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……..

 

Finger in ear phone and skin touchpad


The technology is still being developed, but while friends are arguing the merits of the latest Android mobiles (and iPhone is dropping on the list off desired product for some reason….) other manufacturers are heading towards the computing implants, step by slow step.

I’ve written about haptic suits before, but this could allow us in some cases to bypass this technology.

Interim technologies include the Invisio Pro-M (which can even work up to 20 meters underwater) which military and other emergency services are experimenting with, that conducts speech with excellent noise cancellation through your bones. If you have a spare US$40,000 you can buy your own stick-finger-in-ear phone.

Meanwhile development continues on the path that Bill Gates promised many years ago with Skinput. He said way back that the computer would become a wearable component. This step isn’t elegant, but these are stepping stones.

What mobile brand will you implant in future?

Could a San Franciscan Artists lost eye instigate the next disruptive technology?


This will no doubt do find its way to TV and all the media will pounce on it, not the least because most people will think it is pretty weird. I found the story by accident when following a tweet from NZStuffEnt about a new NZ ICT Body.

So the story on Stuff goes like this. Tanya Vlach, an artist in San Francisco lost an eye in a car accident in 2005 and has asked for someone to replace her prosthetic eye with a Web Cam with Bluetooth connectivity. She also wants a 3x optical zoom and an SD slot and the ability to take still photos. She told the NY Times that she could be used for a reality TV show or as a life recording.

As she said, this kind of thing has been in Science Fiction stories for decades and would be a logical extension one day, so, just like with my Location Innovation Awards, why not make one day, today?

This would fit quite nicely with recent topics I have been blogging about such as Haptic VR suits. If they can make prosthetic limbs that are controlled by the human nervous system, it shouldn’t be hard to create an eye that can be controlled directly, either through optic nerves, or by blinking to allow her to zoom, focus, switch it on and off (there are obviously times when you do want some privacy) and dilate to cope with bright light.

There are obviously some technical details such as the power required to run it and the Bluetooth Communications. Having done a lot of photography I know how much power is involved in zooming and adjusting shutters etc, but I’m sure there is a way, after all they can implant pacemakers and other technology that requires a modicum of reliability.

As to what to do with it. She would make a fortune just from telling her story, but the opportunities would be huge. Espionage might be unlikely because of a high profile and metal components, but chances are the military would be very interested in her experience as would other security services, irrespective of how discrete the new eye is or isn’t.

The company that gives it to her will be gifted a huge business opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this technology doesn’t already exist. I have previously blogged about contact lens displays for computing which are already under development. Some 30 years ago my grandfather became snow blind and was a guinea pig for a technology of experimental prosthetic eyes. They were big many faceted things that didn’t work very well, but instead of seeing nothig he could see shadows and knew when I was walking in the room. So this concept can’t be new. The big difference is that the technology development that I have been aware of was designed for the user to regain vision, not as a camera to be transmitted elsewhere.

So like the 6 Million Dollar Man, wouldn’t it be better if she could see everything a well as transmit it?

So if you have the technology and want to help her and yourself, she has a blog where she has her wish list specifications and you can make contact with her.

This is so cool on so many levels. Firstly from adversity comes something potentially better than she had before. She might hanker for more privacy one day but it sounds as though she is smart enough to sign a contract that will give her what she wants and let the people who develop it get what they want.

I could think of so many uses for this technology. I was interested to note that she did not list a microphone but I guess at times when she is recording for others, she could always wear a seperate microphone, somewhere, perhaps built into her watch or jewellery.

As well as law enforcement and military use, it would be great for all sorts of news reporting. I wonder how many situations are lost because people wouldn’t allow cameras into a scene of activity. William Gibson would probably see it used for marketers looking for the next big fad or selling the experiences of people wearing them to others, Philip K Dick would have had people rebelling against the Big Brothers who were wearing them and trying to find ways to shut them off.

Imagine using them in a sporting environment. How would you like to see exactly what your favourite sportsperson sees when they are playing? Bring in the Haptics again and you could see and feel what is happening. It’s not unreasonable, they already using sensing technology on top athletes to understand exactly how their bodies work.

Marketers are always looking for the next Christensens Disruptive Technology and if Tanya is successful, this could have a huge impact on so many technologies that people will adopt in the future. I wish her every success.

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:)