Monday, June 28, 2010

¬∀ r ∈ Robots: r = Bad

Its interesting how, any discussion about AI or robots never misses terminator or "us vs robots" scenarios, but, generally misses the many "not so bad" robots in fiction. I guess, to some extent the more popular the movie, bigger the influence. These fears may not be baseless though. After all, I have heard that most of the robotics/AI research is usually funded by the military.

When one asks questions like, is steel good or bad? It depends on how it is used by us. But, this analogy may not quite work with robots when (and if) they reach the point of matching our intelligence. Then it may not be us, who decide how they should be used. Personally, I think the majority cannot be destructive as, it is not self sustaining. Anything that "survives" the various tests, that, nature throws at it, eventually has to have a majority in numbers of the constructive or the productive kind.

My favorite robots in fiction (and one real).

In fiction:

Johnny 5

Image From

Bender aka Bender Bending Rodriguez

Spirit (Mars Rover): This fellow has been working all alone on mars since January 4, 2004. He surpassed all expectations of him and worked 21 times more, than what was planned for him. Day after day collecting analyzing samples and diligently sending its finding back to us, till he finally got stuck in Martian sand. Last we heard from him was on 1st May 2010. No bleep from him since.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How Viable is Technological Singularity?

Guest post by Anna Miller.

Now I don’t claim to be smarter than Ray Kurzweil, and I do realize that I’m throwing down some sort of a gauntlet by debating the viability of technological singularity on a blog that promotes synthetic life and progress in this field. But I still raise the question – how viable is technological singularity, the concept that technology will progress rapidly over the next few years, and that because human beings are incapable of pushing their brains and intelligence beyond a certain limit, machines will start to build machines that are more capable than them, and this recursive cycle will lead to a new race of super-intelligent machines.

Believe it or not, the first time I heard of this concept from a friend, I immediately thought, “Terminator”. Didn’t they make a sci-fi movie with this idea more than a decade or so ago? And do they not see the doom that technological singularity spells for the human race? If machines became more intelligent than the human race, how would we survive? And what kind of a world would Earth become if it was populated with machines that had no human emotions whatsoever?

No matter how advanced technology becomes, and no matter how intelligent machines become, it is going to be impossible to recreate the human brain. This is one organ that is beyond comprehension, let alone duplication or improvement. It boggles the mind to think of all that the human brain can do, and if Ray Kurzweil or anyone else think that they can make a machine do much more than the human brain can, well, they’re dead wrong.

Sure, a machine can be programmed to work for eternity without breaking down from fatigue; it can be taught to make decisions based on an accumulation of facts; and it can even be created to resemble a real flesh-and-blood human being. But then, can a machine make decisions that are based on emotion and not reason? Can it think intuitively and using a humane approach as needed during most crises? Or can it replicate human touch to generate comfort, pleasure and warmth?

Thanks, but no thanks; even if technological singularity was viable even 100 years from now, I would still prefer that the world we leave behind for our children not comprise monstrosities that we call technological advancement!
This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topic of online degree. She welcomes your comments at her email id:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Synthetic" Life

Most of us have heard in school, of life starting in a primordial soup from the inanimate - Abiogenesis. Then there was the experiment where they tried to recreate the conditions of how this happened billions of years ago - the Miller Urey experiment. It did not succeed in creating living cells but, it did succeed in showing that many essential items to produce life can be synthesized from non living things. It was only a matter of time when an actual living cell was created from the non living in a laboratory. Well, this is it. Not, exactly the same as recreating the conditions of the primordial soup - that would also need lots of time maybe billions of years to evolve. This - a shortcut by creating an artificial DNA and transplanting it into a new cell.

They call it synthetic life. But, I think this blurs the line between natural and synthetic.

An interesting aside - When studying Computation Theory, there was one thing that intrigued me then. When discussing about machines producing machines. There was an argument something like this -A machine that produces another machine is supposed to be more complex than the machine it creates. Because, a machine cannot be more complex than itself it cannot reproduce. But, then we went about discussing how a machine can get a description of itself and use that description in any way it pleases - to replicate or to adapt etc. The gist - the assumption ,that, a machine cannot reproduce is wrong. To think about it - imagine if we had a world of robots, what would the robots term as artificial or natural. For that they would have to have some absolute machine from which all other machines were derived. The most complex machine. But then, that is what had to be a wrong assumption.

Another digression - consider relative velocity - There is no absolute velocity. This is relative and is measured in reference to something else. I mean, if one measures one velocity against the other, to find the absolute, one has to measure that velocity against another. Eventually, hoping to find something that is at stillness or in motion in the absolute sense. Then one looks at light hoping to find the absolute - and the most amazing weirdness follows. Its speed in vacuum being constant in the absolute sense. But, no matter on which planet or moving body you measure it or from which "inertial" frame of reference you view the light on the moving body, this speed remains the same. And, no matter what its source an incandescent lamp or a star this speed remains the same. Now how do you measure the absolute velocity, when you cannot measure it against the speed of light.

Some thoughts to ruminate over.



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Conan O'Brian @ Google

Yes, I am still alive, to the disappointment of some (Undead from the perspective of some of the more active readers). I have some unfinished posts in the works, so no fret [yelp... ].

Among the many interesting talks at Google, I think this stands out.

Via: Neatorama

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Scheme of things

With the pipeline (SICP 6.001) at MIT, producing the most seasoned schemers, replaced with a one churning out seasoned pythons@ (6.00) - the population of schemers is bound to dwindle with time. Reasoned Schemers look on, on how their kind gets fewer and fewer. consing, caring, cdring and letting with lambda the ultimate produced a structured mind only to watch scheming go into obsoleteness? Even a reasoning mind is unable to fathom the reasons behind this move. But, MIT must have had good reasons for their transitions. I guess this is how a beautiful language fades into oblivion.

I am being bit over dramatic and this is old news. Scheme is a very interesting language, but "The Times They Are A-Changing". I guess for the little schemers it will be boredom of Java for a living§. Now run* and get freshρ. You may want to first run1, run2 ... so on, till you can run*. All that running made you hungry? - well have some tofu. What you had a (cons tofu (cons cheese (cons pizza (quote()))))? What are the health benefits of that? Don't askφ.

@ Why are analogies imperfect? MITian's are great people. The analogy is broken.
The Little Schemer, The Seasoned Schemer, The Reasoned Schemer, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
Thank you. Bob Dylan
§ 2010-03-02 Talking of a language as a means to understanding programming concepts. Existing libraries and interface to current technologies - a discussion for some other day.
ρ Get some exercise after all that pizza & cheese
φ Don't tell. Thank you, Mr Bond.