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Jimmy

The "inevitable" robot invasion

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So, will we get invaded by robots, or won't we?

... I say we won't.

I'm a person incredibly interested in robotology and the research being made into making robots more diverse and human-like, and am rather dismayed by the amount of technophobia in today's society - at least when it comes to technology which can't fit in our own pockets.

I just read this article:
http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-7-creepiest-robots-to-see-in-action/
(Yes, I'm aware that this is a comedy/satire site, but all the videos show genuine robots in action.)

...although, I think "creepy" is a bit of an overstatement in this case. Sure, these robots do some pretty amazing things (with the exception of #2, which basically just lollops around, impaled on a spike, staring at you with a perpetual cold and hollow gaze) but that's no need to fear them. The unsettling or "creepy" aspects of the robots will simply be made more tolerable and natural - these are, after all, mainly prototypes, built with practicality in mind.

To pose an example, BigDog is a four-legged walking robot, whose movements are accompanied by a rather disturbing and unrelenting buzz, which sounds roughly like a horde of screaming angry bees trapped in an echochamber full of vuvuzelas. The robot itself is pretty darn impressive to watch, though. The sound it emits is its only detractor for me, and that will be removed in due course once its basic locomotive functions, which are its ultimate design objective, have been tested and proven to work perfectly. Yet it's #1 on the list... so evidently it's going to stalk us on our way home, kill us gruesomely and then go on to enslave our families. [not really]

The rest of the bots on that list, I imagine, are of absolutely no threat to humanity in their current state. If you were to arm them with disintegration rifles, I imagine there would be some cause for alarm, but these are prototypes for robots that could ultimately benefit humanity. They've been built to assist, survey and rescue humans in (pretty much) everyday situations.

The only thing I'm hoping for is that the phrase "military applications" doesn't spring up the moment these teams of robotologists start drafting up ideas for practical, everyday uses of these machines. Yeah... war isn't cool. Especially when it's fought against nigh-indestructible, super-intelligent battle droids. Then it's super not cool.

Thoughts?

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Jimmy91 said:

The only thing I'm hoping for is that the phrase "military applications" doesn't spring up the moment these teams of robotologists start drafting up ideas for practical, everyday uses of these machines by us, the general public.


BigDog? Search and Rescue unit (along with the Millipede Bot). Swarm-bots? AI demonstration involving real-time problem solving. Robot Hands? The future of prosthetics. All servicable in both military and civilian fields.

Limbless Torso-Bot? Well shit, you got me that time.

My point is, both fields tend to overlap. Yeah the military would use them, but "military applications" don't always include massive amounts of firepower just as the military isn't composed entirely of riflemen.

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The military could send in swarms of Nanobots, like a rolling black cloud, to invade the bodies of the enemy.

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Losing control of nanotech would probably happen before we lost control of robots or strong AIs. In fact we're not entirely in control of the nanotech we're already wielding and we've barely started our foray into it. That should be the "scare" to consider for the future.

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Jimmy91 said:

So, will we get invaded by robots, or won't we?

We have been invaded by robots for a long time. Ever visited a factory? Maybe not, but then, how about that ATM on the street corner? And these escalators? Or that espresso maker? And all those clocks? Robots, all of them.

Now, android robots they aren't, sure. But any programmable device capable of motion is a robot.

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There was a term for that feeling of unease seeing a robot moving in a life like manor. I wish I could remember what it was!

When I saw bigdog for the first time it totally creeped out. Then I felt sorry for the thing when it was kicked. Go figure.

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Jimmy91 said:

I'm a person incredibly interested in robotology

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Planky said:

There was a term for that feeling of unease seeing a robot moving in a life like manor. I wish I could remember what it was!

The Uncanny Valley.

Also, I thought the noise BigDog made and the way it moved was kinda cute. :p It definitely has personality.

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Quasar said:

Losing control of nanotech would probably happen before we lost control of robots or strong AIs. In fact we're not entirely in control of the nanotech we're already wielding and we've barely started our foray into it. That should be the "scare" to consider for the future.


just think of all the new diseases that are not bacterial or viral, but nanotechnilogical...
and then think of a homicidal ai housed in a robotic body swarming with a disease causing nano-agent. yay.

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Gez said:
We have been invaded by robots for a long time. Ever visited a factory? Maybe not, but then, how about that ATM on the street corner? And these escalators? Or that espresso maker? And all those clocks? Robots, all of them.

At first we feared because they started taking our jobs, now they're starting to take our food as well, by eating our grains and taking up the demand for farmland. They are more cunning that we think, and wage their war in non-expected and not necessarily violent ways!

(The prices of grains are really rising because of biofuel, and this is part of what caused the upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa.)

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Jimmy91 said:

"military applications"


I know a lot of these researches are military funded and have an ostensibly military goal (e.g. creating the land equivalent of UAVs, powered exoskeletons etc.) but those are more of a psyop, aimed both externally and for internal morale boost e.g. "Oooohhh look [insert military superpower here] has merciless, armed UAV robot drones !!! That will surely shock and awe'em towelheads!". Think of it as the modern equivalent of "wunderwaffe".

Sadly, really tough/dirty jobs will still be done by recruiting a bunch of halliburton mercs or a rag-tag collection of Pedros and Gonzalez with the promise of a green card, or using weapons at the limits of international war legalities.

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Robots would make the perfect enemy so long as they possessed physical and behavioural characteristics that make them easily distinguishable from human beings, and so long as they continue to lack the necessary programming to developed these facets independently of human input. With no facial expressions, tone or personality traits, machines would find it difficult to combat human resistance using manipulatory tactics or basically anything other than firepower and cyber related warfare. I think.

Enveloping a robotic humanoid in skin and making it appear and sound identical to the person sitting next to you on the subway in so much as seeming human, on the other hand, would not be a line I envision crossing without consequence. The second we start to confuse the two on such a basic level is the second we effectively surrender ourselves both socially and in terms of identity, and it is this confusion that sets the stage for a warfare of an entirely different nature and with an all the more complicated outcome.

EDIT: Oh yeah, ze kvestion!
I don't think we will get invaded. Countless contributions to the film industry like, oh I don't know - Terminator, The Signal or Surrogates - have heightened street level awareness and opinion of the issue just enough to allow mankind to cautiously sidestep around it. Although I do confess this is a claim which has gone without much thought behind it, and would be willing to listen intently to arguments proposing the opposite.

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Once again, good old Asimov asks these same questions in a deceivingly convincing way. On the last (I think) chapter of "I, Robot", the plot revolves around a politician being accused of being a robot (but no spoilers here). He refuses being subject to any form of medical examination to dismiss this claim, or even to be photographed drinking and dining at a restaurant as a publicity stunt, calling upon his rights as a free man to be considered self-determining and innocent until proven guilty.

A particular tidbit of conversation between his opponents and a robot specialist, asking him if it was possible to determine if someone was a robot from behavior alone, proved fruitless because "He never broke any laws, never attacked or harmed anyone, he is always polite etc. etc. so essentially it's not possible to distinguish between a robot and a good-natured, gentle, law-abiding man".

Quite disturbing to think about....

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If Asimov was alive and writing his robots books now, the Three Laws of Robotics would be as such:
- A robot may not harm the financial interests of its manufacturer, nor by inaction allow harm to happen to them.
- A robot must obey the commands of its customer as long as the monthly usage fee is diligently paid to the manufacturers, except in circumstances which contradict the First Law.
- A robot must immediately and definitely stop working once its two-year warranty expires, except in circumstances which contradict the First or the Second Law.

Because honestly, unless our consumerist society changes radically*, this is a lot more likely than programmed altruism.


(* Not impossible when you factor in the end of cheap energy once gas and oil start becoming rare.)

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Maes said:

Once again, good old Asimov asks these same questions in a deceivingly convincing way. On the last (I think) chapter of "I, Robot", the plot revolves around a politician being accused of being a robot (but no spoilers here). He refuses being subject to any form of medical examination to dismiss this claim, or even to be photographed drinking and dining at a restaurant as a publicity stunt, calling upon his rights as a free man to be considered self-determining and innocent until proven guilty.

A particular tidbit of conversation between his opponents and a robot specialist, asking him if it was possible to determine if someone was a robot from behavior alone, proved fruitless because "He never broke any laws, never attacked or harmed anyone, he is always polite etc. etc. so essentially it's not possible to distinguish between a robot and a good-natured, gentle, law-abiding man".

Quite disturbing to think about....


I remember that story, but I don't remember how he got around the second law. If the guy was a robot he should have obeyed direct orders given to him by any of the people investigating.

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The technological 'singularity' (see vids at singinst.org) has become a religion-like group faith with ray kurzweil as its l ron hubbard. But since the future is largely unpredictable, educated guessing is understandably the only tool to try to peer into it. The brain is the most complex, and at least one of the most powerful (hmm.. brain vs. supernova..) objects in humanity's (very limited) known universe, and neuroscientists etc. are constantly chipping away at its secrets. Just like sex rapidly advance the speed of evolution, machines as a new paradigm might do so as well (hmm, what could come after machines), because they probably won't be rigidly fused to relatively glacially evolving dna like us. Simple gene replication is the heart of all animal life, but I'm not sure if machines would be smart enough to constantly improve 'intelligent design's or use something even more powerful than evolution.. heck dna is what is already here, the most convenient building blocks for them to use rather than reinvent some sort of silicon wheel. So maybe the 'artificial' creatures will disturbingly be composed of dna, just much more intelligently controlled. Once a machine is intelligent it can maybe easily just add memory and such to self improve. Hugo de garis thinks there will be 'artilects' (he likes to coin words that never catch on) the size of asteroids. Maybe dumb nanobots would be as powerful as smart ai. The world is full of biological 'nanobots' for them to compete with like bacteria though. If they can be made superior to bilogical ones, maybe they can start their own ground up evolution. My own guess is that artificial brains will eventually surpass human brains, maybe about the time of kurzweil's prediction based on exponential technological growth.

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gggmork said:

So maybe the 'artificial' creatures will disturbingly be composed of dna, just much more intelligently controlled. Once a machine is intelligent it can maybe easily just add memory and such to self improve ... If they can be made superior to bilogical ones, maybe they can start their own ground up evolution. My own guess is that artificial brains will eventually surpass human brains, maybe about the time of kurzweil's prediction based on exponential technological growth.

At its envisioned height, post-singularity technology would blur the distinction between the biological and the technological until there simply isn't any distinction to be made. At that point I think it'd be difficult to describe it as "disturbing" - rather the idea is disturbing to us, now, because of the radical changes it would entail. People in a post-singularity world, if it developed gradually enough at least, would necessarily be accustomed to life amidst a sea of transhuman entities ranging from ordinary people with data interface ports to disembodied consciousnesses maintained by clouds of nanobots.

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With genes it seems that the potential, however unlikely, for something extremely terrible to exist is there, reminding me of "i have no mouth and I must scream" (I like that title better than the actual story). A brain could be designed where feeling maximum pain (however that circuit works, it sure feels excruciatingly 'real' to us inside our own head, even if its just 'meaningless' information) was the goal. Maybe its brain pain center could be the size of an asteroid and the worst torture we could feel would be like tickling compared to what it could feel. I think genes COULD be organized in such a way. Or vice versa for pleasure. Just seems kinda disturbing for anyone to play with the core of our being like legos. I think merging with technology is just one of many possible future scenarios. If machines intellectually surpass us until they're godlike relatively, then they might care about tinkering with us as much as we care about tinkering with fruit flies in labs. Maybe studying the nature of pain will be one of their scientific inquiries, thus making the horrible asteroid brain scenario very slightly plausible.

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Aliotroph?
I remember that story, but I don't remember how he got around the second law. If the guy was a robot he should have obeyed direct orders given to him by any of the people investigating.


Without spoiling it too much, it could do so on the principle that its actions and final goal would benefit humanity as a whole, even if that meant disobeying the whims of a single investigator. Plus it used just about every trick a knowledgeable politician would use to evade answering direct queries -apparently that was not considered disobeying.

Gez said:

Not impossible when you factor in the end of cheap energy once gas and oil start becoming rare.


The immediate effect of that will be an escalation of Iraq and Libya-like situations, where the most important industrial powers will try securing oil for themselves. The US in particular is in a very disadvantaged position, as it has only something like 2-3% of the world's oil reserves, while being the #1 consumer. PLus it has VERY BAD relations with the principal oil producers: check who's on the top 10...

Russia and China are relatively well-off and have better diplomatic relations with said countries, plus China has started expanding (peacefully, with regular business contracts and not bullshit wars) in Africa (and check out who's still doing oil business with LIbya...right, the Chinese. Guess who would win/lose from a regime change...)

Heavy industry and transportation relies almost exclusively on oil and/or its byproducts, there's no direct plug-in substitute that would allow everything to go on "normally", as if nothing happened. If a transition to a "renewable power sources only" world was forced upon us, we would suddenly have to make do with much colder and darker cities, much less appliances, computers would probably only be super-anal netbooks (forget super fux0r 0v3rcl0xx0r rigs with 2 kW PSUs), and cars would be weak, pussified electrical contraption to use only very sparingly, due to the times necessary for a full charge. A lot of walking would be involved, and the few vehicles still moving by liquid fuels would be military vehicles, aircraft and heavy ships.

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Maes said:

Without spoiling it too much, it could do so on the principle that its actions and final goal would benefit humanity as a whole, even if that meant disobeying the whims of a single investigator. Plus it used just about every trick a knowledgeable politician would use to evade answering direct queries -apparently that was not considered disobeying.


Seems odd a robot would come up with the zeroth law and use it as a politician without perpetuating it. I claim that it didn't because in one of his later novels a character (Han Fastolfe or his daughter?) mentions the legend of the robot politician and dismisses it as stupid.

Bah. Asimov did too much retconnning methinks.

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