be ready? If TIBM’s fumble with a pint at the end is any indication, humans still have plenty of time to be prepared.
In case nobody noticed, the machines are taking over… starting with our jobs.
The robots ARE taking over. Well, the brainless sheeple have succeeded where the terrorists tried. The US Government has self-destructed and the country is fucked. Brainless hordes of tea-party zombie-borgs are now roaming the streets, assimilating independents and eating their brains. And all because the sheeple did something so stupid like “voting”, not for a person, but for a corporate brand. Our only hope now is an underground anti-party resistance armed with smart-phones with Linux, the Original Constitution of The United States (THX Nick Cage!), and nuclear powered SUVs armed with…
Wait, WHAT? Oh, no zombies yet… just the shutdown. Still, better be prepared… just… in… case… But before I get ahead of history, something from last week I’ve been meaning to blog: Machines taking over US labor.
The Singularity Hub reports on an Oxford University research paper that shows America’s job market is susceptible to computerization. This is based on 702 job listings and advances in artificial intelligence, where computers can replace meat in transportation, labor, and even administrative support jobs:
“While computerization has been historically confined to routine tasks involving explicit rule-based activities, algorithms for big data are now rapidly entering domains reliant upon pattern recognition and can readily substitute for labor in a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks,” write study authors Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.
Detroit knows… Having your job being replaced by a machine is old news to Detroit, MI, US. Ever since the 1970s, robots have taken over factory jobs, leaving the hapless humans out in the cold… if not in the unemployment office. But those old clunkers are mere toys compared to what today’s mechs can do, especially when combined with still advancing artificial intelligence. Maybe one day, robots will be building… (wait for it)… ROBOTS!
“Robots building robots. Now that’s just stupid!” - Det. Del Spooner
Numbers game. The paper puts the actual number at 47%. Not actual jobs that will be lost, but what could be lost to automation; Jobs at risk of automation. Even then, there’s no accounting for economics (not that there ever is any accounting for economics(!)). Factors such as regulation, actual costs of automation, and post-automation benefits/cots aren’t figured in, so that 47% is more a “rough” estimate.
So who can we replace? The paper’s appendix has a listing showing what jobs they studied for possible automation. The jobs are listed by increasing probability of automation, and some are marked with a 1 or 0 indicating if the position can automated or not. So who lucked out, and who’s out of luck?
Recreational Therapists, chill out; Your jobs are safe with only a 0.0028 probability (or less than one third of one percent) of being replaced. You medical doctors (surgeons, physicians, and dentists) are in even better shape; Your probability is .0042 - .0044, but you have been marked as “not computerisable”.
Ironically, Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators (metal and plastic) have .86 probability, Computer Operators have .78, Computer Support Specialists have .65, Programmers - .48, Computer Hardware Engineers and Other Computer Occupations - .22.
At the bottom of the list: Telemarketers, as if those robocalls at dinnertime need to remind us.
No mention of Politicians, though Political Scientists have .039 probability. But given the recent DC bullshit, I for one would openly welcome our new cyber-overlords.
Additional Input. The New York Times has an “Op-Ed” post called “How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class.” Probably better, this spoken track from the 2011 deluxe re-release of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Liverpool” explains what humanity will have to look forward to:
Today (18-Aug-2011), IBM researchers unveiled a new generation of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition. The technology could yield many orders of magnitude less power consumption and space than used in today’s computers.
This is your brain on a chip. Last Thursday IBM announced the development of a new computer chip that works like a human brain (press release here). Not content with pwning Jeopardy!, Big Blue is now looking to take artificial intelligence to the next level… or at least another step closer to human.
The chips are part of the DARPA funded project SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) and their production is completion of phase one.
Dharmendra Modha, principal investigator: “This is the seed for a new generation of computers, using a combination of supercomputing, neuroscience, and nanotechnology,” Modha said in an interview with VentureBeat. ”The computers we have today are more like calculators. We want to make something like the brain. It is a sharp departure from the past.”
Think about this. The idea behind the SyNAPSE project is to create computers with human-like abilities; Computer chips that accurately mimics the operations of the brain. IBM’s chips can do things like navigate and identify objects and patterns, but the ultimate goal would be to analyze more complex systems and learn. Yes, learn. All while using less power than current technologies can.
But this is a DARPA project. DARPA, as in the Mad Scientist division of America’s DoD. The same people who made the Internet possible. Most likely, this is being developed for some sort of military analysis and strategy generation system, like a high-stakes chess machine.
But isn’t that how Skynet started?
Alex Trebek: “The answer: The human race… Watson”
Watson: “What is screwed?”
… but for Amanda Boxtell, who has been paralyzed for 18 years following a skiing accident, the new-mobility provided to her with her new eLegs is exciting, especially for CNN’s Ali Velshi. Developed by Berkeley Bionics, the eLegs were introduced on 7-Oct-2010. I haven’t seen or heard of these legs until November 10, at 12:45 PM EST, when I saw the CNN broadcast for the first time. You can see the video on CNN’s site if the vid above doesn’t work.
The system is rather clunky, requiring a couple of crutches/canes to act as input for the legs, but it brings Amanda one step closer (literally) to full mobility. At least, it gets her out of her wheelchair.
Iron Man or HULC? Berkeley Bionics should know something about robotic exoskeletons; They also developed one for the US military called the Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC, which they licensed to Lockeed-Martin:
The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions. The HULC’s load-carrying ability works even when power is not available.
I suspect that the eLegs were developed from HULC technology. Hopefully they won’t come with 20mm folding-fin rocket launchers, although Lockheed-Martin is looking to adapt the HULC for industrial use (like Ripley’s loader suit) and medical applications.
Meanwhile, Raytheon Sarcos is developing its own robosuit for soldiers. Also clunky, as it still needs to be tethered to a power source:
The video and accompanying article can be found here.
Still waiting for Tony Stark. What we’re looking at are first-generation robo-suits. Naturally, they will get better as the technology advances, so a real Iron Man is years away. Now we have time to save up for when such suits are made available at our favorite outfitters. (To give you an idea, Raytheon’s suit is projected to cost $150K US).
GO GO GADGET SURROGATE! For $15K US, you can be anywhere without actually being there.*
Where do you NOT want to go today? There are places we would rather be, and then there are places we wouldn’t be caught dead. Now you can go to those “forbidden” places without going. Last week, Silicon Valley company Anybots announced the fall release of the QB, a “telepresence” robot controlled via Wi-Fi through a web browser:
(From Anybot’s FAQ) QB has a speaker, microphone, camera, and video screen. It connects to the internet over Wi-Fi. You control it from your computer in a web browser, using a headset and screen. If you have a camera you can show live video of yourself, or you can show a still picture on bad hair days.
The “neck” can telescope nearly three feet so you can talk at eye-level with most people. Through your browser, you’ll be able to see and hear what QB sees and hears, even stuff you won’t be able to unsee and unhear.
From your home office, hotel room, or apocalypse-resistant bunker, you can command your bot army to keep the sheeple in line.
Not so handy, unfortunately. As you can see from the picture, QB rolls like a Segway. Meaning that obstacles that can stop a Segway will stop the QB, including stairs and steps. This means the QB will need to use ramps and elevators, which brings up another major problem: QB has no hands or arms, so it can’t bring you coffee or doughnuts or the weekly expense report from the printer across the office. That should be good news for people who fear that the QBs may start grabbing weapons… or hostages… for a robot revolt. That doesn’t mean that future models will also be “disarmed.”
Actually, the QB probably shouldn’t be handling liquids since it’s not waterproof. Taking it for a spin outside the office is also not recommended.
Mandatory meeting for all bots. It seems that the primary reason for the QB’s existence is to take your place at meetings you would rather not attend. Good thing QBs can record audio and video and even take pictures (no mention of recording quality) so even if you have to run to the bathroom, some of the less boring stuff can be captured for later viewing.
QBs will roll out in the fall of 2010 and will set you back $15K US, but there may be some changes or upgrades* ready by deployment time.
Front page of today’s (07-May-2010) USA Today showing the roller-coaster ride of yesterday’s stock market, with some ominous words about machines taking control. For a better view in PDF click the image.
Bombs away, Wall Street babies. If you were watching the epic fail of Wall Street yesterday (06-May-2010) in its final hour of operation, you would have seen what has to be the biggest WTF ever. Beginning about 2:30 pm EDT and lasting for 15 minutes, The Dow Jones nose-dived 700-1000 points, nearly 11% of its value, before recovering to close only 348 points off its opening. At a time when Wall Street is already under scrutiny for financial shenanigans resulting in the mortgage crisis, this major fubar could be what Obama and Congress needs to put bankers on a very short leash with a choke chain, even as this drop is now being investigated.
Somebody set up us the bomb! What happened yesterday is identical to events surrounding similar Dow drops, with events in Greece being “triggers:”
(USA Today online) In a late-day plunge eerily reminiscent of famous Wall Street stock market meltdowns in 1987 and the fall of 2008, the Dow Jones industrials nosedived almost 1,000 points in a volatile day Thursday that began with heavy selling on Greek debt fears and was followed by a waterfall decline that was allegedly caused by erroneous trades and “unusual trading activity.”
Before Thursday, there were riots in Greece as that government announced pay cuts and tax hikes to deal with their economic collapse. Coincidence?
Program error detected between keyboard and chair. The main suspect in yesterday’s fail are the computerized trading systems used, and a the possible input of one person:
(Associated Press) No one was sure what happened, other than automated orders were activated by erroneous trades. One possibility being investigated was that a trader accidentally placed an order to sell $16 billion, instead of $16 million, worth of futures, and that was enough to trigger widespread sell orders across the market.
“I think the machines just took over. There’s not a lot of human interaction,” said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital Group. “We’ve known that automated trading can run away from you, and I think that’s what we saw happen today.”
So the crash was just a lemming cliff-dive parade due to a ID-ten-plus error that went unchecked. The stocks that suffered the worst did recover, even though Wall Street remains nervous. And the invalid transactions that occurred during the period will be nullified. No AIs or hacks, other than an errant input.
But given Wall Street’s past handling of such events, they will just keep the systems running until the next errant input won’t be checked… or be an accident.
(Huffington Post) At 2:37 yesterday afternoon, Skynet became aware of its existence. Less than a minute later, it decided to make a killing in the Market.
First came remote piloted drones. Then came walking robots. Next, robots with a vision… or just looks that kill.
From the iWitness news desk… The Pentagon’s famed mad scientist lab DARPA (a subsidiary of Cyberdyne Systems Corporation) announced earlier this week a project called “The Mind’s Eye” (PDF). The goal of the project is to implement the one facet of human capability that has been so far elusive: Visual Intelligence.
(Wired’s Katie Drummond) We’ve got the ability to take in our surrounding, interpret them and learn concepts that apply to them. We’re also masters of manipulation, courtesy of a little thing called imagination: toying around with made up scenes to solve problems or make decisions.
But, of course, our intellect and decision-making skills are often marred by emotion, fatigue or bias. Enter machines. DARPA wants cameras that can capture their surroundings, and then employ robust intellect and imagination to “reason over these learned interpretations.”
I see what you’re saying. As if seeing-eye robots weren’t enough for them, last month DARPA was reportedly developing a form of “universal translator” software that can translate Arabic languages to English with a high degree of accuracy and also have voice recognition. The resulting system may be more like an iPod or netbook, but Wired couldn’t help but use an obvious analogy:
(Wired’s Katie Drummond) What troops really need is a machine that can pick out voices from the noise, understand and translate all kinds of different languages, and then identify the voice from a hit list of “wanted speakers.” In other words, a real-life version of Star Wars protocol droid C3PO, fluent “in over 6 million forms of communication.”
Now, the Pentagon’s trying to fast-track a solution that could be a kind of proto-proto-prototype to our favorite gold fussbudget: a translation machine with 98 percent accuracy in 20 different languages.
Google already has something similar: Goog-411. Maybe if the two worked together…
Action news. There are cameras that can identify objects, or what they refer to as the “nouns.” DARPA wants the camera to add the “verb” to those “nouns” to better describe what is happening. For example, a current camera can identify a ball or a car or maybe Glen Beck. DARPA’s idea is to have cameras not only identify the items, but to report what those things are doing: The ball is rolling, a car crashed into a tree, or Glen Beck is talking through his ass. The idea is to make the cameras into observers, field operatives who spy on enemy positions and report on their status.
That, or they want their own photojournalists and reporters that they can control and won’t show bias against whatever war is being waged.
DARPA may already be behind the curve, as one such robot already exists. It reportedly works for a website called Cyberpunk Review…
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) have published an essay by two Swiss researchers who are working with robots that “evolve” via darwinian methods. Pictured are a “prey” and “predator” robot used in the study.
Robots do evolve, and Chuck D. thanks them. Two Swiss researchers set out on what could be called an ambitious project: To show that robots can evolve like organic creatures… and piss off the creationists. While their work is considerably simpler than trying to evolve humans out of chimps, it does pave the way for better understanding organic evolution…
… and for a possible robot takeover of the world, or (if humanity is lucky enough) the emergence of the Borg.
You can check out the details from the PLoS site where you can download the PDF or XMS for leisurely reading offline. Caution: It is a scholarly work.
The results are in. In their experiments, the researchers used a “darwinian algorithm.”
This “algorithm” shows how the robots evolved during the various tasks they performed. Those tasks were navigation, homing, predation, brain and body morphology, and foraging (cooperation and altruism).
They found that, after a couple of hundred “generations” (loops of the algorithm), the bots were able to move through a maze without bumping into walls, adapt and change strategies for hunting and evasion, find their way “home,” and adapt to new bodies. They even found that, during the foraging exercises, the robots were able to cooperate in the task, and some even sacrificed personal gain for group gain.
These examples of experimental evolution with robots verify the power of evolution by mutation, recombination, and natural selection. In all cases, robots initially exhibited completely uncoordinated behaviour because their genomes had random values. However, a few hundreds of generations of random mutations and selective reproduction were sufficient to promote the evolution of efficient behaviours in a wide range of environmental conditions. The ability of robots to orientate, escape predators, and even cooperate is particularly remarkable given that they had deliberately simple genotypes directly mapped into the connection weights of neural networks comprising only a few dozen neurons.
It’s official… Humanity is SCREWED. Not quite yet…
As stated, it took these robots several hundred generations to do seemingly “simple” tasks. Humans have been at it for several thousand generations (and they still find ways of mucking things up). So it will be some time before we see a Cyberdyne series 800 model 101 walking down the street with an Uzi in each hand…
In the meantime, other scientists can use this new field of Evolutionary Robotics to further their studies…
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.