Friday, February 27, 2009

AIs: Smarter Or Just Faster? -- Part V

From Foresight Institute:

One of the primary phenomena invoked in the notion that the Singularity will come with an event horizon is that as self-improving AIs take off into higher intelligence, they will be not just like ordinary people with faster clock speeds, but they will be like smarter people. In other words, we shouldn’t expect a pack of dogs to invent the Theory of Relativity (or even plain old Newtonian mechanics) no matter how long they tried, and we’re the dogs when compared to the AIs.

Read more ....

Monday, February 23, 2009

DARPA Program Reaches for Better Prosthetics

From Defense Industry Daily:

A February 2008 Pentagon DefenseLINK story touted the progress of prosthetic limb development, fueled by a combination of combat need and the steadily advancing capabilities inherent in modern electronics and robotics. Army Col. Geoff Ling manages DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics programs.

Read more ....

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Research To Improve Fiber Optics And Computing

From Defense Tech:

ARLINGTON, Va: An internationally celebrated physicist and researcher, funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Science Foundation and NASA, has overseen work leading to the first successful manipulation of coherent optical information.

Dr. Lene Hau has discovered applications through her work with light and matter that will impact the Air Force by providing significant advances in computing, optical networks and quantum computing.

In her earlier work, Dr. Hau slowed light down to 38 mph by shooting a laser through very cold atoms. Then she halted light, restarted it and sent it on its way.

Read more ....

Robots Remove UXO From Training Ranges

U.S. Marines from Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 2, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit engage targets during live-fire training at Udairi Range, Kuwait, May 3, 2007. The 26th MEU is in Kuwait conducting scheduled sustainment training. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Freddy G. Cantu


WASHINGTON - Robotic technologies were used to detect and remove unexploded ordnance from training ranges at Fort Bliss, Texas, in a demonstration sponsored by the U.S. Army Environmental Command.

Experts from the Army's Environmental Command joined bloggers for a special roundtable discussion on how the demonstration went and how robotics could improve safety, efficiency, and provide cost-savings in UXO removal.

Read more .....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

War Without Warriors

From In These Times:

Robots have the perverse side effect of making war seem easy.

The claws weren’t like other weapons. They were alive, from any practical standpoint, whether the Government wanted to admit it or not. They were not machines. They were living things, spinning, creeping, shaking themselves up suddenly

from the gray ash and darting toward a man, climbing up him, rushing for his throat. And that was what they had been designed to do. Their job.

—Philip K. Dick, “Second Variety” (1953)

Robots programmed not just to analyze the foe but to kill him without waiting for orders.

Swarms of bird-sized drones assaulting an enemy force, quickly overwhelming it not just by the numbers but by an artificial intelligence (AI) that can adjust tactics to changing battlefield conditions faster than a human can blink.

Soldiers going into battle with tracked mechanical companions, whom the men don’t just give nicknames to, but cry over when they are “killed.”

The last of these scenarios is already taking place in Iraq, the other two are soon to follow. After that, not just warfare, but human society itself will never be the same.

Read more ....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Experts Warn Of 'Terminator'-Style Military-Robot Rebellion

A screen grab of a YouTube video of a multiple-kill-vehicle, an orbital robot designed to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles from space. Lockheed Martin

From FOX News:

Autonomous military robots that will fight future wars must be programmed to live by a strict warrior code, or the world risks untold atrocities at their steely hands.

The stark warning — which includes discussion of a "Terminator"-style scenario in which robots turn on their human masters — is part of a hefty report funded by and prepared for the U.S. Navy's high-tech and secretive Office of Naval Research.

The report, the first serious work of its kind on military robot ethics, envisages a fast-approaching era where robots are smart enough to make battlefield decisions that are at present the preserve of humans.

Read more ....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Inside FIRST Robotics 2009: Robots Are Now Ready To Rumble

From Popular Mechanics:

On Tuesday, high school robotics teams from around the country concluded the six-week build period ahead of next month’s regional FIRST Robotics Competitions. Popular Mechanics dropped in on the Pirates of George Westinghouse High, in Brooklyn, as they made their final pre-shipment adjustments.

The tension brimmed outside Room 254, the home base of George Westinghouse High School’s FIRST robotics team, the Pirates. Six weeks of late-night work sessions, capped by a sleepless holiday weekend of final tweaks and modifications, had put the Brooklyn students at wits’ end. It was less than 24 hours before the construction deadline, when Fed-Ex would arrive to ship the robot to the scene of New York City’s regional competition—and an overweight robot threatened to send them over the edge.

“Welcome to 2009,” Nadav Zeimer, the team’s coach, declared as two Pirates argued over how best to position the robot on the scale. “Yet another year of too much weight.”

Read more ....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Attack Of The Killer Robots: Pentagon Plans To Deploy Autonomous Robots In War Zones

Photo: From Dailytech

From Alertnet:

One of the most captivating storylines in science fiction involves a nightmarish vision of the future in which autonomous killer robots turn on their creators and threaten the extinction of the human race. Hollywood blockbusters such as Terminator and The Matrix are versions of this cautionary tale, as was R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), the 1920 Czech play by Karel Capek that marked the first use of the word "robot."

In May 2007, the U.S. military reached an ominous milestone in the history of warfare -- one that took an eerie step toward making this fiction a reality. After more than three years of development, the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division based south of Baghdad, deployed armed ground robots.

Read more ....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Robot Playmates Monitor Emotional State Of Children With Autism

Wired participant demonstrates plays the nerf basketball game. (Credit: John Russell)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 17, 2009) — The day that robot playmates help children with autism learn the social skills that they naturally lack has come a step closer with the development of a system that allows a robot to monitor a child's emotional state.

"There is a lot of research going on around the world today trying to use robots to treat children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It has shown that the children are attracted to robots, raising the promise that appropriately designed robots could play an important role in their treatment," says Nilanjan Sarkar, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University. "However, the efforts so far have been quite limited because they haven't had a way to monitor the emotional state of the children, which would allow the robot to respond automatically to their reactions."

Read more ....

When Robots Attack: A Look At 21st Century Warriors

From Information Week:

P.W. Singer says he hears the Terminator references a lot.

Singer, author of a book about robots being used in wars in real life, on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, says he's often asked whether the robots will rise up to exterminate us.

His response: Maybe. At some point in the future. But between now and then, there's a whole forest of moral, legal, and political issues that we'll need to navigate, and many of those are problems, not in some distant future, but today and in the here and now.

Singer tackles those problems in his new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution And Conflict In The 21st Century. Singer, a senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, previously wrote the book Corporate Warriors: The Rise Of The Privatized Military Industry, which looked at private companies providing military services for hire. That book was published in 2003, before the use of those companies becoming an issue in Iraq. Following that book, he wrote Children At War, about children's armies. Singer served as coordinator of the Obama 2008 campaign's defense policy task force.

Read more ....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dawn Of The Robots

The future of robotics?: Humanoid machines with the ability to express genuine emotions.
Credit: Blutgruppe/Zefa/Corbis

From Cosmos Magazine:

They're already here – driving cars, vacuuming carpets and feeding hospital patients. They may not be walking, talking, human-like sentient beings, but they sure are clever… and a little creepy.

AT FIRST SIGHT, IT LOOKED LIKE a typical suburban road accident. A Land Rover approached a Chevy Tahoe estate car that had stopped at a kerb; the Land Rover pulled out and tried to pass the Tahoe just as it started off again. There was a crack of fenders and the sound of paintwork being scraped, the kind of minor mishap that occurs on roads thousands of times every day.

Read more ....

How New Artificial Intelligence Can Help Us Understand How We See

Image: from Topnews

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2009) — Queen Mary scientists have, for the first time, used computer artificial intelligence to create previously unseen types of pictures to explore the abilities of the human visual system.

Writing in the journal Vision Research, Professor Peter McOwan, and Milan Verma from Queen Mary's School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science report the first published use of an artificial intelligence computer program to create pictures and stimuli to use in visual search experiments.

They found that when it comes to searching for a target in pictures, we don't have two special mechanisms in the brain - one for easy searches and one for hard - as has been previously suggested; but rather a single brain mechanism that just finds it harder to complete the task as it becomes more difficult.

Read more ....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Military’s Killer Robots Must Learn Warrior Code

Automatons revolt to form a dictatorship over humans in Asimov's I, Robot

From Times Online:

Leo Lewis

Read the report in full

Autonomous military robots that will fight future wars must be programmed to live by a strict warrior code or the world risks untold atrocities at their steely hands.

The stark warning – which includes discussion of a Terminator-style scenario in which robots turn on their human masters – is issued in a hefty report funded by and prepared for the US Navy’s high-tech and secretive Office of Naval Research.

The report, the first serious work of its kind on military robot ethics, envisages a fast-approaching era where robots are smart enough to make battlefield decisions that are at present the preserve of humans. Eventually, it notes, robots could come to display significant cognitive advantages over Homo sapiens soldiers.

Read more ....

Scientists Debate A Robot War

The Peterborough Examiner:

In the 1921 play that invented the word "robot" -Czech writer Karel Capek's "Rossum's Universal Robots" -mechanical, highly intelligent slaves mount a revolt and kill all humans but one.

Ever since, science fiction has explored the idea of robots outsmarting, dominating and destroying the human race. Author P. W. Singer, at 33 a Senior Fellow at the highly serious Brookings Institution, can't resist the fascination of the topic, but he isn't writing fiction. He treats the possibility with appropriate seriousness in "Wired for War," a meticulous account of the latest military robots.

Two earlier books by him have explored two of the hottest issues in 21st century military developments. One was "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry," the reinvigorated ancient profession of mercenaries. The other deals with something relatively new: "Children at War" -the recruitment and enslavement of boys and girls in their teens and even younger.

Read more ....

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The NSA Wants to Know How and WHAT You Think

The NSA's "retired" Cray super computer (in the NSA museum)

From Australia T.O.:

The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell's Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking.

With the entire Internet and thousands of databases for a brain, the device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think.

The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.

Read more ....

My Comment: It is only a question of time before AI platforms have been developed to the point where they will be useful tools in sorting through mountains of intelligence and surveillance data that would otherwise take weeks if humans were involved.arti

Friday, February 13, 2009

How Do You Build A Synthetic Brain?

Professor Alice Parker, left, discusses the animation of a synaptic connector with graduate students Chih-Chieh Hsu, center, and Jonathan Joshi. (Credit: Diane Ainsworth)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 12, 2009) — Nanocarbon modeling may be the next step toward emulating human brain function. That’s the focus of USC electrical engineering professor Alice Parker’s “synthetic cortex” study funded by the National Science Foundation.

Parker and co-principal investigator Chongwu Zhou, both of the USC Viterbi School’s Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, have teamed up on the “BioRC (Biomimetic Real-Time Cortex) Project,” which has set out to create nanocarbon brain neurons that can talk to each other.

Read more ....

Getting Computers To Think Like Us

Photo from Talking Desktop

From Search Magazine:

Philosophers can afford to be esoteric about what “thinking” and “human intelligence” really mean. Computer scientists, who build terminals and write programs that people actually interact with, have to be more pragmatic about what counts as smarts.

The most famous computer-centric definition of “intelligence” dates to 1950, when the Englishman Alan Turing proposed his well-known “Turing Test.” In it, a person would correspond with two entities on a computer screen, one a human, one a computer, and then be asked to identify which was which. If the computer fooled the human into selecting it 30 percent of the time, Turing suggested it could reasonably be called intelligent.

So far no artificial intelligence has cracked that mark in controlled tests. But as the five recent finalists for the annual Loebner Prize for Artificial Intelligence proved, it might not be long before we have to admit a computer to the ranks of intelligent beings.

Read more ....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

IBM Readies Monster Supercomputer

From PC World:

IBM is to build a hugely powerful supercomputer capable of performing at 20 petaflops per second, twenty times faster than the current record holder, namely the 1 petaflop Roadrunner machine it delivered back in June to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

IBM has been contracted by the US government to build the machine, dubbed Sequoia, and is still developing the technology needed. It has also been asked to build a smaller computer called Dawn. Both machines will be constructed at its Blue Gene facilities in Rochester, Minnesota.

According to Big Blue, Sequoia will have the power of 2 million laptops. Its closest rival, the world's first petaflop machine, Roadrunner, can only perform at speeds equivalent to 100,000 laptops combined.

Understandably, a machine of this nature will occupy a lot room, namely 3,422 square feet (or 318 square metres). That is roughly the size of a large house, and although IBM claims it will be highly energy-efficient for the job it does, machines of this nature consume tremendous amounts of electricity and it is expected to occupy 96 refrigerator-sized racks.

Read more ....

More News On IBM's Super Computer

IBM to build 20-petaflop computer for Energy Dept. -- Computer World
IBM Builds Europe's fastest supercomputer in Germany -- The Inquirer
IBM Blue Gene Supercomputer Looks to Break the Petaflop Mark in Europe -- eWeek
Europe buys petaflops super from IBM -- EETimes
Europe gets first petaflops super -- Register

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rise Of The Machines, End Of The Humans?

From The New Zealand Herald:

So, there are these two scientists researching artificial intelligence. One is Satinder S Baveja, director of the University of Michigan's AI laboratory; the other is Miles Bennett Dyson, director of research at Cyberdyne Systems of California.

Both men are asked to reflect on what the ultimate outcome of their work on AI will look like. Might it, for example, get a little bit dystopian out there?

This is how each responds. One says: "Our noses are too firmly pressed into our work for us to ask, to really ask, should we be doing what we're doing? And if we truly succeed will that be a good thing?"

The other replies: "You're judging me on things I haven't even done yet."

Read more ....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why Sand Is A Walking Robot's Nightmare

Image from Travelblog

From New Scientist:

IT'S not just humans who find it difficult to run on sand, even the most nimble robots struggle when faced with a stretch of the white stuff.

Planetary rovers and earthbound rescue robots often need to travel across varying terrain, including sand and rubble. So Daniel Goldman, a biophysicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, investigated what makes these surfaces such a challenge. His team studied a robot called Sandbot - which has six C-shaped legs and scampers across hard ground with the agility of a cockroach - as it waded through a bath full of poppy seeds. The density of the seeds was controlled by blowing air through the bath.

They found that if Sandbot's limbs moved too fast, or if the researchers loosened the packing between the grains even slightly, the robot would quickly switch from a walking motion to an ineffectual swim as it sank deep into the material. "What was surprising was that it only needed a small change of about half a per cent in either the limb-movement frequency or the packing of the grains to prevent the robot from walking properly," says Goldman.

Read more

Monday, February 9, 2009

How To Make Love To A Robot

Image from Obscure Craft


'As science develops rather quickly, so will our thinking and ethics,' says author David Levy. 'Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans.'

Consider a couple deep within the throes of passion, their arms and limbs wrestle as the act of lovemaking becomes all but an inevitability.

But upon closer inspection, something seems deeply amiss.

Instead of warm lips, one lover has a cold, plastic mouth; instead of a brain, a piece of computer software; instead of a sexual organ, an engineered set of cables and steel wiring that any witness would testify is anything but arousing.

Read more .....

A Roadmap To Developing AI Platforms?

Image from Street Editors

Cognitive Computing Project Aims to Reverse-Engineer the Mind -- Gadget Lab/Wired

Imagine a computer that can process text, video and audio in an instant, solve problems on the fly, and do it all while consuming just 10 watts of power.

It would be the ultimate computing machine if it were built with silicon instead of human nerve cells.

Compare that to current computers, which require extensive, custom programming for each application, consume hundreds of watts in power, and are still not fast enough. So it's no surprise that some computer scientists want to go back to the drawing board and try building computers that more closely emulate nature.

"The plan is to engineer the mind by reverse-engineering the brain," says Dharmendra Modha, manager of the cognitive computing project at IBM Almaden Research Center.

Read more ....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Einstein Robot Smiles When You Do

The Einstein robot is shown on display in this publicity image from the TED2009 Conference in Long Beach, California February 5, 2009. (Kevin Carpenter for David Hanson/Handout/Reuters)

From Yahoo News/Reuters:

LONG BEACH, California (Reuters) – Albert Einstein looked around, made eye contact and smiled.

Of course, the renowned scientist has been dead for more than 50 years but he was reincarnated this week in the form of a so-called empathetic robot that pushes the boundaries of automation by being able to interact with people using emotional nuances.

The rubberized rendition of Einstein's head and shoulders with piercing movable eyes, a shock of white hair and distinctive mustache dazzled a crowd of 1,500 at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference that seeks to foster creativity among entrepreneurs, scientists and designers.

Read more ....

Military Robots And The Laws of War

From The New Atlantis:

More than just conventional wisdom, it has become almost a cliché to say that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have proved “how technology doesn’t have a big place in any doctrine of future war,” as one security analyst told me in 2007. The American military efforts in those countries (or so the thinking goes) have dispelled the understanding of technology-dominated warfare that was prevalent just a few years ago—the notion that modern armed conflict would be fundamentally changed in the age of computers and networks.

It is true that Afghanistan and Iraq have done much to puncture that understanding of war. The vaunted theory, so beloved in the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon, of a “network-centric” revolution in military affairs can now be seen more clearly as a byproduct of the 1990s dotcom boom. The Internet has certainly affected how people shop, communicate, and date. Amid this ecstatic hype, it is not surprising that many security studies experts, both in and out of the defense establishment, latched onto the notion that linking up all our systems via electronic networks would “lift the fog of war,” allow war to be done on the cheap, and even allow the United States to “lock out” competition from the marketplace of war, much as they saw Microsoft doing to Apple at the time.

Read more ....

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Expert: Robots Will Fight Wars of Future

The underlying 'muscles' of a Japanese android at a Tokyo robot fair. Photo AP

From FOX News:

Robots will fight the wars of the future, a prominent military expert told an audience of luminaries Wednesday.

"We are at a point of revolution in war, like the invention of the atomic bomb," writer and Brookings Institution fellow Peter W. Singer said during his address at the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference meeting this week in Long Beach, Calif., according to Agence France-Presse.

Drawing on material from his just-published book "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century," Singer said the rapid development of military robots, already used as drones and bomb defusers, might mean that U.S. combat units would be half human, half machine by 2015.

Unfortunately, he added, we wouldn't have much of a head start.

Read more ....

Where Human Intelligence and Machine Intelligence Meet

Two Strands of Connectionsim -- The Technium

One strand of massive connectionism is currently called social media. The goal is to connect everybody to everybody else in as many different arrangements as possible. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, Yahoo Answers – the whole 10,000 strong universe of Web 2.0 sites employ various webs of humans to accomplish new things. In this regime, humans are the nodes. They generate the signals.

The other strand of massive connectionism relies on a massive number of machines, CPUs and computer transistors linked together in as many ways as possible to get things done. For example, gigantic server farms, data centers, and telecommunication networks. At the extreme level we'd have to include the mega-network of the One Machine consisting of all cell phones, PDAs, PCs, routers, wi-fi spots, satellite links, and so on. On this side, the signals at each node are generated by machines.

Read more ....

Friday, February 6, 2009

Can Video Games Breathe New Life Into AI Research?

PHOTO: Bryan Christie Design

From IEEE Spectrum:

You’re following a gloomy corridor into a large boiler room, dimly lit by a flickering fluorescent lamp and echoing with the rhythms of unseen machinery. Three enemy soldiers suddenly appear on a catwalk high above the floor. They split up, one of them laying down suppressive fire, which forces you to take cover. Although you shoot back, the attackers still manage to creep forward behind a curtain of smoke and flying debris.

Moments later, a machine gun rings out, and you are cut down in a shower of bullets. Then, as you lie dying, you glimpse the soldier who flanked you from behind while his two buddies drew your attention.

Thankfully, it was only a video game, so in fact you’re not mortally wounded. Still, your ego might well be bruised, because you were not only outgunned but also outsmarted by artificial intelligence (AI).

Read more ....

Mini-Me: The Robot Doll That Looks And Sounds Just Like You

From The Daily Mail:

For some it would be the stuff of childhood nightmares, but a Japanese company is creating robot dolls that look just like their customers.

The 'Look A Like' dolls were displayed by LittleIsland president Hiroaki Koike at the annual Gift Show in Tokyo.

Customers place their order for a robot doll along with a photo of who they would like it to resemble and six months later they receive a spookily similar 'Mini-Me' in the post.

Read more ....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

IBM Develop 'Most Realistic' Computerised Voice

Terminator Cameron In -- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Image from Remote Access

From The Telegraph:

Scientists at IBM have developed a computerised voice that is almost indistinguishable from a human.

The voice is made even more convincing because it has been programmed to include verbal tics such as "ums", "ers" and sighs.

Computer experts at IBM have invented the technology to be used on telephone helplines, satellite navigation systems and even on cameras or iPods.

It is so sophisticated that the devices will be able to pause for effect or cough to attract the users' attention, spelling an end to the irritating monotone voices that have become a part of everyday modern life.

Andy Aaron, of IBM's Thomas J Watson research group speech team, said: "These sounds can be incredibly subtle, even unnoticeable, but have a profound psychological effect. It can be extremely reassuring to have a more attentive-sounding voice.

Read more ....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Robomedic For the Battlefield

Roboinspector: A snake robot inspects the head of a skeleton lying on a high-tech stretcher designed by the military, called the Life Support for Trauma and Transport system. Credit: Howie Choset/Carnegie Mellon University

From Technology Review:

A snakelike robotic arm may one day medically attend to soldiers as they are carried off the battlefield.

The first 30 minutes after a battlefield injury are dire: that's when nearly 86 percent of battlefield deaths occur. Before attending to the wounded, frontline physicians have to quickly locate the casualty and extract him from the battlefield, often under heavy fire. This can take up costly minutes, as well as expose medics themselves as possible targets.

Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are developing technology to give battlefield medics a helping hand--literally. Howie Choset, an associate professor of robotics at CMU, has engineered a snakelike robotic arm equipped with various sensors that can monitor a soldier's condition. The robot can be wirelessly controlled via a joystick, so that a doctor at a remote clinic may move the robot to any point on a soldier's body to assess his injuries as he's being carried to a safe location. The robot's serpentine flexibility allows it to maneuver within tight confines, so that, in case a casualty can't be extracted from the battlefield immediately, the robot can perform an initial medical assessment in the field.

Read more ....

Inside The Rise Of The Warbots

Peter Singer (Photo from The Danger Room)

From The Danger Room:

Peter Singer's Wired for War has been praised by everyone from former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake to Jon Stewart as a definitive look at the growing use of robots on the battlefield. Just before his talk at TED 2009, we chatted with Singer, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and Danger Room contributor, about the rise of the machines.

Danger Room: Your last two books were on mercenaries and child soldiers. Why the switch to robots?

Peter Singer: I think the opening line of my book explains it all: "Because robots are frakkin' cool."

Read more ....

Unnatural Selection: Robots Start To Evolve

Photo: A robot with a brain that grows as its body develops could lead to more versatile humanoid robots and prosthetics (Image: Robert Gordon University)

From New Scientist:

LIVING creatures took millions of years to evolve from amphibians to four-legged mammals - with larger, more complex brains to match. Now an evolving robot has performed a similar trick in hours, thanks to a software "brain" that automatically grows in size and complexity as its physical body develops.

Existing robots cannot usually cope with physical changes - the addition of a sensor or new type of limb, say - without a complete redesign of their control software, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

Read more ....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I See Your Petaflop And Raise You 19 More

From Wired Science:

Just a year after the world's fastest supercomputers broke the petaflop barrier by performing one thousand trillion calculations per second, nuclear physicists are planning a 20-petaflop machine in conjunction with IBM.

Nicknamed Sequoia, the Department of Energy computer will most likely be the most powerful in the world when it is released. If it were running today, it'd be more than 10 times faster than any machine in existence.

When it's installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2012, it could make new kinds of calculations possible, but initially, that power will be primarily used to simulate nuclear explosions, as many of its supercomputer forebears have done.

Read more ....

University Prepares Scientists For Era When Computers Are Cleverer Than Humans

When machines go bad: Will Smith and his sidekick hunt
down a murderous robot in I, Robot (2004)

From Daily Mail Online:

Preparing for the day when machines will take over the human race sounds like the stuff of sci-fi novels, conspiracy theorists or Hollywood blockbusters.

But Google and Nasa are already getting ready for such a day.

The technological heavyweights have lent their support to a new university that will prepare scientists for an age when computers will be cleverer than humans.

Singularity University will be based in Nasa's Silicon Valley campus and will host its first class of 30 graduates this summer.

The name of the unconventional school comes from futurist Ray Kurzweil's theory of Singularity - a period of rapid technological advancement in the near future.

Read more ....

Supercomputer As Powerful As 2m Laptops

Photo from The Inquirer

From The Australian:

SEVEN months after IBM delivered the world's fastest supercomputer, it has announced an even speedier one with the computing power of 2 million laptops.

IBM said today it is developing the technology for its new Sequoia computer, with delivery scheduled in 2011 to the Department of Energy for use at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Sequoia will chug along at 20 petaflops per second and is one order of magnitude quicker than its predecessor.

The earlier machine, delivered in June to the Energy Department, broke the 1 petaflop barrier.

Peta is a term for quadrillion and FLOP stands for floating point operations per second.

Sequoia, and a smaller computer called Dawn, are being built in Rochester, Minnesota, for use in simulating nuclear tests.

Read more ....

Monday, February 2, 2009

Google And NASA Back Vision Of Computers More Clever Than Humans

Google And Nasa Back New School For Futurists -- Financial Times

Google and Nasa are throwing their weight behind a new school for futurists in Silicon Valley to prepare scientists for an era when machines become cleverer than people.

The new institution, known as “Singularity University”, is to be headed by Ray Kurzweil, whose predictions about the exponential pace of technological change have made him a controversial figure in technology circles.

Google and Nasa’s backing demonstrates the growing mainstream acceptance of Mr Kurzweil’s views, which include a claim that before the middle of this century artificial intelligence will outstrip human beings, ushering in a new era of civilisation.

To be housed at Nasa’s Ames Research Center, a stone’s-throw from the Googleplex, the Singularity University will offer courses on biotechnology, nano-technology and artificial intelligence.

Read more ....

What's Next? Robot Rights for Battlefield 'Bots?

From The Danger Room:

There's something about warbots that makes people go from the hyper-rational to the science-fictional, quicker than you can say "Cylon."

A report released today by the Ethics + Emerging Technologies Group at Cal Poly and funded by the Office of Naval Research is the latest in a growing cottage industry of academics and non-profits sorting out the ethical implications of increasingly sophisticated military robotics.

The report explores concrete issues, like how the laws of wars might have to be adapted to account for all these tele-operated planes and infantrymen. Then it strays into Galactica turf, getting into the issue of 'robot rights.'

For now, robots are seen as merely a tool that humans use, morally no different (except in financial value) than a hammer or a rifle ‐‐ their only value is instrumental, as a means to our ends. But as robots begin to assume aspects of human decision‐making capabilities, the question may arise of their intrinsic value: do they deserve moral consideration of their own (beyond their financial or tactical value), and at what point in their evolution will they achieve this intrinsic value (as human lives seem to have)?

Read more

One Artist's Version Of Tomorrow's Robots

Exclusive Images Reveal McG's Terminator Salvation Vision -- Wired/Underwire

New types of killer robots and a science-inspired conception of post-apocalyptic Earth are helping McG turn Terminator Salvation into an eye-scorching sci-fi flick.

The director knows it will take considerable polish to restore the franchise's sheen in the wake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's much-maligned 2003 swan song, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. And he cheerfully acknowledges that some observers initially questioned the wisdom of reviving the Terminator franchise with him at the helm.

"Nobody heard 'Terminator 4' and said, 'Oh that's a great idea -- I know, let's get McG to do it!" said McG when he rolled clips from his upcoming movie in Los Angeles earlier this month. "This asshole who did Charlie's Angels, and what kind of cock calls himself McG?'"

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wired For War

From The Armchair Generalist:

P.W. Singer has written a very interesting book in "Wired for War: The Robotic Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century." This is his third release in six years - impressive, considering the 438 pages of this tome. If you want a technical discussion and evaluation of the value of robots in war, this isn't the book for you. Instead, Singer takes a journey into the history of robotics, the military's past work with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sudden love affair with robotics after 2003, the pros and cons of using robots in combat operations, and what the future might show.

Singer's success in this book is how he has addressed the social, technical, military, and ethical aspects of the robot revolution. It is a relatively recent technical explosion of activity, but as Singer shows, the social impact of robotics go back decades. Still, the desire to use unmanned systems to augment and replace human frailties has been strong, especially in warfare. The more recent advances in robotics, added to military concepts of operation in urban areas and social comfort with electronics, has led to a Revolution in Military Affairs - of sorts. We may not be there completely.

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