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+ - Collaborative Algorithm Lets Autonomous Robots Team Up And Learn From Each Other->

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "Autonomous robots are about to get a lot more autonomous, thanks to an algorithm from MIT that turns teams of bots into collaborative learners. This was covered in other places, but I'm not sure why no one's digging into the real implications of this (admittedly somewhat obscure) breakthrough. The algorithm, called AMPS, lets autonomous systems quickly compare notes about what they’ve observed in their respective travels, and come up with a combined worldview. The goal, according to the algorithm's creators, is to achieve "semantic symmetry," which would allow for "lifelong learning" for robots, making them more self-sufficient, and less reliant on constantly pestering humans to explain why the more surprising aspects of the unstructured world they're operating within don't line up with what programmers have prepped them for. Here's my story for Popular Science."
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+ - Surgical Snakebots Are Real, And Heading For Humanity's Orifices-> 1

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "Last week marked the first use of a surgical snakebot—the Flex system, from MA-based Medrobotics—on living human beings. It wriggled down two patient's throats, to be specific, at a hospital in Belgium. That's neat, and could mean an interesting showdown-to-come between this snake-inspired robot (invented by a Carnegie Mellon roboticist), and the more widely-used da Vinci bot. But this is bigger than a business story. The next era in general surgery, which involves making a single small incision after entering the anus or vagina, instead of multiple punctures in the abdomen, might finally be feasible with this kind of bot. This is my analysis for Popular Science about why instrument-bearing snakebots wriggling into our orifices is a technology worth rooting for."
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+ - Lie Like a Lady: The Profoundly Weird, Gender-Specific Roots of the Turing Test->

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "Alan Turing never wrote about the Turing Test, that legendary measure of machine intelligence that was supposedly passed last weekend. He proposed something much stranger—a contest between men and machines, to see who was better at pretending to be a woman. The details of the Imitation Game aren't secret, or even hard to find, and yet no one seems to reference it. Here's my analysis for Popular Science about why they should, in part because it's so odd, but also because it might be a better test for "machines that think" than the chatbot-infested, seemingly useless Turing Test."
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+ - Robots Are Evil: The Sci-Fi Myth of Killer Machines->

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "Remember when, about a month ago, Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence could destroy all humans? It wasn't because of some stunning breakthrough in AI or robotics research. It was because the Johnny Depp-starring Transcendence was coming out. Or, more to the point, it's because science fiction's first robots were evil, and even the most brilliant minds can't talk about modern robotics without drawing from SF creation myths. As part of my series for Popular Science on the biggest sci-fi-inspired myths of robotics, this one focuses on R.U.R, Skynet, and the ongoing impact of allowing make-believe villains to pollute our discussion of actual automated systems."
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+ - The End is A.I.: The Singularity is Sci-Fi's Faith-Based Initiative-> 1

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "Is machine sentience not only possible, but inevitable? Of course not. But don't tell that to devotees of the Singularity, a theory that sounds like science, but is really just science fiction repackaged as secular prophecy. I'm not simply arguing that the Singularity is stupid—people much smarter than me have covered that territory. But as part of my series of stories for Popular Science about the major myths of robotics, I try to point out the Singularity's inescapable sci-fi roots. It was popularized by a SF writer, in a paper that cites SF stories as examples of its potential impact, and, ultimately, it only makes sense when you apply copious amounts of SF handwavery. Here's why SF has trained us to believe that artificial general intelligence (and everything that follows) is our destiny, but we shouldn't confuse an end-times fantasy with anything resembling science."
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Comment: Re:My concern is far less esoteric (Score 1) 255

by malachiorion (#47052975) Attached to: The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence
I agree. I think that's a serious, serious concern, or should be. It's also proof (to me) that full autonomy is only going to work when some sort of mandate requires that all cars are robotic. Pretty Draconian, since it means making driving illegal. Until that happens, it'll be region or lane-specific autonomy, if anything.

Comment: Re:Measuring Competence (Score 1) 255

by malachiorion (#47052925) Attached to: The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence
But those Google cars are extremely coddled. 1) They're always relying on pre-loaded LIDAR data, so always on routes that Google has mapped ahead of time. It's going to take a very long time to establish a fully comprehensive, national LIDAR map, and even when it's completed, it'll have to be updated constantly. 2) They aren't driving in extreme weather conditions. 3) They're driving in a very limited radius—no one's taking them on a cross-country trip, dealing with unfamiliar and poorly marked roads. So that's 700,000 miles in a highly controlled environment. 4) And 700,000 miles is pretty skimpy, isn't it, when it comes to gauging the problems that arise with cars, and with drivers (human or otherwise)? It's not as though everyone gets into a potentially fatal accident every 500,000 miles. But when you combine all vehicles and all those drivers, and consider the total number of cars on the road, that's where the number of total collisions start to get scary. I have no doubt that robotic cars will reduce crashes, and, if they really become the rule, not the exception, will save a crazy amount of lives (and money). Still, it's not like these things are going to be creeping along at 20 mph. At 65 mph, physics can kick your ass real quick.

Comment: Re:It's all about ME, ME, ME. (Score 3, Informative) 255

by malachiorion (#47052837) Attached to: The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence
Did you read my original story, though? I wasn't proposing that autonomous cars will or should be magically transformed into ethical beings. I was just picking up Patrick Lin's notion, that we may have to do what current programmers do, in other capacities—work through tons and tons of branching in-then statements, making a staggering amount of decisions ahead of time, and then embed those in the robots before they're deployed. That assumes a lot of stuff, like incredibly advanced sensors and sophisticated networks, in order to detect and "solve" certain ethical problems, but even at a more basic level, shouldn't we decide, in advance, how a car should respond to a pedestrian darting into traffic, if there's no time or room to simply avoid a collision (with someone)?

+ - Robots Are Strong: The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence-> 1

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "When it comes to robots, most of us are a bunch of John Snow know-nothings. With the exception of roboticists, everything we assume we know is based on science fiction, which has no reason to be accurate about its iconic heroes and villains, or journalists, who are addicted to SF references, jokes and tropes. That's my conclusion, at least, after a story I wrote Popular Science got some attention—it asked whether a robotic car should kill its owner, if it means saving two strangers. The most common dismissals of the piece claimed that robo-cars should simply follow Asimov's First Law, or that robo-cars would never crash into each other. These perspectives are more than wrong-headed—they ignore the inherent complexity and fallibility of real robots, for whom failure is inevitable. Here's my follow-up story, about why most of our discussion of robots is based on make-believe, starting with the myth of robotic hyper-competence. Bishop"
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+ - The Mathematics of Murder: Should a Robot Sacrifice Your Life to Save Two?->

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "That's not a rhetorical question. If harming humans is unavoidable (overruling the First Law of Robotics), autonomous cars should be prepared to kill their owners, for the sake of our species. It's a distressing, and ugly stance, but if you dig into the moral and legal ramifications of how we're going to program machines that have the capacity to kill us, or save us, the choice seems obvious—let the robots choose. This is a thought experiment at the moment—a version of the classic trolley problem—but before fully autonomous cars become a widespread reality, we'll have to decide whether robots should protect their owner, or protect all of us. My analysis for Popular Science. (And yes, this is piggybacking off an op-ed for Wired, but I spoke with that author, a tech-centric philosophy professor, for this story)."
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+ - Why Hollywood's Best Robot Stories Are About Slavery->

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "On the occasion of Almost Human's cancellation (and the box office flopping of Transcendence), I tried to suss out what makes for a great, and timeless Hollywood robot story. The common thread seems to be slavery, or stories that use robots and AI as completely blatant allegories for the discrimination and dehumanization that's allowed slavery to happen, and might again. My analysis for Popular Science, including a defense (up to a point!) of HAL 9000's murder spree."
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