Thursday, 5 February 2015

The AI revolution road

Have you wondered why the likes of Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have gone on record lately to state what a huge threat AI is to our species? If  it sounds like they've all gone a bit David Icke, Tim Urban's article on "Wait But Why?" is a fascinating, enlightening, chilling explanation of why Hawking and Gates are in fact completely sane.

He tells us it's not because Sky Net might nuke us and we'll end up in a bitter struggle with legions of Arnie clones. It's much more mundane. We will be wiped out dispassionately by an AI that became super intelligent (an ASI) learning to write, and because nobody told it that human life was more important than good handwriting.

Of course, the other alternative is that an ASI emerges that can solve all known human challenges - literally all known challenges - and human beings become immortal. Those are the two most likely proposed outcomes of  ASI, and nobody can know which will occur. Either way, the fork in the road lies just decades away. Happy New Year!

Immortality or Extinction

Friday, 5 December 2014

Berners-Lee: 'Computers are getting smarter. We’re not'

“Companies,” says web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, “are increasingly going to be run by computers. And computers are getting smarter and we are not.” The only solution, he argues, is for people to embrace new technology, and accept that some jobs will simply disappear. 
So what does that mean for book-keepers and accountants and a host of jobs, increasingly the white collar ones too, that are threatened by the growth of new technology? What was once a Luddite argument about loss of jobs is being made by an increasing number of sophisticated economists. “It’s been running forever and yes there’s a problem that say, people who run printers that print brochures, for instance, you don’t need that any more,” says Sir Tim, talking about the inexorable move of advertising to online. “Some things are going to completely disappear and obviously more boring jobs go first. 
Unfortunately, it often sounds as though the best ideas are those with the least human involvement: “Don’t think about me using my data, think about a really smart really powerful computer using my data with some interesting apps,” says Sir Tim. “My machine talking to a hospital, saying ‘I don’t know if you know but he’s not doing so much exercise - is that ok?’” 
It’s an idyllic picture, even if critics will say walks should be about looking at the scenery not the GPS: a world where people are fitter and less troubled by menial jobs, thanks to the web’s total integration with daily life. “But there’s another movement that’s interesting,” adds Sir Tim. “If you look around the UK it’s largely farmland – some countries have been levelled for large fields, but in other parts of the world people are hanging on to small farms, because they like to have a world in which crops are grown locally by hand, again around Massachusetts for instance. You might start to think of farming more like performance art, where you know the person who has done it.”

Saul Bass' poster for Vera Cruz

Simon Stalenhag

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Knightscope K5

As the sun set on a warm November afternoon, a quartet of five-foot-tall, 300-pound shiny white robots patrolled in front of Building 1 on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus. Looking like a crew of slick Daleks imbued with the grace of Fred Astaire, they whirred quietly across the concrete in different directions, stopping and turning in place so as to avoid running into trash cans, walls, and other obstacles. 
The robots managed to appear both cute and intimidating. This friendly-but-not-too-friendly presence is meant to serve them well in jobs like monitoring corporate and college campuses, shopping malls, and schools. 
“This takes away the monotonous and sometimes dangerous work, and leaves the strategic work to law enforcement or private security, depending on the application,” Knightscope cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing Stacy Stephens said as a K5 glided nearby. 
Knightscope is one of a growing number of companies using robots to help with work traditionally done by humans, or perhaps replace them altogether. The trend is accelerating as robots are made ever smarter, more agile, and more adaptable to specific tasks. And while most robots do assembly-line work, Knightscope is one of a few companies betting that they could take on other tasks. 
 Knightscope may not outright replace many security guards soon—over a million of them were employed in the U.S. last year, according to an estimate from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the estimated hourly wage these guards earned was more than twice the $6.25 that Knightscope says it will charge for its robots, which could tempt some companies and schools to at least try them out.