Fire-Fighting Robots

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I’m feeling a little like I’ve been lady negativity on the robot front for the last couple weeks. So in the interest of being an objective robot aficionado, I’m taking up the other side. And in doing so I’ve done some research on firefighting machines, because everybody loves a firefighter. And granted their christmas calendar would be a devastating disappointment compared, there are some significantly less superficial merits to sending robots into infernos instead of beefy dudes. Sigh. 

Stop daydreaming about the Christmas calendar and concentrate. 

I may be projecting. 

Aaand we’re back. 

In Feb the US Navy revealed a working prototype of an onboard firefighting robot. See the big deal about fires on ships is that they’re a tad more drastic than fires on land. One can’t just go “oh yeah this house is a lost cause, let’s get everybody out and minimise damage to the neighbours.” Because when you’re at sea it’s entirely possible that you don’t have any neighbours, or your closest neighbour is Cannibal Island. And let me tell you Cannibal Island is not an ironic name for an island with no cannibals. It’s full of them. Well not full… because a lot of them got eaten. But there are a few.. like enough that you don’t wanna be there. Honestly, any more cannibals than zero cannibals is kinda too many cannibals. And the Navy OBVIOUSLY realised this. So they turned some knobs and did some science and built SAFFiR. These humanoid machines have a built in stereo infrared camera, laser range finder and gas sensor that allow them to detect and eliminate the smokey threat. They can also walk and balance aboard a ship on rocky waters without falling headlong into the blaze. Impressive considering I trip just walking down the street. 

Point being, SAFFiR has the potential to save you from cannibals and is therefore a categorical winner. 

THE TECHNOLOGICAL SINGULARITY

Right I think it’s time to talk about the singularity. 

Just make sure you’ve got a firm hold on your hats because shit is getting REAL. 

The rate of technological advancement is increasing, exponentially. For those of you as mathematically inept as I am, just look at the pretty picture. See how the long goes *jooooooooop* …that’s the point in question.

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The problem with all of us plebs is that we are thinking linear, we see the future of things moving at the same pace as they have done… a nice comfortable gait. It’s not going to stay that way. Kurzweil calls it the law of accelerating returns, which is a nicer way of saying watch your fucking back pal because it’s alllll coming for you. All of it. On its way. In a hurry. 

So the current thinking in AI is to develop a computer that can learn, and motivate it’s own advancement. And once that can be done, theoretically, the machine would be able to set itself on a course to increase its own intelligence. Following that, our comparatively gnat-like brains lose all control over their progression. We are sidelined while these super-intelligent beings, now entirely autonomous, just do their super-intelligent thing. 

Here’s where it gets crazy. All these people, these genius people that are talking about it, what they’re saying is after this goes down they just don’t fucking know. Could be that the machines decide that humans, being what we are (life sucking leaches with a tendency for the depraved) are a threat to their environment. And maybe they just go about exterminating us. Could be that our new overlords are wonderfully benevolent and they do the Johnny Depp-in-that-AI-movie-thing, fix the environment, sort the hunger and the disease and the rest of it and everyone’s lives are infinitely improved. There may even be a middle ground between those two highly melodramatic scenarios. 

The kicker, really, is that they’re all just shrugging their shoulders going iiiunoooo. While we hurtle towards this tipping point where things become entirely out of our control and everyone’s just like iiunnnnooooo….. Have your eyes bugged out of your head yet? Push em back in then… and hear this. Kurzweil predicts that this will happen around 2040. TWENTY FUCKING FORTY. And he rarely gets it wrong. But some are saying earlier. I’ll hold the vomit bucket while you lose your lunch. 

Welcome to the future. 

Sleep well never. 

Autonomous Cars … At least it starts with those

Ok so the assignment is over. And I promise I’ll stop soon. But this whole thing has become oddly addictive. And everyone knows they call it cold turkey because a carcass becomes cold after death. Everyone knows that. 

So while I’m supposed to be writing essays for other assignments I’ve been thinking about autonomous cars. The people that know things say that they’ll drastically reduce the incidence of traffic accidents. That is, once they stop doing this…

And they will stop. Because Elon “saviour of mankind” Musk is on the case. And once these clever chaps get it right, car accidents will become a thing of the past. Good thing, yes. But when you extrapolate out from that you realise that what will eventuate is a ban on non-autonomous vehicles. That sits slightly less well. 

All this to say I realise it’s irrational. I know that of all people I should definitely not be in control of a vehicle. It would be better for everyone if I wasn’t performing solo rock concerts while manning a car. It’d be better for everyone if I wasn’t performing solo rock concerts full stop, but that’s just out of the question. That elation that comes from flying down a highway, it’s probably just a social construct. It’s probably just because we’ve watched too many road movies. And by the time the ban is in place it’ll be a younger generation dealing with the consequences. And maybe for them that feeling wouldn’t be the same. 

But here’s another thing I’ve been thinking. And let me preface this by saying I’m not sure whether I actually think it or if its just a thing I’m thinking about, if that makes sense. My question is this, are we moving towards a moment in time where everything is too safe? Isn’t there something significant about getting in a car and just at the back of your mind being aware that you could theoretically die before you reach your destination? Maybe that little voice in the back of your head that says that.. maybe it wakes you up. Stops you from becoming apathetic. In my mind there’s a sort of vertical line. And that line represents high chance of death. And maybe the closer you get to the line the more you’re aware of your life. I may disagree with myself completely in an hour because, like I said, i don’t know if I really think any of what I’m thinking. And I was voicing a case for immortality just last week so… very little consistency here. 

It’s in a similar vein to what Carlin says about being offended, about political correctness. We’re all so careful and so concerned about saying the right thing that a lot of our interactions have become vacant, meaningless. I mean, has the incidence of bullying in the playground increased or are kids just so coddled these days that they can’t deal with it anymore? That might be harsh. I think I’m just in a mood. I’m not sure how we got here. 

I really hope the prof is done going through this site because this has just gone way off the rails. 

Do Killer Robots Seem Like A Great Idea To ANYONE??!

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This week in robot news, talk has turned to killer robots.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots have been voicing their concern for years. And they’re finding that the UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons seem to be doing little more than “having talks” on the issue. And somewhat like coming to a film/media student for information on robotics/economics, that really doesn’t seem like it’s gonna help. Even if she’s the only one that finds a way to relate Monty Python to pertinent issues.

But I digress. Here’s an idea for an action that might get them started; put a stop to the military’s development of machines that can autonomously track and kill people. Because those sound absolutely wretched. The solution to men and women dying in wars is not sending machines in their place, it’s chilling out on the war.

The whole situation is more complicated.. I realise that. But here’s the thing, when the very thought of something makes your skin crawl and reminds you of every dystopian future you’ve ever nightmared about MAYBE DON’T BRING IT TO LIFE.

Sexbots over deathbots. That should be our chant when we rally.

Shayni Notelovitz

A Sex Robot Won’t Give You Syphilis

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I’m not saying every prostitute will. That would be a generalisation. And I haven’t done enough research into the sexual health of prostitutes to make a definitive claim… I’m just saying it’s possible.

So sex robots are a thing, almost. I mean they’ll very soon be a very big thing. And it’s no doubt going to cause a total reworking of the prostitution trade.

A few things to consider…

  1. A sex robot wouldn’t carry disease.
  2. It would, theoretically, be down with whatever. Got a weird toe thing? No judgment from the android.
  3. It could be designed to be physically perfect.
  4. It would probably be much better at it than humans. No insecurities about uncultivated manscape. Doesn’t stop until you tell it to. Will tell you on cue that you’re “the biggest she’s ever seen” without a hint of sarcasm, and additionally, without bursting into hysterical laughter before she even gets the sentence out …That kinda thing…

But before you perves start lining up there are some other things to consider. For instance, how would the market be navigated with regard to pedophilia and child-bots? And at what level of robotic sentience would the entire thing become exploitative? How would these machines be dealt with in countries that haven’t legalised prostitution? Do any of us even think it’s not insanely creepy to have sex with an android, or is it really just a glamourised vibrator?

On another note- this is a brilliant topic to bring up when there’s an uncomfortable lapse in conversation at a party, especially a shnazzy party. Like one without paper plates. Take it from this undisputed social queen. Never fails.

Always fails.

That’s why it’s brilliant.

Blog’s starting to get weird eh.

This article talks through the whole issue in much more civilised terms if you’d like to hear the actual story

Shayni Notelovitz

The Human-Machine Connection

Initial thoughts, this thing is goddam adorable. And I think possibly all my problems could be solved if it would just tell me it loved me. But after the momentary hysteria settled I began to question the idea at the heart of this strange commercial. The notion that a human might have an emotional connection to a machine.

With regard to jobs, we hear a lot about the idea of collaborating with robots, and that this will be the future of our workforce. But could we collaborate in the same way with a robotic mind? The camaraderie and collective motivation that exists in many workplaces seem like they might be the very ingredients that have brought about some of the greatest human creations to date. Discovery, design, art, invention… that cinematic moment we all know so well where the group bands together and achieves something incredible, and it gives you goosebumps and makes you want to become a Mighty Duck. How would this work if our co-conspirators were non-human?

And on another level.. how much would it change the very nature of the human experience if we were no longer the builders of our world? If everything was outsourced… wouldn’t there be a sense that we were no longer the designers of our space, even if the robots weren’t out of our control. Isn’t there something to humans being responsible for our own environment?

Shayni Notelovitz

What Not To Do Once You’re Unemployed

In contrast to my earlier comments, here are some of the worst things you can do with your time once you’re unemployed. 

  • Initiate a Second Life renaissance.
  • Just pop out some offspring so you have something to do/talk about.
  • Try to beat your household robot at stuff. This will inevitably lead to decreased self esteem.
  • Adopt more cats than you could ever have imagined caring for. Spend all the days rolling around on the floor with them… Look it’s probably not the worst, but I’d avoid it.
  • Cultivate a vege patch on your window sill. NOPE.
  • Watch all the seasons of Jersey Shore/Geordie Shore without the subtitles so that you have to keep rewinding to work out what they’re even talking about only to realise nothing…. they were talking about nothing…
  • Write and produce a web series that’s just you talking to the camera about all the special things you’ve been pondering in your special, special mind.
  • Spend lots of time brewing tea for as long as those tea people say you should.
  • Stalk someone super intensely. Requires many of the conspiracy nut activities mentioned above, but in the end you’re not a misunderstood genius, you’re just a creep.
  • Look for a job. Are the horses looking for jobs? NO. STOP IT. SIT DOWN AND EAT YOUR GRASS.

Shayni Notelovitz

The Multitalented Machines are Rising

Google’s deep learning software teaches itself how to play computer games without prior knowledge of the controls, the goals or the methods of game play. You’re sure machines will never be intelligent enough to replace you? Think again.

This crazy-ass video is of the Hubo Humanoid Robot, winner of the 2015 Darpa robotics challenge. The robots are given goals. They have to then make decisions about how to best accomplish each one. It’s incredible to perceive the scope of tasks that this guy can handle, from driving a car to turning a valve to utilising a yellow power tool to slice through a wall.

The win proved a bit of a controversy because Hubo elected to push the obstacles aside instead of clambering over the rubble. It has been suggested that this action was cheating, but what’s more mind-blowing is a robotic mind having the capacity to seek out a loop hole, to bend rules in order to find the simplest solution. Ruminate on that for a second or two.

Shayni Notelovitz