From Festo, Creators of the finest robotic eye-candy in the world
Something that’s been blinking on and off the radar in the last couple of years is the idea of “ethics” in weapons systems. There’s an interesting article here, that argues fairly cogently that it’s only a matter of time before we go from “humans must be present (and sober) in robotic cars” to “humans are not allowed to drive cars at all”… and that this scenario might also apply to weapons-systems.
Which is something (in a funny sort of way) I have some sympathy for, because most of the really evil shit that happens in war (including wars being started in the first place) comes out of bent human emotions and misunderstandings – failures of perspective. Robots would not be prone to Stamford Prison Experiment syndrome. Shots would not be fired in anger.
What “ethical killing systems” would be up against of course is 100 years of popular culture, in which humanity is attacked by its scientifically-spawned progeny. Skynet-Syndrome… so instead it’s highly likely that what we’ll see is a proliferations of mercenary/privatised devices that can operate outside the “laws” (or at least the public accountability) that governments feel they need to operate within… although American wars (ie: occupations and extra-judicial killings) are already happening outside the laws that the rest of the planet are expected to adhere to. I’m not sure how sustainable that is within a highly networked world. The biggest city of twitter users is (for example) Jakarta.
When people start talking among themselves, things change. That Jaron Lanier recently opined that “laser-beams of cruelty” were likely to arise from the web… playing the “pogrom in personal history” card, but I think that he’s completely mis-attributing causality to “people talking among themselves”… when what actually causes lynch-mobbery is sustained feelings of frustration, alienation and powerlessness. Austerity imposed from on-high in other words. It’s not The Internet that’s causing the Golden Dawn to rise in Greece, it’s the state creating a vacuum of competence… which is happening to a greater or lesser extent in every government on earth, because every government on earth (with about 4 exceptions) are attempting to serve the needs of an increasingly illegitimate globalised aristocracy, in an environment where secrecy is becoming increasingly difficult.
But it’s not the failure of secrecy that’s the problem. It’s the corruption that’s the problem.
But I digress.
Back to ethical weapons systems… Humans are a chest-beating species. We’d far prefer to beat chests and scare each other than actually fight – which has been a real problem for armies in the past – where a huge percentage of shots fired at the enemy were deliberately fired high… in fact in the American Civil War, muskets were found rammed full of shot – because people were reloading without firing. The Nato countries figured this out – so have trained their soldiers to reflexively kill… during the Falklands War the kill rate of UK soldiers was massively higher than Argentinian… but they didn’t train soldiers to deal with the aftermath, and now more Falklands soldiers have committed suicide than were actually killed by their supposed enemies.
It’s about chest-beating and brinkmanship… which is (in humans) about being able to horrify with violence. This is another major reason why human wars get so ugly… violence is theatre of horror.
So… if it’s possible to make robots that are “ethical”, then it’s also possible to make them unethical. Deliberately demonic. The Nuclear Option. And if we can do this, we will.
Apparently you can rent them from here.
Looks like a line-following bot, which (I’m guessing) has a manual override for when an intruder is detected… or maybe the charge-n-gas behaviour is automatic as well. That’s a recipe for fuckup… and what happens when one bot meets another? There’s a fart-fight, that’s what. It doesn’t bear thinking about. It’d be like Robot-Wars, fought exclusively below the belt, as it were.
The company seems to be Japanese, but in New Zealand? That’s an odd place to be. The Tyranny of Distance is still alive and well. Everything takes twice as long when you’re this far away.
Still… good to see they’ve used a proper sci-fi font. Babylonian Industrial? – the same font they use on Babylon 5. Well… close. Different S.
I think this design has wheels, as it were. Like a flying tumbleweed… or a chicken, in that it can fly, but only does so when it can be arsed, which isn’t often.
It follows your cellphone.
The reason I like this is because it looks like the AIs from Iain Banks culture novels. I think… they’re kindof like floating suitcases that follow you around talking to you. They have knife-missiles and can carry your underpants. etc. You can take the smaller ones on planes. Probably. Someone had one in the shape of a vibrator once. It didn’t fool anyone.
It’ll never happen.
I have an idea of my own for collecting orbital debris – which would also work for the smaller bits as well. The idea was inspired by that “Armageddon” with Bruce Willis, in which the earth is nearly destroyed by a MASSIVE lump of cheese. So my idea is to use an actual massive lump of cheese… but as a force for good. The debris would get stuck in it… replacing a million little problems with one big one. Simple really.
I’m thinking one of the more inclusive cheeses – like mozzarella rather than parmesan… or maybe one of the firmer cheddars surrounded by a thick layer of mozzarella… because it needs to be firm enough to trap the debris rather than have them punch straight through… because if that happens you’re replacing a million little problems, with a million little problems with cheese toppings.
I think in the future… or present, there’s going to be a sub-category of grammar pedants who get all ratty because things that are actually remote controlled… toys, are called robots. I mean true, they have sensors etc, but unless they’ve got “free will”, they’re not proper robots. That’s why God created Man. The other gods were all “nah, that’s bullshit man, those are just RC drones. They’ve been around for years”… so he made proper autonomous ones, and all Olympus was laughing…
… until we go and split the atom.
But the reason I find this interesting is that they’re making the thing hackable from the outset. Hackability is the Intel Inside. Community is the Intel Inside. The two go together. If you’re building a product that doesn’t have hackability and community then you’re a dinosaur, and out there somewhere is a small furry mammal that looks pathetic… but which has hackability and community… and it’s going to wind up eating your lunch.
They’re asking for around $250k though, which they’re probably not going to get – at least partly because the prototype they’ve created looks exactly like a cheap Chinese-built toy from a $2 shop. They would have been better presenting it as a skeleton with wires and things hanging out.
That’s totally cool man. Generative art, kindof… and another example of a “thing” where the “thing” part is kindof incidental to the actual art, which is the video of the making-of. I mean sure, you could put the stalactites in an art gallery, or even the entire workshop in an art-gallery, and it would still be really cool – but the art is the video… and I’m not sure that it’s terribly good art… or if it’s possible to make terribly good art using video as a medium, without having a proper story with proper story-arcs etc… I mean there are classic pop-music videos, but they don’t come anywhere near Rembrant’s The Night Watch or The Shining.
Video art tends (so far) to be a bit like writing a book which is made up of random words arranged into interesting shapes… or a book which only has pictures. Sure… interesting maybe, but it’s not how good, standing-the-test-of-time art is done. You’re not ever going to see a Tolstoy of Collage. If it’s got a time component, then it probably needs a narrative arc. Still, what do I know.
5) Incidentally – the robots that you see at the end of that video are buyable off ebay for about $10k, albeit in states of moderate disrepair… and there are other, similar sorts of things for 1/2 that…
But I’m guessing that you’ll be spending a whole lot more than that to actually get the thing to go… ie: controllers/SW. Still… the one above is about $3,997.50… and I’m guessing a good hacker would be able to get the thing to go. This guy I known in NZ bought one and found that the software cost about 10 times what the hardware cost… but… $4k? That’s getting to be in the same ballpark as a “hobbyist” machine.
The video above lost me the moment it said the word “Imagine” in that patronising, talking to a 12-year-old, Hollywood voice-over-wanker way… which is utterly, utterly endemic on any documentary made in the US. What is it with these people? Why can’t they talk to their audience as adults? I mean can you “imagine” talking to an actual adult, starting the conversation with “Imagine”, spoken in that dripping-with-anticipation way? It’d be all “who’s this cunt? Have I died and woken up in a vacuum cleaner infomercial?”
From Mechanical Paper Model… and to be fair, this is a lifetime’s work (or at least a decade or so) compressed into about 4 minutes… and it is pretty amazing.
And/But… (a trick of the light) the “thing” is not the robot; the thing is the video of the Making Of the robot.
It’s like the prime memetic driver is “I could do that too”… and any bit of content with that embedded in it, has more traction than something that merely looks fantastic. Which is obvious I suppose. It seems like an artefact now has a 4th dimension… a time dimension almost… a lifecycle dimension, and it feels like offering an object as a fait-accompli, is missing an entire dimension. Or maybe that’s just me.
That said, that video is less than a month old, and it’s been seen about 1/4 of a million times… which would be par for the course if it was a Brittany video or something (is there still a Brittany?)… but this is making a little robot out of paper. It’s Nerdware.
It’s a bit like a “making of” things they have for movies… but they do actually want you to make it. You’re actually told everything you need to know to make your own… encouraged to make your own… and crystallised within that intent, is all the vitality of the maker-movement, and the internet iteslf…
… as opposed to Hollywood, which although it makes “making of” movies, has reacted so stupidly to people attempting to “do that too”, that it’s basically made itself the enemy of humanity. It takes the money we give it to lobby our Govts to try to impose state/corporate censorship and surveillance on us.
1/2 a trillion dollars lost fighting patent trolls?. I could well believe it… and here in New Zealand, our corporate puppet government have created a back-door for software patents.
This… “IP” is the direct, diametric opposite of where all the vitality and energy is coming from. It’s the diametric opposite of the future, and it’s the diametric opposite of what humanity needs. Innovation does not come from charging rent on future innovation.
I gave this speech recently – in which I went on about the 3rd Industrial Revolution… saying “Community is the Intel Inside of the 3rd Industrial Revolution”. The industrial revolutions of the past have all come about when a new communication technology meets a new energy source. So the first was Steam and Literacy. The 2nd was Petroleum and electrical communications: Phone/TV/Radio. And I said “So now we’ve got The Internet… but the energy source???” and I left it hanging – and said we don’t know what the energy source is going to be.
But after a couple of months reflection, I think the energy source is actually free information. I think the energy source is The Internet doing to Information what Jesus did to Loaves and Fishes. We suddenly have all this abundance – with information at least.
And “IP” is an attempt to take that away. We need to abolish “IP”. We need to abolish the people who are trying to inflict it on us.
I’ve often (sometimes, rarely) wondered how to adjust a LOT of solar panels or reflectors using only one (or two) motors. If you’ve got a massive solar-array, or at least an array with a lot of nodes… eg: those ones in Spain…
Then you’re probably looking at have to have a tracker on each and every mirror… which may not add up to a whole lot compared to… the land the thing sits on say, but that’s still a lot of non-passive, moving-part components.
If you’re trying to do this at household size, then the cost is (relatively speaking) a whole lot more – with the motors (in terms of maintenance, calibration (etc etc)) costing a whole lot more.
Reminds me of Huey, Duey and Louey of Silent Running – who looked after the plants etc. Apparently this method offers a fairly substantial saving cost-wise… although the tracks etc look kindof expensoid. This would be a far more resilient system if the robot wasn’t on a track… but instead worked like swarmed Roombas… ie: a bunch of them semi-working together.
I quite like the idea of moving all of the vitamin parts into a single drone/module though.
And it looks really familiar for some reason. Pan’s Labyrinth? Something like that. Maybe it’s the marionette thing – rather than having the servos “at the joints” it’s pulling strings from behind the machine. Fair enough – another approach, and really, putting motors at the joints isn’t how nature does it anyway – probably something to do with leverage.
The idea is that people can “remotely inhabit” it… so it acts as a communication device… which is an idea I’ve been a bit of a fan of for a while now… only I imagined the remote devices would be autonomous, rather than being carried about. Less chance of being nicked/kidnapped though I suppose. I think I’d find it even creepier if I knew the person inside it.
On the other hand, it might be really interesting for disabled people… or people like me, who are merely lazy. Instead of going to a supermarket, you just inhabit a doll, and have someone carry you about. I want that one, etc.
Dunno – the whole thing creeps me out on a number of different levels. Really cool machine though.
Who are full of interesting bits today… eg: an elephant’s trunk made out of coffee grounds