My feet are aching, as usual, after 3 days on the CES show floor, and the question people always ask others there is “what have you seen that was interesting?”
I won’t say I didn’t see anything interesting, and I had a large number of rewarding conversations with all sorts of companies, making the trip very worthwhile, but I will say I saw less that was new and exciting than ever before. This may be a result of the show’s constant growth that meant in 3 days I still did not manage to get to 3 1/2 major rooms of the show, putting my focus on cars as I usually do.
Earlier this month, I crawled into Dr. Wendy Ju‘s autonomous car simulator to explore the future of human-machine interfaces at CornellTech’s Tata Innovation Center. Dr. Ju recently moved to the Roosevelt Island campus from Stanford University. While in California, the roboticist was famous for making videos capturing people’s reactions to self-driving cars using students disguised as “ghost-drivers” in seat costumes. Professor Ju’s work raises serious questions of the metaphysical impact of docility.
I have been doing research on intelligence for 30 years. Like most of my colleagues, I did not get involved in the field with the aim of producing technological objects, but because I have an interest in the the abstract nature of the notion of intelligence. I wanted to understand intelligence. That’s what science is: Understanding.
A day before snow hindered New York commuters, researchers at the University of Iowa and Princeton identified the growth of urbanization as the leading cause for catastrophic storm damage. Wednesday’s report stated that the $128 billion wake of Hurricane Harvey was 21 times greater due to the population density of Houston, one of America’s fastest growing cities. This startling statistic is even more alarming in light of a recent UN study which reported that 70% of the projected 9.7 billion people in the world will live in urban centers by 2050. Superior urban management is one of the major promises of autonomous systems and smart cities.
Two weeks ago, I participated on a panel at the BCI Summit exploring the impact of quantum computing. As a neophyte to the subject, I marveled at the riddle posed by Grover’s Algorithm. Imagine you are assigned to find a contact in a phonebook with a billion names, but all you are given is a telephone number. A quantum computer is able to decipher the answer with remarkable speed at a rate of .003% of today’s binary systems require one operation per line of data (in this case one billion).
Should we be afraid of artificial intelligence? For me, this is a simple question with an even simpler, two letter answer: no. But not everyone agrees – many people, including the late physicist Stephen Hawking, have raised concerns that the rise of powerful AI systems could spell the end for humanity.
This week a Harvard Business School student challenged me to name a startup capable of producing an intelligent robot – TODAY! At first I did not understand the question, as artificial intelligence (AI) is an implement like any other in a roboticist’s toolbox. The student persisted, she demanded to know if I thought that the current co-bots working in factories could one day evolve to perceive the world like humans. It’s a good question that I didn’t appreciate at the time as robots are best deployed for specific repeatable tasks, even with deep learning systems. By contrast, mortals comprehend their surroundings (and other organisms) using a sixth sense, intuition.
A recent Reuters story suggests Cruise is well behind schedule with one insider saying “nothing is on schedule” and various reports of problems not yet handled. This puts doubt into GM’s announced plan to have a commercial pilot without safety drivers in operation in San Francisco in 2019.
I have two kids in college and one of my biggest concerns is their knowledge that what they have labored hard to acquire will become obsolete by the time of graduation. Our age is driven by the hypersonic accelerations of technology and data forcing innovative educators to create new pedagogical systems that empower students with the skills today to lead tomorrow.
I love to talk about the coming robocar world. Over the next few decades, more and more trips will be made in robocars, and more and more people will reduce or give up car ownership to live the robotaxi life. This won’t be instantaneous, and it will happen in some places decades before it happens in others, but I think it’s coming.
As Hurricane Florence raged across the coastline of Northern Carolina, 600 miles north the 174th Attack Wing Nation Guard base in Syracuse, New York was on full alert. Governor Cuomo just hung up with Defence Secretary Mattis to ready the airbase’s MQ-9’s drone force to “provide post-storm situational awareness for the on-scene commanders and emergency personnel on the ground.” Suddenly, the entire country turned to the Empire State as the epicenter for unmanned search & rescue operations.
Followers of this blog will know that I have been working for some years on simulation-based internal models – demonstrating their potential for ethical robots, safer robots and imitating robots. But pretty much all of our experiments so far have involved only one robot with a simulation-based internal model while the other robots it interacts with have no internal model at all.
Will a robot take my job?
Media headlines often speculate about robots taking our jobs. We’re told robots will replace swaths of workers from taxi drivers to caregivers. While some believe this will lead to a utopian future where humans live a life of leisure provided for by robots, the dystopian view sees automation as a risk to the very fabric of society. Such hopes and fears have preceded the introduction of new technologies for centuries – the Luddites for example destroyed weaving machines in the 19th century to protest the automation of their sector. What we see, time and time again, is that technology drives productivity and wealth, which translates to more and better jobs down the line. But can we expect the same to happen with robots, or is this time different?