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westworld-promo-hbo

For a sci-fi fan like me, fascinated by the nature of human intelligence and the possibility of building life-like robots, it’s always interesting to find a new angle on these questions. As a re-imagining of the original 1970s science fiction film set in a cowboy-themed, hyper-real adult theme park populated by robots that look and act like people, Westworld does not disappoint.

Michael Szollosy at Sheffield Robotics explores many of the themes in the Westworld reboot from a philosophical aspect, and questions what it is to ‘become human.’

What is a mind, but a pattern? My mind or yours. Man or machine. Simply an arrangement of atoms. Each of us, a unique expression of the mind of the universe.

by   -   December 15, 2012

Aside from the conventional introductory texts on BEAM Robotics, control systems, electronics, and multi-axis mechanics, I always recommend books to inspire thoughts on robotic history, possibilities, and directions.

A great history of the robotic future can be found by starting through Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot” anthologies (and the extending books “Robots of the Dawn”, “Caves of Steel”, etc). As with the Sherlock Holmes novels, Asimov’s stories are engaging, logical, quick to read, and, best of all, not bogged down by technical jargon. Written in a simpler time (starting 1930s), the “I Robot” parables revolve around the necessities of the humans involved, but as the series progressed over decades, Asimov’s machines evolve more interesting, sometimes pertinent, roles.

Stories of robot evolution are pandemic through sci-fi culture, and there are many pejorative “Frankenstein awakens and he’s pissed” sub-genres that burden the field. However there are some tales that explore why he’s pissed, and what sort of introspection it might take to calm him down (pitchforks not included). Two of my favorites along these lines are “Two Faces of Tomorrow” (1979, ISBN 978-1-59307-563-7) and “Code of the Lifemaker” (1983, ISBN 0-345-30549-3) both by James P. Hogan. Not only are these stories prophetic, but they deal with my favorite attribute of robotics, namely “Emergent Properties”, when a robot system does more than expected. A major part of the fun of research robotics — “Is it a bug, or awareness?”

There are many excellent modern mechanical missives, but one of the most brilliant details a realistic legal robot dystopia that’s free online. “The Robot and the Baby” by John McCarthy (2006) makes me glad robots are still mostly fictional and not subject to choking regulations and political tarnish. For now, the fun of building robots unfettered is secure, but this story reveals some disturbing possibilities and is my favorite cautionary tale.

And finally, I strongly recommend “Expedition — Voyage to Darwin IV” by Wayne Douglas Barlow (1990, Workman Publishing). This book is pure imagination in biology form, and fed well into my long-held bias that robots don’t have to just be copies of familiar earthly lifeforms, they could be nimble, exotic, enticing aliens. As roboticists, we can build anything, provided we’ve the inspiration, and this book is all about that.

Inspiration acquired. Now where’s my box of junk?

Read more answers →

interview by   -   May 4, 2012

In this episode we talk to New York Times best selling author Daniel Wilson about one of his latest books, Robopocalypse.

interview by   -   December 17, 2010

In this episode we dive into the world of famous science fiction writer Greg Bear. Christine then takes us on an audio journey through one of his books, Mariposa. Finally don’t forget to send us your YouTube holiday videos featuring robots.

interview by   -   October 8, 2010

In today’s episode we speak with David X. Cohen, the head writer and executive producer of Futurama!

interview by   -   July 30, 2010

In today’s episode we’ll be diving into the world of Science Fiction with an interview of Patrick Gyger, director of one of the major Science Fiction Museums in the world called Maison d’Ailleurs. To celebrate the genre, we then bring you the Selkies stories written by Jack Graham without any interruptions.

by   -   August 26, 2008

To be quite truthful, the dream of having robots take over the task of managing productive land isn’t really mine in the sense of having originated it. To be sure I’ve contributed some detail, but others dreamt it before myself.

 

The best example of which I’m aware, Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside, describes a world divided between urban towers and the land between them. The land between is tended by machines which are themselves tended by people, a rural population with a very different culture from that found in the urban towers.

 

While the world Silverberg describes is more of a dystopia than a utopia, not least because it is fast approaching limits that it steadfastly denies, that aspect of the book, the use of intelligent machines to enable a superior grade of land management than could be achieved without them, rings true.

 

Reading that book was most likely the beginning of my own obsession with the subject, although I don’t clearly remember how it started.

 

Reposted from Cultibotics.



IASP 2016 (Part 3 of 3)
June 9, 2017


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