This is Episode 1 of Naive and Dangerous, a new podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss the fears surrounding the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and its effects across the fabric of human society. We engage in some speculative analysis of the AI phenomenon and its tropes from current cinema, to cyberpunk, 19th century Romanticism, the ancient Mediterranean world’s fascination with automata, and ancient mythology.
Here is a video of what, if there were only humans involved, would be considered a case of serious abuse and be met with counselling for all parties involved. The video is of a robot trying to evade a group of children abusing it. It is part of two projects titled “Escaping from Children’s Abuse of Social Robots,” by Dražen Brščić, Hiroyuki Kidokoro, Yoshitaka Suehiro, and Takayuki Kanda from ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories and Osaka University, and “Why Do Children Abuse Robots?”, by Tatsuya Nomura, Takayuki Uratani, Kazutaka Matsumoto, Takayuki Kanda, Hiroyoshi Kidokoro, Yoshitaka Suehiro, and Sachie Yamada from Ryukoku University, ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories, and Tokai University, presented at the 2015 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.
Contrary to the moral panic surrounding intelligent robots and violence, symbolized by the Terminator trope, the challenge is not how to avoid an apocalypse spearheaded by AI killer-robots, but how to protect robots from being brutalized by humans, and particularly by children. This is such an obvious issue once you start thinking about it. You have a confluence of ludism [rage against the machines] in all its technophobia varieties – from economic [robots are taking our jobs], to quasi-religious [robots are inhuman and alien], with the conviction that ‘this is just a machine’ and therefore violence against it is not immoral. The thing about robots, and all machines, is that they are tropic – instead of intent they could be said to have tropisms, which is to say purpose-driven sets of reactions to stimuli. AI infused robots would naturally eclipse the tropic limitation by virtue of being able to produce seemingly random reactions to stimuli, which is a quality particular to conscious organisms.
The moral panic is produced by this transgresison of the machinic into the human. Metaphorically, it can be illustrated by the horror of discovering that a machine has human organs, or human feelings, which is the premise of the Ghost in Shell films. So far so good, but the problem is that the other side of this vector goes full steam ahead as the human transgresses into the machinic. As humans become more and more enmeshed and entangled in close-body digital augmentation-nets [think FitBit], they naturally start reifying their humanity with the language of machines [think the quantified self movement]. If that is the case, then why not do the same for the other side, and start reifying machines with the language of humans – i.e. anthropomorphise and animate them?
A thought-provoking look at the impact of massive automation on existing labor practices by C.G.P. Grey.
We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different. Horses aren’t unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There’s little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay. And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own. […]
This video isn’t about how automation is bad — rather that automation is inevitable. It’s a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable — through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.
In an earlier post I mentioned drone swarms, and the likelihood of their arrival in the not too-distant future. However, there is another development much closer to being actually deployed as it is already undergoing advanced field trials. I struggle to think of a warbot creepier than DARPA’s AlphaDog. To appreciate what you see, keep in mind this is only a prototype of a warbot which in its final form will probably be around 4 times larger, completely silent, smart enough to self-navigate and engage with humans (voice recognition), and on top of that – heavily armed. The fact it can already autonomously move over unknown rugged terrain is astonishing.
If you have seen/played Metal Gear Solid this should be causing deja vu.
This via the ever thought-provoking John Robb at Global Guerrillas:
The algorithms that enable drone swarms is advancing EXTREMELY quickly. In the next couple of years, the number of advances in technology, deployments, use cases, and awareness of drones will be intense. In 5 years, they will be part of every day life. You will see them everywhere. Not just one or two drones. SWARMS of drones. Tens. Hundreds. Thousands. Millions (potentially if the cost per unit is small enough)?
How soon will we see that. It’s already here. Here’s a video depicting experiments performed with a team of nano quadrotors at the GRASP Lab, University of Pennsylvania. Vehicles developed by KMel Robotics. It was posted today:
This reminds me of the Protoss carrier unit from Starcraft, of Ender’s hive attacks in Orson Scott Card’s ‘Ender’s Game‘. Imagine hearing that noise amplified 100 times, and the sky dotted with a flotilla of these. Smells like Skynet.