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Tag: AI

Nao speaks 19 languages. TUG delivers drugs.

Wednesday, 4 February, 2015 0 Comments

It’s Day 3 of our look at robotics/AI. “Japanese bank introduces robot workers to deal with customers in branches.” That’s a story from today’s Guardian. “Hello and welcome,” Nao said. “I can tell you about money exchange, ATMs, opening a bank account, or overseas remittance. Which one would you like?” Note: The humanoid was developed by French company Aldebaran Robotics, which is a subsidiary of the Japanese telecoms corporation SoftBank. Its slogan? “Happiness for everyone.”

Talking of robots and happiness, a team of robots programmed to transport meals, medications, linens and lab specimens began their 24/7 jobs on Sunday when the new $1.52 billion San Francisco Medical Center at Mission Bay opened to the public. The 25 TUG robots were created by Aethon Inc. and cost about $6 million. They will enable the human staff to spend more time on providing medical care and less on moving stuff around the hospital. Happiness for everyone? Certainly not for those supplying cleaning, catering or laundry services in hospitals. But just in case our white-coated friends think that they can ignore these changes, the Big Data doctor will see us soon.


It’s different this time

Tuesday, 3 February, 2015 0 Comments

Since the Industrial Revolution, there’s been an almost insatiable demand for labour, despite the relentless advance of technology. So why should it be any different this time. Surely, the cloud will create millions of jobs and the app industry will generate global employment? Well, yes, maybe. But let’s consider this: It took the United States some 200 years to change from an agricultural economy, where 90 percent of the people worked on farms, to the current situation, where the number is nearer two percent. The robotics/AI revolution is happening faster than its industrial and digital predecessors — and it will present an even bigger challenge.

Technologies such as the self-driving car will be dramatically disruptive, but over a much shorter time-frame. There are millions of truck drivers working today. What will happen if self-driving vehicles put them out of a job in a matter of years? Algorithms are getting better at translating and writing — jobs that once required humans. So what will we do for work? That is the question being posed by the MIT academics Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who say that we’re entering a “Second Machine Age,ā€ where the increasing rate of change driven by information technologies could leave swathes of medium-and-low skilled workers in the slow lane. On the upside, the human ability to innovate offers grounds for hope. They say.


Robots rising

Thursday, 15 January, 2015 0 Comments

The title of Martin Ford’s new book, due out in April, is Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. Snippet:

Rise of the Robots “Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making ‘good jobs’ obsolete: many paralegals, physicians, and even — ironically — computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots. As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer jobs will be necessary. Unless we radically reassess the fundamentals of how our economy and politics work, this transition could create massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the economy itself.”

No industry will be spared. In “precision farming,” for example, a “nurse” robot will tend to individual plants, injecting water, pesticide or fertilizer in the exact amounts required — instead of spraying an entire field. And “picking” robots are going to take over back-breaking jobs that would otherwise go to migrant workers.

Meanwhile, San Francisco startup Modbot is designing industrial and hobby robots that will piece together like Lego. Typically robots like this might cost $25,000, but the modular nature of the Modbot could reduce the price tag to $2,500. The picture is completed with a simple smartphone app that would control your robot.


Who is the master and who the slave?

Tuesday, 13 January, 2015 0 Comments

Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned of the dangers that AI (Artificial Intelligence) could pose to humanity, and during the past 24 hours scientists have been signing an open letter urging that a portion of AI research should be dedicated to “aligning with human interests.” Eh?

At the beginning of this century, Bill Joy, co-founder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, warned in Wired: “What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions.”

AI is now here and here’s Jeremy Howard talking about the amazing and frightening outlines of the “rough beast, its hour come round at last.”


AI: Chappie and Ex Machina

Wednesday, 5 November, 2014 0 Comments

The fate of the gorillas now depends more on humans than on the actions of the gorillas themselves. So says Nick Bostrom. His alarming argument is that a time is coming when the fate of humanity could depend on the super-intelligence of machines. Bostrom lays out his thinking in his latest book, The Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. He worries that when machine brains surpass human brains in intelligence, this new “superintelligence” could become the dominant life-form, and if we want to avoid such a catastrophe, we’d better start planning now. The dangers of artificial intelligence are central to Ex Machina, which is coming to the big screen in spring.

Elon Musk, the business genius and inventor, CEO of Tesla Motors, CTO of SpaceX and chairman of SolarCity was born in South Africa, as was Neill Blomkamp, the director of Chappie, which is also coming to the cinema in spring. Chappie is a robot, but he’s super-intelligent enough to think and feel for himself. Which brings us back to Musk, who tweeted, “We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.”

Speaking recently at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, Musk called AI our biggest existential threat: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”