Of Asimov, Robots, Artificial Intelligence and What is a Human Anyway


You might say I have too much time on my hands. I would answer that I never have enough time, but my back injury continues and I have had time to think in a few directions.

Whether it is HAL 9000, remember “I’m sorry but I can’t do that Dave” as an answer to “Open the Pod bay doors HAL” from 2001 A Space Odyssey?

If you haven’t tried it, ask Alexa, Siri, Cortana or whatever your speech interface is to the internet, those famous words. “Open the Pod bay doors HAL” If only Arthur C Clarke was around to experience that.

Damn, I just remembered that they had a 4K restoration of the movie at Imax last month for the 50th anniversary of the movie. I was hoping to find someone to go with and then totally forgot about it. That would have been amazing.

AsimovI collect books and in recent years have given away many books that I was never going to read again, but decided to extend my collections of specific writers and starting at the beginning of the alphabet, I looked at what was missing from my Isaac Asimov collection and amongst others bought a copy of The Bicentennial Man.

Asimov is of course famous for the 3 Laws of Robotics. Ironically a lot of people debunked his laws and said they were flawed and used that to criticise him as being unrealistic or perhaps idealistic, which is a trait of many SciFi authors of the 70’s. However, he knew that himself. In many of his stories, robots disobeyed the laws.

There is a great story in this book called That Thou Art Mindful of Him, in which is a play on Psalm 8:4-6, he also infers in some of the stories that he was Jewish through some of the characters and had a keen sense of humor.

In this story (and I’m sorry for the spoiler) a series of robots are produced and given the capability to become self aware, in effect sentient. They redefine what it is to be human and declare themselves as such.

I played with the thought of Singularity and imagined if autonomous cars could pass the Turing Test 

I also looked at what might happen if they didn’t and what hackers might be able to do.

What I keep coming back to and writers like Philip K Dick, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and many others foresaw 50 and more years ago and similar to where the TV series Humans is heading, is that humans are dangerous to the planet.

Now I like being human and I hope that my descendants will have safe and healthy planet for thousands of years from now and many of my little stories are in jest.

BUT, if climate change, plastic pollution, air pollution, brinkmanship politics, drought, famine, and war are the result of how great and committed we humans fancy ourselves to be, would it not be realistic if an Artificial Intelligence was developed to the point of Singularity and able to continue to learn with or without programmed biases, would their logic determine that the human race should either be limited or allowed to exterminate ourselves?

Kurzweil looked at it a different way and said that Singularity would occur around 2045 and potentially be a synthesis between human and machine, in effect human 2.0. He would be about 98 at that point in time, so it will be interesting to see if he is still around and if he is right.

Maybe Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and many futuristic projects should have the last word. He’s pretty successful and walks the talk. DARPA, Rex Bionics and hundreds of companies, universities and other innovators are developing systems that will be able to think for themselves. Yes, for specific purposes, but they are being created.

It’s interesting that in this clip, they say that Science Fiction is usually about 50 years ahead of its time. So back to Asimov, reading him today, especially a book like The Bicentennial Man, where like Stephen King and others, he talks about his stories, was he in fact prophetic?

Yes, maybe I’ve had too much time to think, but do you think we should be thinking about this. Just imagined if a machine, say a Robocop decided that using facial recognition or perhaps racial recognition, that you were, could be, or could become a criminal and then think about biases that go into programming, often of necessity.

What conclusions could an AI start taking when given some information and some bias and then left to learn on the basis of that starting point? Oh and I didn’t even mention George Orwell. He wrote Animal Farm in 1945. Remember “All humans are equal, but some are more equal than others”? Shutting up now……..

 

The Right Track Programme


This morning I read a story in The Aucklander about The Right Track programme which is an intense program for first time motoring offenders to get them to think twice in the future about boy racing, drinking and driving and other motoring activities that are dangerous to themselves and innocent bystanders.

According to the police this programme is having good results, but it seems that funding from Manukau City Council is going to end. They said that it was never a long term exercise.

Amongst other things members of the programme visit the Otara Spinal Unit and meet survivors who now need a wheelchair for their mobility. Funeral Directors talk to them about how they have to pick up body parts after an accident and try to put them together for funeral viewing.

It’s all about having the ambulance at the top of the cliff according to John Finch who developed the programme which is a world first.

My father in law has had throat cancer and as a consequence had a laryngectomy. In conjunction with the NZ Cancer Society he visited many primary schools and told his story. He let the children have a look at the whole in his throat and see how he can talk. He let them ask questions and gave them honest answers. It’s interesting how onto it kids are. He has dozens of letters from students saying that they will never ever smoke. I would say he has probably saved at least one or two lives, which probably represents a six figure sum at least to our health system.

An ambulance at the top of the cliff has to be significantly greater than the cost of mopping people of the road after a needless accident, but unless funding is found, this excellent and selfless service will disappear.

I wrote a song about situations that kids find themselves. It’s called One More Time Around the Block and you can hear it at Music Forte.

It thundered down the road like a young boy racers dream

The Rockford Fosgate sub beat like a life support machine

They never saw what hit them on the wrong side of the bend

They didn’t have an inkling that their lives were going to end.

The mourners stood in silence dressed in dark clothes, mostly black

A mother screamed her lungs out, cried “I want my baby back”

Their friends stood round in circles, still not coping from the shock

They said they be five minutes, one more time around the block.

They were best of friends like they were tied at the seam

They knew what each was thinking and they shared the same big dreams

They were just young men in the prime of their life

Their futures lay before them, empty pages still to write.

But now those days are over and their lives have been snuffed out

The sub’s no longer thumping and their hearts have lost their clout

If only they had listened, if only they had stopped

They said they’d be five minutes one more time arouind the clock.

And now the music’s playing and the mourners begin to pray

They sing the Lord’s Prayer and ask themselves

Why did it end this way?

The V8’s sound like thunder, can’t you hear the engine’s roar?

Car horns sound a last salute with feat flat to the floor

Wish we could have changed the outcome, wish we could have stopped the clock

They said they’d be five minutes, one more time around the clock

They said the’d be five minutes, one more time around the clock.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)