“The desire to anthropomorphise, the need to connect, is powerful, and that is why this thing is going to sell.”
So says Daniel Graystone, inventor and CEO of Graystone industries in the American network series Caprica. The prequel to the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica, Caprica tells the story of how the genocidal Cylons came into existence. Graystone is trying to develop a robot for use by the military, but realises that his will be more successful if his robots look and act like human beings. First, it needs to be pointed out – evidently with some frequency – that bipedal robot soldiers are probably the most inefficient way that robots can be used in military combat, and not at all what a truly sophisticated artificial intelligence would use to take over the planet and enslave the human race.
But given that, Graystone makes a very important point: there is a very deeply-rooted impulse to anthropomorphise – to attribute human qualities to things that are not human – and this seems to be a big factor in the development of human-robot interactions. Continue reading →
Technological Singularity is based on the prediction that the development of AI powerful enough to surpass human intelligence will change the world as we know it, leading either to a catastrophic end of the human kind or to its miraculous ascent.
In a recent article in the Guardian, Alan Winfield, professor of electronic engineering at the University of the West of England, Bristol, discusses the pitfalls of being overly pessimistic or optimistic about the Technological Singularity.
Information can be scary, and even more so when we find ourselves humbled by its immensity. In a press release issued earlier this week, the European Commission has once again demonstrated that it is not afraid of big data. Quite the opposite, Europe is more than ever ready to embrace it – a gesture, which is reflected in Europe’s strong bet on research projects like CEEDs, which uses big data to enhance human cognition and improve problem solving.
Last week, the eyes of the scientific community were fixed on the € 1.2 billion Human Brain Project (HBP) as more than 150 European neuroscientists raised concerns over the project’s management in an open letter to the European Commission.
One of the two Europe’s Flagship Initiatives, the HBP spans 112 research institutions across 24 countries and was launched last year with the grand vision of creating a long-needed ICT infrastructure for future brain research. Not without controversy, the project adopted a bottom-up approach to build a computer simulation of the brain based exclusively on the fundamental understanding of neurons and their interactions.
Every year, Telluride, a small mountain town in Colorado, attracts an international roster of scientists from several disciplines for three weeks of intensive discussion and exchange of ideas about neuromorphic engineering, a rapidly expanding research field that promises to bridge the gap between the lifeless silicon of computer chips and the very much lively brain-based biological systems. This year is not an exception: the Telluride workshop is now in full swing and will continue until July 19.
A new European project hopes to make robots more trustworthy
Year by year, robots become better and better at negotiating each time more complex social interactions with humans. However, much as their social intelligence has improved, these interactions still suffer from a lack of transparency. In other words, unlike humans, robots are not capable of understanding and explaining their actions in intentional terms, which prevents them from having more effective communication with humans. To the joy of robots and humans alike, this challenge is now addressed by the What You Say Is What You Did (WYSIWYD) project, launched earlier this year.
Wiring electronic devices directly into your brain may not sound like a very pleasant idea, but this is exactly what so many scientists around the world seem to be quite excited about. The reason is that, far from being your worst cyborg nightmare, brain implants – also called neuroprostheses – can do true miracles. Connected to the nervous system, these little chips can make the blind see, the deaf hear and even allow the paralysed to once again gain control over the physical world.
Spacemaker VR is an Oculus-based virtual reality system that allows designers to walk through their designs Source: Digital Physical
The physical spaces we inhabit have a direct influence on how we feel, think and behave. Understanding this implicit dialogue between built environments and our minds continues to open new ways for architects to design physical spaces that better meet people’s needs. Neuro-architecture, interactive architecture, intelligent environments and virtual reality technology are among those exciting and partially overlapping disciplines that are currently on the frontline of the ongoing architectural revolution.
We live in a time when the scale of scientific research is undergoing an unprecedented exponential growth, which contributes to the generation of equally unprecedented amounts of data. Disciplines like neuroscience, astronomy or particle physics are piling up so much information that finding and implementing new ways of representing, navigating and manipulating this information is rapidly becoming a pressing necessity.