Category Archives: Robotics

Robots replacing human workers may leave millions out of jobs

Will You Lose Your Job to a Robot? Silicon Valley Is Split

‘There is little disagreement that machines are outworking humans. They have progressed from displacing factory workers to personal assistants and even lawyers, and much of our lives will be digitized or augmented even more in a decade. The question for Silicon Valley is whether we’re heading toward a robot-led coup or a leisure-filled utopia. The Pew Research Center published a report Wednesday based on interviews with 2,551 people who make, research and analyze new technology. Most agreed that robotics and artificial intelligence would transform daily life by 2025, but respondents were almost evenly split about what that might mean for the economy and employment.

On one side were the techno-optimists. They believe that even though machines will displace many jobs in a decade, technology and human ingenuity will produce many more, as happened after the agricultural and industrial revolutions. The meaning of “job” might change, too, if people find themselves with hours of free time because the mundane tasks that fill our days are automated. The other half agree that some jobs will disappear, but they are not convinced that new ones will take their place, even for some highly skilled workers. They fear a future of widespread unemployment, deep inequality and violent uprisings — particularly if policy makers and educational institutions don’t step in.’

READ MORE…

‘They can’t get sick or ask for vacation’: Chinese restaurant unveils robot waiters and cooks

AFP reports:

A robot carrying food to customers in a restaurant in Kunshan, China. [AFP]‘The restaurant, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, follows in the tracks of another robotic eatery which opened in the northeastern city of Harbin in 2012. Rising labor costs in China have encouraged manufacturers to turn to automation, and the country last year surpassed Japan to become the world’s biggest consumer of industrial robots.

The cooking robots — which have a fixed repertoire — exhibit limited artificial intelligence, and are loaded with ingredients by human staff, who also help to make some dishes. But customers at the restaurant who tucked into fried tomatoes with egg, soup, and rice were thrilled with the experience.’

READ MORE…

Origami Robot Builds Itself

The five biggest threats to human existence

Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute writes for The Conversation:

A nuclear bomb blast‘In the daily hubbub of current “crises” facing humanity, we forget about the many generations we hope are yet to come. Not those who will live 200 years from now, but 1,000 or 10,000 years from now. I use the word “hope” because we face risks, called existential risks, that threaten to wipe out humanity. These risks are not just for big disasters, but for the disasters that could end history.

These risks remain understudied. There is a sense of powerlessness and fatalism about them. People have been talking apocalypses for millennia, but few have tried to prevent them. Humans are also bad at doing anything about problems that have not occurred yet (partially because of the availability heuristic – the tendency to overestimate the probability of events we know examples of, and underestimate events we cannot readily recall).

If humanity becomes extinct, at the very least the loss is equivalent to the loss of all living individuals and the frustration of their goals. But the loss would probably be far greater than that. Human extinction means the loss of meaning generated by past generations, the lives of all future generations (and there could be an astronomical number of future lives) and all the value they might have been able to create. If consciousness or intelligence are lost, it might mean that value itself becomes absent from the universe. This is a huge moral reason to work hard to prevent existential threats from becoming reality. And we must not fail even once in this pursuit.

With that in mind, I have selected what I consider the five biggest threats to humanity’s existence. But there are caveats that must be kept in mind, for this list is not final.’

READ MORE…

DARPA spent over $1 billion trying to build Skynet in the 1980s

Matt Novak reports for Paleofuture:

DARPA Tried to Build Skynet in the 1980s

‘From 1983 to 1993 DARPA spent over $1 billion on a program called the Strategic Computing Initiative. The agency’s goal was to push the boundaries of computers, artificial intelligence, and robotics to build something that, in hindsight, looks strikingly similar to the dystopian future of the Terminator movies. They wanted to build Skynet.

Much like Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars program, the idea behind Strategic Computing proved too futuristic for its time. But with the stunning advancements we’re witnessing today in military AI and autonomous robots, it’s worth revisiting this nearly forgotten program, and asking ourselves if we’re ready for a world of hyperconnected killing machines. And perhaps a more futile question: Even if we wanted to stop it, is it too late?’

READ MORE…

Will robots fight Israel’s future wars?

Inbal Orpaz reports for Haaretz:

‘Just as advanced technology is changing the household, it’s also changing the battlefield. Some envision a day when robots will take over from all-too-vulnerable flesh and blood soldiers. While that day hasn’t arrived, and the army is silent about what it’s using now, the robots are out there: Israel, outmanned on the ground, is becoming a global expert on unmanned vehicles for land, sea and air.

…The Israeli army has long used robots in routine security missions. They can stay in the field. They don’t need lunch breaks. In short, the army’s goal is to replace grunts with gears as much as possible. Not only will soldiers’ lives be spared, points out robotics expert Isabelle Okashi, of the Israel Aerospace Industries robotics division: Machines don’t get bored and don’t cavil at messy missions. She believes that within five years, robots will be a routine part of the ground forces. She does not, however, buy “Terminator”-esque apocalyptic visions of wars being relegated to machine versus machine.’

READ MORE…

We’re heading into a jobless future, no matter what the government does

Vivek Wadhwa writes for The Washington Post:

‘In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers revived a debate I’d had with futurist Ray Kurzweil in 2012 about the jobless future.

He echoed the words of Peter Diamandis, who says that we are moving from a history of scarcity to an era of abundance. Then he noted that the technologies that make such abundance possible are allowing production of far more output using far fewer people.

On all this, Summers is right. Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food, and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores.

There won’t be much work for human beings…’

READ MORE…

Child Sex Robots Could Be Used to Treat Paedophiles

Mary-Ann Russon reports for the International Business Times:

Kodomoroid, a robot news presenter that resembles a human child‘Robotics experts at a recent robot ethics panel held at Berkeley, University of California have suggested that child sex robots could be introduced to help rehabilitate paedophiles.

Pop culture has long theorised that robots could be used for a variety of purposes, such as being a home butler like Rosie in The Jetsons or Andrew in Bicentennial Man; a perfect robot woman like Valerie 23 in The Outer Limits; or even a robot child for people who cannot have children of their own like David in A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

The concept of robot sex workers has been bandied about for a while, and a recent poll found that one in six people in the UK would have sex with a robot, but a child sex robot doesn’t yet exist.’

READ MORE…

Robotic ‘cows’ and drone vehicles are patrolling jungles with Marines

Dan Lamothe reports for The Washington Post:

‘More than a 1,000 U.S. Marines are participating in the Rim of the Pacific military exercises in and around Hawaii this month as 49 ships and six submarines from 23 countries test a variety of equipment and work to integrate it. It’s the robot on shore, however, that is getting an inordinate amount of buzz because of its funny looks and potential utility to U.S. troops pulling foot patrols.

Meet the Legged Squad Support System, or LS3. Developed by Boston Dynamics — which was bought out by Google late last year — it can carry as much as 400 pounds of equipment and enough fuel to walk 20 miles over 24 hours, the company says. It began a two-year testing phase in 2012 and is getting some serious work at RIMPAC under the supervision of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.’

READ MORE…

Associated Press replaces reporters with automated system to produce company results

Roy Greenslade writes for the Guardian:

Associated Press to Deploy "Robot Reporters"‘America’s leading news agency, the Associated Press, has announced that most of its stories about the quarterly results for US companies will be produced in future through the use of automation technology. Calling the move “a leap forward,”

[...] It will therefore free journalists to spend more time on reporting and talking to their sources. At the same time, AP believes it will increase “by a factor of more than 10″ the volume of earnings reports for its customers.’

READ MORE…

We Will End Disability by Becoming Cyborgs

Eliza Strickland writes for IEEE Spectrum:

Aimee Mullins Hugh Herr‘[...] The MIT scientists are part of a movement aimed at ushering medicine into a cyborg age. All over the world, engineers are building electronics-based systems that communicate directly with the human nervous system, promising radically new treatments for a variety of ailments and conditions, both physical and mental. While Herr’s team focuses on giving people better control of their prosthetic limbs, other researchers are trying to give patients better control of their emotions. One promising experiment targets depression with deep brain stimulation (DBS), in which electrodes implanted in the brain send steady pulses of electricity to certain problematic neural areas. Others are developing gear to compensate for intellectual deficits, such as a California project to build a memory-augmenting prosthetic.

In all of these projects, researchers started with the notion that a surprising range of afflictions can be most effectively treated by learning the electrical language that the brain uses to govern our movements, moods, and memories. By 2064, it’s entirely possible that neural engineers may be fluent enough to mimic those instructions, allowing them to repair a human being’s faulty systems by rewiring them.’

READ MORE…

The Mathematics Of Murder: Should A Robot Sacrifice Your Life To Save Two?

Erik Sofge writes for Popular Science:

Image: U.S. DOT‘It happens quickly—more quickly than you, being human, can fully process. A front tire blows, and your autonomous SUV swerves. But rather than veering left, into the opposing lane of traffic, the robotic vehicle steers right. Brakes engage, the system tries to correct itself, but there’s too much momentum. Like a cornball stunt in a bad action movie, you are over the cliff, in free fall.

Your robot, the one you paid good money for, has chosen to kill you. Better that, its collision-response algorithms decided, than a high-speed, head-on collision with a smaller, non-robotic compact. There were two people in that car, to your one. The math couldn’t be simpler.

This, roughly speaking, is the problem presented by Patrick Lin, an associate philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University. In a recent opinion piece for Wired, Lin explored one of the most disturbing questions in robot ethics: If a crash is unavoidable, should an autonomous car choose who it slams into?”

READ MORE…

Now The Military Is Going To Build Robots That Have Morals

Patrick Tucker writes for Defense One:

Image by Sarah Holmlund via Shutterstock‘Are robots capable of moral or ethical reasoning? It’s no longer just a question for tenured philosophy professors or Hollywood directors. This week, it’s a question being put to the United Nations. The Office of Naval Research will award $7.5 million in grant money over five years to university researchers from Tufts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Brown, Yale and Georgetown to explore how to build a sense of right and wrong and moral consequence into autonomous robotic systems.

“Even though today’s unmanned systems are ‘dumb’ in comparison to a human counterpart, strides are being made quickly to incorporate more automation at a faster pace than we’ve seen before,” Paul Bello, director of the cognitive science program at the Office of Naval Research told Defense One. “For example, Google’s self-driving cars are legal and in-use in several states at this point. As researchers, we are playing catch-up trying to figure out the ethical and legal implications. We do not want to be caught similarly flat-footed in any kind of military domain where lives are at stake.”’

READ MORE…

UN Debates the Future of Killer Robots

Samuel Oakford writes for VICE News:

‘The arms race is going sci-fi, and humans are playing catch-up. United Nations diplomats convened today in Geneva for a week-long meeting of experts on killer robots. Lethal Automated Weapon Systems (LAWS) — their more technical term — would be able to track and engage targets on their own, without human intervention. They don’t yet exist, but several countries are close. Though armed robots conjure images of Terminator-like humanoids, they would likely first come from the sky, the evolved offspring of drones used by the CIA.

…Drones as we know them — the ones buzzing over tribal lands in Pakistan and attacking convoys (and weddings) in Yemen — are not considered autonomous since operators control them, albeit with a joystick, thousands of miles away. However, US defense contractor Northrop Grumman has developed the X-47b, an autonomous drone aircraft capable of flying itself, and, with a few tweaks, it could eventually fire a weapon on its own. The UK and Israel are also working on autonomous armed drones.

South Korea already has robot sentries, Samsung-built surveillance robots armed with 5.56 mm machine guns and grenade launchers that watch over the demilitarized zone separating north from south. For now, the machines — like drones — are overseen by soldiers, but they retain the capacity of autonomously targeting and firing using infrared detectors. Human rights groups hope to use the meeting as a step towards eventually banning cyborgs under the 1980 “Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW),” the international agreement that today outlaws the likes of white phosphorus, napalm, booby traps and mines.’

READ MORE…

UK defence expert: Robots will replace soldiers on the battlefield

Caline Malek reports for The National:

‘Robot soldiers, laser guns and ultrasonic weapons that use sound to stun at a distance. This is the battlefield of the future and it is only years away, according to a top UK defence expert. But increasing connectivity brings more risks and military technology will become more accessible to terrorists by 2045, warned Simon Cole of the UK’s ministry of defence.

“We will see more unmanned systems as they are becoming more capable,” said Dr Cole, the assistant head at the ministry’s development, concepts and doctrine centre. “They won’t just be confined to the air environment and some experts reckon that, in the next ten years, robots are likely to replace infantry soldiers. That may seem slightly far-fetched, but one thing technology does is rise quickly.”

Human beings, however, will still play a role. “It will be people who decide to go to war,” he said at an Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research talk in the capital on Tuesday. “But for richer, technologically-advanced countries, it will probably be less likely for them to use people to fight in war. Humans will slowly be removed from the battlefield.”’

READ MORE…

MorpHex: A Hexapod Robot That Transforms Into a Ball

New DARPA Office Merges Biology And Technology

Elena Malykhina reports for Information Week:

bioThe Defense Advance Research Program Agency (DARPA) has created a division that merges biology, engineering, and computer science to advance technologies for national security.

The goal of the Biological Technologies Office (BTO) is to develop next-generation systems that are inspired by the life sciences. Biology is among the core sciences that represent the future of defense technology, DARPA said. The BTO will expand on the work already carried out by DARPA’s Defense Sciences (DSO) and Microsystems Technology (MTO) Offices, particularly in disciplines such as neuroscience, sensor design, and microsystems.

READ MORE…

More News Is Being Written By Robots Than You Think

Jason Dorrier writes for Singularity Hub:

robot-scribe-pens-gutenberg-bible (1)

Software is writing news stories with increasing frequency. In a recent example, an LA Times writer-bot wrote and posted a snippet about an earthquake three minutes after the event. The LA Times claims they were first to publish anything on the quake, and outside the USGS, they probably were.

The LA Times example isn’t special because it’s the first algorithm to write a story on a major news site. With the help of Chicago startup and robot writing firm, Narrative Science, algorithms have basically been passing the Turing test online for the last few years.

This is possible because some kinds of reporting are formulaic. You take a publicly available source, crunch it down to the highlights, and translate it for readers using a few boiler plate connectors. Hopefully, this makes it more digestible.

Indeed, Kristian Hammond, cofounder and CTO of Narrative Science, thinks some 90% of the news could be written by computers by 2030.

READ MORE…

Controversy Brews Over Role Of ‘Killer Robots’ In Theater of War

Cameron Scott writes for Singularity Hub:

MAARS-robot

Technology promises to improve people’s quality of life, and what could be a better example of that than sending robots instead of humans into dangerous situations? Robots can help conduct research in deep oceans and harsh climates, or deliver food and medical supplies to disaster areas.

As the science advances, it’s becoming increasingly possible to dispatch robots into war zones alongside or instead of human soldiers. Several military powers, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and China, are already using partially autonomous weapons in combat and are almost certainly pursuing other advances in private, according to experts.

The idea of a killer robot, as a coalition of international human rights groups has dubbed the autonomous machines, conjures a humanoid Terminator-style robot. The humanoid robots Google recently bought are neat, but most machines being used or tested by national militaries are, for now, more like robotic weapons than robotic soldiers. Still, the line between useful weapons with some automated features and robot soldiers ready to kill can be disturbingly blurry.

Whatever else they do, robots that kill raise moral questions far more complicated than those posed by probes or delivery vehicles. Their use in war would likely save lives in the short run, but many worry that they would also result in more armed conflicts and erode the rules of war — and that’s not even considering what would happen if the robots malfunctioned or were hacked.

READ MORE…

The First News Report on the L.A. Earthquake Was Written by a Robot

Will Oremus writes for Slate:

LAT QuakebotKen Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was jolted awake at 6:25 a.m. on Monday by an earthquake. He rolled out of bed and went straight to his computer, where he found a brief story about the quake already written and waiting in the system. He glanced over the text and hit “publish.” And that’s how the LAT became the first media outlet to report on this morning’s temblor. “I think we had it up within three minutes,” Schwencke told me.

If that sounds faster than humanly possible, it probably is. While the post appeared under Schwencke’s byline, the real author was an algorithm called Quakebot that he developed a little over two years ago. Whenever an alert comes in from the U.S. Geological Survey about an earthquake above a certain size threshold, Quakebot is programmed to extract the relevant data from the USGS report and plug it into a pre-written template. The story goes into the LAT’s content management system, where it awaits review and publication by a human editor.

READ MORE…

Humans Appear Programmed to Obey Robots, Studies Suggest

Jason Dorrier writes for Singularity Hub:

robot_traffic_cop_congo (1)

Two 8-foot robots recently began directing traffic in the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa. The automatons are little more than traffic lights dressed up as campy 1960s robots—and yet, drivers obey them more readily than the humans previously directing traffic there. Maybe it’s because the robots are bigger than the average traffic cop. Maybe it’s their fearsome metallic glint. Or maybe it’s because, in addition to their LED signals and stilted hand waving, they have multiple cameras recording ne’er-do-wells.

“If a driver says that it is not going to respect the robot because it’s just a machine the robot is going to take that, and there will be a ticket for him,” Isaie Therese, the engineer behind the bots, told CCTV Africa. The Congolese bots provide a fascinating glimpse into human-robot interaction. It’s a rather surprising observation that humans so readily obey robots, even very simple ones, in certain situations. But the observation isn’t merely anecdotal—there’s research on the subject.

READ MORE…

IBM’s Supercomputer Watson Is Now a Chef With His Own Food Truck

Olivia B. Waxman reports for Time:

IBM Food Truck

First, Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Ben Rutter got served by Watson, the IBM supercomputer. Now, Watson is serving up dishes from a food truck as part of a new partnership with the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, NPR reports. The supercomputer made its debut as a chef at a Las Vegas tech conference last week, and so far has produced gourmet, fusion fare like a Swiss-Thai asparagus quiche, an Austrian chocolate burrito, and a pork belly moussaka. Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the supercomputer comes up with creative meals based on a series of algorithms, according to the company’s website.

READ MORE…

Japan: Robot to take top university exam

From BBC News:

Japanese scientist can now talk to robotsScientists in Japan are trying to create a computer program smart enough to pass the University of Tokyo’s entrance exam, it appears. The project, led by Noriko Arai at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, is trying to see how fast artificial intelligence might replace the human brain so that people can start training in completely new areas. “If society as a whole can see a possible change coming in the future, we can get prepared now,” she tells the Kyodo news agency.

But there’s also another purpose behind the Can A Robot Get Into The University of Tokyo? project, which began in 2011. If machines cannot replace human beings, then “we need to clarify what is missing and move to develop the technology,” says Noriko Arai. Last year, a robot passed a mock test for Japan’s most competitive university entrance exam – but fell short of a 50% score. In a recent interview with the Observer newspaper, Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, predicted computers would outsmart humans by 2029.

Driverless Trucks Will Keep Army Safe From IEDs

Photo: Lockheed MartinFrom Wired:

U.S. Army convoys will soon be able to roll into even the roughest of unfriendly foreign urban areas and combat zones without the worry of loss of life, thanks to new technology that will make large vehicles fully autonomous.

In demonstrations earlier this month at Fort Hood, Texas, the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin demonstrated the ability of the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS), which gives full autonomy to convoys to operate in urban environments. In tests, driverless tactical vehicles were able to navigate hazards and obstacles including pedestrians, oncoming traffic, road intersections, traffic circles and stalled and passing vehicles.

Under an initial $11 million contract in 2012, Lockheed Martin developed the multiplatform kit which integrates low-cost sensors and control systems with Army and Marine tactical vehicles to enable autonomous operation in convoys. According to Lockheed, AMAS also gives drivers an automated option to alert, stop and adjust, or take full control under user supervision.

[...] Not only do driverless convoys add a degree of safety under dangerous conditions, they also move the military closer its apparent goal of nearly total autonomous warfare.

READ MORE…

Swarms of drones could be the next frontier in emergency response

Laboratory of Intelligent Systems / EPFLFrom NBC News:

Robots that can buzz, whir, and clamber into some of the most dangerous crime scenes and disaster zones are coming to the aid of police officers and other first responders who put themselves in harm’s way.

In October 2013, a parolee barricaded himself in a Roseville, Calif., suburban home of a young couple and their toddler, taking mother and child hostage. A SWAT team from the local police station captured the alleged offender and took him in, but not before gunfire ripped through the one-story home and injured officers.

Law enforcement officers on the ground had help from bomb squad robots, that helped push aside the furniture the suspect had piled up as a barricade. But two detectives believe that a bit of unmanned aerial backup would have made a big difference.

READ MORE…

Google’s Schmidt warning on jobs

Eric Schmidt at the World Economic Forum, Davos, in 2013From BBC News:

Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, has warned the jobs problem will be “the defining one” for the next two-three decades.

He said given the constant development of new technology, more and more middle class workers would lose their jobs.

Speaking at a meeting at the World Economic Forum at Davos, he added that it was not clear if workers would have the right skills to be re-hired.

Mr Schmidt compared the situation to the industrial revolution.

He called for more industry-wide innovation.

“It’s a race between computers and people – and people need to win,” he said.

READ MORE…

US Army considers replacing thousands of troops with robots

Photo: ALAMYFrom The Telegraph:

The US Army is considering replacing thousands of soldiers with robots as it deals with sweeping troop cuts.

A senior American officer has said he is considering shrinking the size of the Army’s brigade combat teams by a quarter and replacing the lost troops with robots and remote-controlled vehicles.

The American military is still far from fielding armies of Terminator-type robotic killers though.

Ideas under discussion instead include proposals to see manned lorries and transporters replaced by supply trains of robots vehicles.

Generals are studying proposals as the US Army is to slim down from 540,000 to about 490,000 soldiers by the end of next year. Some reports suggest it could dip below 450,000 by the end of the decade.

READ MORE…

47% Of All Jobs Will Be Automated By 2034, And ‘No Government Is Prepared’ Says Economist

rise of the machines economistFrom The Huffington Post:

Almost half of all jobs could be automated by computers within two decades and “no government is prepared” for the tsunami of social change that will follow, according to the Economist.

The magazine’s 2014 analysis of the impact of technology paints a pretty bleak picture of the future.

It says that while innovation (aka “the elixir of progress”) has always resulted in job losses, usually economies have eventually been able to develop new roles for those workers to compensate, such as in the industrial revolution of the 19th century, or the food production revolution of the 20th century.

But the pace of change this time around appears to be unprecedented, its leader column claims. And the result is a huge amount of uncertainty for both developed and under-developed economies about where the next ‘lost generation’ is going to find work.

READ MORE…

Russia is developing ground drone army—including amphibious models

From Gizmodo:

Russia is developing ground drone army—including amphibious models

Russia is developing weaponized ground drones, including some big amphibious models like the one you can see here. Add the thousands of combat air drones from many nations already flying through the world and it’s not crazy to think in a full robotic war happening before 2020 somewhere in the world.

SEE MORE…