As promised, following on from the last blog looking at some of the (rather comical) ideas by a pastor in the United States to convert intelligent robots to Christianity, it is perhaps necessary to look at other ways in which religion might impact on the future of artificial intelligence and robot design. However, rather than speculate as to the (very unlikely) possibility that sentient AI might suddenly find itself bereft of spiritual guidance and seek answers to the riddles of the Universe in our humble human mythologies (again, consider the fallible logic of QT1 in Asimov’s short-story ‘Reason’), it is perhaps more productive to examine how our own religious impulses and biases might affect our technological creations.
For it seems that, just like the Abrahamic God, we are creating robots in our own image (though, as we will see, this impulse is not limited to the Abrahamic religions). Continue reading →
The idea that robots will replace human labour hasbeen around since, technically, before there was even such a thing as robots. It is an intriguing history: We can trace our fears of being displaced by mechanised labour back to the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, as automated looms, powered by the magic of steam engines, meant less employment for skilled workers. Continue reading →
‘Rise of the Cybermen: The Terminator-style bionic ear that could give people “superman” hearing’ ‘Terminator is nigh: Shape-shifting material that instantly switches from solid to liquid could lead to a new generation of robots’
And the rest.
Undoubtedly, there is a great deal of anxiety out there about the development of robots and artificial intelligence. Some of these fears are well-founded, of course, and some less so. We’ve been presented in the popular media so often – in films, video games and in the popular press – with the image of robotic monsters and genocidal AI that it’s a wonder that public have not demanded that these dangerous toys be taken from scientists and forever locked away, their development forever prohibited for the good of all life on earth as we know it. (A similar public attack is underway regarding GMOs, for example; again, many of these are well-founded and some are not.) Continue reading →
In a bit of breaking news, a report by a review panel looking into the Human Brain Project (HBP) has determined that ‘corrective actions’ need to be taken in restructuring the communications and operations of the project. The HBP was set up to make new contributions to neuroscience, develop new treatments for brain disease and, most directly of interest to robotics, develop new computer technologies modelled on these new discoveries. In 2013 the HBP received €1.2 billion in EU funding under the Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship initiative, and includes 112 organisations in 24 different countries with 183 principle investigators working towards a number of very laudable objectives.
“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 →
The possibility that advanced artificial intelligence (AI) might one day turn against its human creators has been repeatedly raised of late. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, for instance, surprised by the ability of his newly-upgraded speech synthesis system to anticipate what he was trying to say, has suggested that, in the future, AI could surpass human intelligence and ultimately bring about the end of humankind.
Hawking is not alone in worrying about superintelligent AI. A growing number of futurologists, philosophers and AI researchers have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence could leave humans outsmarted and outmanoeuvred. My view is that this is unlikely, as humans will always use an improved AI to improve themselves. A malevolent AI will have to outwit not only raw human brainpower but the combination of humans and whatever loyal AI-tech we are able to command – a combination that will best either on their own.
Amidst all the talk about the Big Trends in tech for 2015 – driverless cars apparently on the horizon, and of course the VR revolution will arrive just in time for next Christmas – is talk of personal robotics: more than simple machines, these are robots that promise to organise our lives. Through the power of ‘emotional engines’ and other advances in Artificial Intelligence (some genuine, some less revolutionary than marketing agents would have us believe), these are robots that will become our companions, or perhaps even trustworthy friends.
The key, of course, to the up-take of any new technology – beyond the tech-enthusiasts that gobble up anything new and innovative (e.g. Glassholes) – is how useful a product will be to the wider consumer market.
A new marine robot, called Sepios, has recently joined the ever-growing robotic animal kingdom. Built by a group of students from Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, this biomimetic robot was inspired by yet another marine creature, namely a cuttlefish. The interesting thing is that Sepios can actually do better than the creature that inspired it.