Issue #163

This week – the debate on the future of human enhancement; the ethics of AI in warfare; tech leaders pledge not to build killer robots; robot artists; real men are robots; and more!


More than a human

Forget joysticks—use your torso to pilot drones

Imagine piloting a drone using the movements of your torso only and leaving your head free to look around, much like a bird. EPFL research has just shown that using your torso to pilot flying machines is indeed more immersive—and more effective—than using the long-established joystick

 

Real men are robots

I have found this poster somewhere on Tube in north London. What to do you think about it? Is it an act of vandalism or is it an enhancement?

 

The Future of Human Enhancement | Anders Sandberg, Richard Morgan, Nicky Ashwell

Designer babies and human enhancement were once confined to fiction. Now biotechnology allows designer genetics, and many already choose the sex of their children. Where will this technology lead the human race? Should we be nervous of the ability to enhance ourselves or embrace an exciting new future for humankind? In this podcast, Anders Sandberg (philosopher from Future of Humanity Institute), Richard Morgan (scifi writer, author of Altered Carbon), and Nicky Ashwell (she was the first person in UK to use bebionic small prosthetic hand) debate the future of humanity.

 

Artificial Intelligence

The Ethics of AI in Warfare

Oli from Philosophy Tube (I recommend his channel if you are into philosophy) gave a lecture in Hague about AI, ethics and warfare. He starts his lecture by tackling myths about AI (“AI is objective” and “AI is autonomous”). Then he discusses the ethics of warfare from moral and legal point of view. In the end, he combines the two strands to show that AI is not the main problem here. It will just make everything more efficient, easier and cheaper.

 

Artificial Intelligence Is Automating Hollywood. Now, Art Can Thrive.

Soon, the algorithm behind your streaming service might recommend a blockbuster that was written by AI, performed by robots, and animated and rendered by a deep learning algorithm. Would that make many filmmakers obsolete? It looks like the answer is no. AI can release them from mundane frame-by-frame work to focus on a bigger picture and go do more interesting things.

 

‘Westworld’ science adviser shares his vision of robots and the future of AI

Here an interview with David Eagleman – neuroscientist who works on technology to extend human senses (more on that was in the last issue). He also happens to be a science advisor for Westworld. In this interview, he answers the questions about artificial intelligence and consciousness, and when we might expect the technology depicted in the series become a reality (“it is really, really distant”, he says).

 

Robotics

DeepMind, Skype, and Tesla founders pledge never to build killer robots

2,400 researchers and more than 100 tech organizations from around the world called for a global ban on lethal autonomous weapons, and pledged not to manufacture them, in a letter published by Stockholm’s Future of Life Institute. The signatories include the likes of Elon Musk, DeepMind’s three co-founders – Shane Legg, Mustafa Suleyman, and Demis Hassabis, Skype founder Jaan Tallinn, and some of the world’s leading AI researchers like Stuart Russell, Yoshua Bengio, and Jürgen Schmidhuber. Google Deepmind, XPRIZE Foundation and Clearpath Robotics were some tech companies part of the list of signatories.

 

Humans Show Racial Bias Towards Robots of Different Colors: Study

So it turns out people display racial biases towards robots. Anthropomorphic robots to be precise. The study might have an impact on how we design robots that need to work with people. Inside the link, you can find the link to the paper describing the study (sadly, it is behind a paywall) and an interview with the lead author of the paper.

 

Robots that paint have gotten pretty impressive

Here are the submissions for an art contest for… robots. Every artwork you see on that page was created by a machine. And they look quite good.

 

The incredible potential of flexible, soft robots | Giada Gerboni

Robots are designed for speed and precision – but their rigidity has often limited how they’re used. In this illuminating talk, biomedical engineer Giada Gerboni shares the latest developments in “soft robotics,” an emerging field that aims to create nimble machines that imitate nature, like a robotic octopus, and how such machines could play a critical role in surgery, medicine and our daily lives.

 

Rolls-Royce is working on a robotic cockroach that can fix plane engines

In order to fix and inspect its engines, Rolls-Royce is creating tiny cockroaches that can crawl inside tight spaces to spot potential problems and perform routine maintenance. The robots would stand about 15 millimetres tall and weigh in at just a few ounces. Each would be equipped with a camera as well as optics for 3D scanning that would allow engineers to remotely assess problems before retooling the robo roaches to perform the desired fix. Current prototypes are much larger than the desired size and not quite ready for these types of repairs, but Rolls-Royce says they should be ready to be used in about 2 years.