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?
Denmark is a country with less than 6 million people but a very successful working robotics cluster that performs as a funder, equalizer and instigator. Denmark is 6th in global robot density (a measure of the number of multi-purpose industrial robots per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing sector) behind Korea, Singapore, Germany, Japan, and Sweden, yet Denmark doesn’t have an auto industry contributing to those figures.
Last June, a massive dust storm engulfed Mars and immobilized the most famous robots in the galaxy, Opportunity and Curiosity. This is not the first time that Martian dirt has prevented Opportunity from recharging its solar panels. Its creators originally predicted that the planet’s harsh weather conditions would limit the rover’s mission to ninety sols (the equivalent of 93 earth days). This year, if it survives the current tempest, Opportunity will celebrate its 15th working anniversary on the red planet.
A few weeks ago we had the kick-off meeting, in York, of our new 4 year EPSRC funded project Autonomous Robot Evolution (ARE): cradle to grave. We – Andy Tyrrell and Jon Timmis (York), Emma Hart (Edinburgh Napier), Gusti Eiben (Free University of Amsterdam) and myself – are all super excited. We’ve been trying to win support for this project for five years or so, and only now succeeded. This is a project that we’ve been thinking, and writing about, for a long time – so to have the opportunity to try out our ideas for real is wonderful.
Robots become every day more ‘intelligent’. What if robots were intelligent enough to say NO to war? This would be a happier future.
This short film is a light-hearted comedy that aims to launch an interesting discussion and motivate reflexion on the killer-robots topic. The fictional scenario describes a future where robots contract out and refuse to be employed in human warfare. This optimistic point of view can be inspirational to engineers and roboticists developing a robotic future.
For a lot of people, being a passenger in a car can easily lead to motion sickness, particularly if they try to do something like looking down to read a book or stare at a phone. Not everybody gets this, but it’s enough to be a big issue for the robocar world. Drivers usually don’t feel this much, but in the robocar world, everybody’s a passenger.