Article by Michael Szollosy
Just last week, La Pedrera, Barcelona, has hosted the Living Machines 2015, the 4th International conference on biomimetics and biohybrid systems.
A few notable names have made some warnings about the dangers of artificial intelligence in the last few months. Bill Gates apparently cannot understand why we are more concerned about this impending threat. Professor Stephen Hawking recently has come out and completely endorsed the notion of the Singularity – that AI, once autonomous, would take over designing itself and so improve at an exponential rate, uninhibited by the biological limitations of humans, developments that could eventually lead to ‘the end of the human race’.
Article by Michael Szollosy
“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.
Everybody has been in a situation when we wish we had stronger arms or, even better, an extra pair of them. Whether it is attaching something large overhead or manipulating something heavy, we all know we are bound to run into the limitations of our own anatomical design. In some professions, such as construction work, these difficulties can surface practically every day. To make physical drudgery less stressful and traumatic, researchers around the globe are now developing a new kind of robots that will be worn on the body just like your regular backpack.
Although we may be decades away from building truly life-like humanoid robots, it is never too early to start questioning the legal and ethical implications of creating machines that are hard to tell apart from ourselves. In a brave leap of imagination, Real Humans, a popular Swedish TV show, written by Lars Lundstroem, deliberately blurs the line between humans and robots to explore what it means to be human.
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.
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.
The 3rd Conference on Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems will be held this year from 30 July to 1 August in Milan. As has become a tradition, the three-day event, organised by the Convergent Science Network, will be hosted at a fantastic venue consistent with the spirit of the conference: the Da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology, one of the largest technology museums in Europe.