This lecture discusses the relevance of embedding dramatic scenarios and expressive language into methodologies employed in the research and development of biochemical and/or electronic sentient beings. The author demonstrates how adding imaginative modalities to current practices can afford a profound and positive effect on outcomes.
cy·borg - ˈsīˌbôrg/ - noun
a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body
This month we asked our Robotics by Invitation experts to tell how they would use robotics to enhance themselves. Here’s what they have to say …
There are two kinds of cyborgs – those that have broken the skin, and those that have not. Iron Man comes to mind as a cyborg of the second category, in that he can remove his enhancement (save for that pacemaker, of course). Being able to fly would be great, but we have planes. A hardshell carapace would be fun if I was into doing things like running into walls and falling from buildings. Though I have little super-hero ambition I do think there’s something that Iron Man has that I’d like, and that’s J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark’s A.I. assistant.
I’d like a personal gentleman’s gentleman, if you will, someone that is there to both advise and help. A Sancho Panza, a Samwise Gamgee, a Dr. Gonzo, or a Dean Moriarty. A Ron Weasley or a Huckleberry Finn. A real companion to help me through life.
Though I have not spent more than a few minutes with it Marvel did build an app that is intended to do just this. Someone had the right idea but this is a thin semblance of what we need. Unfortunately, what Marvel missed was what makes J.A.R.V.I.S. so intelligent – his street smarts. His worldly knowledge and personality.
J.A.R.V.I.S. is based on Reginald Jeeves, the fictional valet of Bertie Wooster, from the writing of P. G. Wodehouse (1881–1975). Jeeves offered Bertie advice, assisted him with daily operations, helped him keep track of things, run systems, and do it via natural language. Jeeves was someone that enhanced Bertie’s knowledge, understanding, amplified his perception and wisdom and even fixed him the occasional hangover cure. So I’d like a Jeeves – an advisor of the most intimate sort that’s there as a consultant, teacher, confidante, and companion. Especially for the morning of January 1st, when I suspect I’ll have a bit of a hangover. He would, after all, know exactly what I’d had to drink that night, and would have probably been the one that had called the cab for me to get home.
As a researcher in robotics, I tend to cringe whenever someone asks how long it will take until people start to see terminator-like robots on the streets. It’s a fun question to think about, but it is often asked with all too much seriousness, as though the world with terminators is the inevitable future that lies ahead of us.
But when I was asked this month’s Robotics by Invitation question, I gladly put on my imagination hat without much hesitation or cringing. Part of it might have something to do with the fact that no one will come after me and ask “so, when do you think that kind of technology will be available in the future?” So I felt very much free to let my imagination do what it does best.
The first thing that crossed my mind was a vision or an idea Mr. John S. Canning of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division had discussed many years ago (in 2009 I believe) at a talk he titled “A Concept of Operations for Armed Autonomous Systems”. After thirty-something powerpoint slides, he summarized the talk with “Let the machines target machines – not people”. I think it’s a cool notion to think about building robots that are not built as ultimate killing machines, but built as the ultimate weapon-neutralizing machines. Imagine that, instead of targeted killing of humans, you send robots for targeted neutralization of weapons?
After coming across that summary, I remember thinking how useful it would be if I had an expandable, hidden robotic device implanted on my forearm, such that when I (if ever) need to go neutralize someone’s weapon, or protect myself from someone attacking me (for whatever reason), the device will automatically activate, expand into a bullet-proof shield, and help me detect dangerous weapons in the area to neutralize. If it comes with a mini jet-pack that allows me to fly, that’s even better. I’d be the ultimate superwoman whose day-job is to do research in robotics, but with a side job to fly to random places and help out with conflict situations. Ok, that sounds like a plot from a comic book.
Some of you might think I sound like I’m dreaming to be a female version of Iron Man. But I am thinking of something more subtle (at least while the device isn’t activated), like the Inspector Gadget (for those of you who don’t know him, Inspector Gadget was a cartoon character that could hide all of his cyborg gadgetry inside his trench coat). I would look just like a normal person, except that, when necessary, my ‘implanted devices’ would activate to serve whatever various purposes I need.
That’s only if you are asking me about implants. But if you are asking me about robotic accessories, then that’s a whole different story. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a foldable and light pocket-sized device that you could carry with you while travelling (or grocery shopping), so that when you don’t want to carry heavy things, you could just activate it, and it would become a full sized stair-climber and a follow-bot? It would have come in very handy if I had such a device during my trip to Europe, hopping between trains and planes with my luggage. I don’t think I’d use anything bigger or heavier than my purse for this purpose, because that defeats the purpose.
Anyone have one of these available for testing yet?
The potential of robotic implants is limitless, but I am not interested in super-human powers. Instead, I’d be happy with human powers, and in particular the ability to remember. Growing up, I would read a used book and then sell it back to the store with the mistaken notion that I had copied the book into “the vault” of my mind. That was true while I was hot out of the gate, but after awhile, well, I don’t remember forgetting half of what I read and learned.
And that’s why I would consider adopting a type of neural implant called a “memory prosthetic.” Future versions of these implants could improve short-term memory retention and also help with the transfer of short-term memory to long-term. Implanted, my experiences could be finally be locked away safely in my brain, instead of being allowed to dribble slowly out of my ears over the decades. In thirty years I don’t want to have hard drives teeming with photos of forgotten trips, or scrap books stuffed with my kids’ childhoods, or your name hovering on the tip of my tongue. All I want, you see, is what’s mine.
Tjin Van Der Zant helped found “Robocup at Home” in 2006, and since then the organization has spread to include a number of new locations everywhere from Brazil to Thailand. As a professor at the University of Groningen in the Cognitive Robotics Lab, and founder of a Robotics startup and machine learning startup – he’s pretty “involved” when it comes to robots – and it made me eager to pick his brain about the future of home robotics.
Posting on the Slate blog Future Tense, James Bessen takes issue with the notion that technology causes unemployment, illustrating his point by debunking a pair of frequently cited examples, textile workers in the early nineteenth century and telephone operators during the mid-twentieth century.
In a response titled “Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Technology Rarely Destroys Jobs” on TechDirt’s Innovation blog, Bessen’s thesis is roundly applauded, but he is taken to task for failure to make the connection between the process which prevents net job destruction (the creation of new jobs) and reasonable access to intellectual property, currently endangered by nonpracticing patent owners (a.k.a. “patent trolls”).
I am profoundly convinced that if we are able to preserve the natural curiosity of early childhood in growing up individuals, without fail they will develop a durable attraction to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Although this simple recipe seems to be a no-brainer, obviously education encounters insurmountable difficulties in maintaining the precious elementary drive. Once lost, almost therapeutic efforts will be necessary to awake it again.
For the next week, Robohub will host a special focus on robots and jobs, featuring original articles from leading experts in the fields of robotics and automation. The goal of the series is to explore the shifting employment landscape as robots become more prevalent in the workplace, and we’ve got a great lineup!
There can be no doubt that technological progress has resulted in a far more prosperous society. Technology has often disrupted entire industries and, in some cases — as with the mechanization of agriculture — destroyed millions of jobs. In the long run, however, the economy has always adjusted and new jobs have been created, often in entirely new industries. Why then should we be concerned that the revolution in robotics and artificial intelligence will lead to sustained unemployment?
Just five years ago, anybody who spoke of technological unemployment was labeled a luddite, a techno-utopian, or just simply someone who doesn’t understand economics. Today things are very different – anybody from New York Times columnist Tom Friedman to CBS are jumping on the bandwagon.
For the rest of this week, Robohub will have a special focus on the use of robots in warfare.
All kinds of robots are being developed for strategic defence and military action (in space, in the air, underwater and on the ground). At Robohub we’ve had the opportunity to cover a wide range of them, including exoskeletons, transport mules such as Big Dog and DARPA’s LS3, and video reconnaissance systems such as iRobot’s Packbot. But by far the most talked about military robotics technology is the UAV.
US President Barack Obama has faced criticism in his choice of Brennan as head of the Central Intelligence Agency over his administration’s use of armed drones to attack suspected members and allies of al-Qaeda. Brennan oversees the drone program as Obama’s counterterrorism adviser.