Monday, 27 June 2016


Our tech future: the rich own the robots while the poor have 'job mortgages'

Artificial intelligence expert Jerry Kaplan says those whose jobs involve ‘a narrow set of duties’ are most likely to see their work replaced by automation

Ever since the first vision of a robot appeared on the horizon of mankind, humans have feared that automation will replace the workforce in our dystopian future.

There typically follows a period of reassurance, in which we are compelled to believe that this will be a good thing, and that robots could actually liberate us from the drudgery of daily toil and free us for more enjoyable, cerebral pursuits. Futurist Jerry Kaplan, 63, is among those optimists. He estimates that 90% of Americans will lose their jobs to robots and we should all be happy about it.

“If we can program machines to read x-rays and write news stories, all the better. I say good riddance,” Kaplan said. “Get another job!”


Less discussed is the observation that inequality will be “a dark cloud” over this period of robotic rule. The robots, Kaplan admitted, will be owned by the rich. “The benefits of automation naturally accrue to those who can invest in the new systems, and that’s the people with the money. And why not? Of course they’re reaping the rewards,” he said.

“We don’t have to steal from the rich to give to the poor. We need to find ways to give incentives to entrepreneurs.”

One possible solution to 90% unemployment would be job mortgages, so that people who are displaced by robots can take out loans toward future earnings in unknown jobs. “People should be able to learn new skills by borrowing against future earnings capacity,” he said.

There will be a difficult period of transition during which massive unemployment will sweep the country. “The bad news is it takes time for these kind of things to happen.”

As artificial intelligence becomes ever more intelligent, some in the tech world are getting nervous. The robots are winning complex games and creating art that sells for thousands of dollars. There’s less discussion in Silicon Valley of whether it’s happening and more of what to do now: Y Combinator, a tech investment vehicle whose founder brags about being in the business of creating inequality, recently launched a basic income experiment to give out a small no-strings-attached stipend to people in preparation for an age when there just aren’t enough jobs for humans.
Kaplan was here to give the positive spin on that future. With a PhD in computer science specializing in artificial intelligence and a fellowship at the Center for Legal Informatics at Stanford University Law School, he’s a bonafide expert. His argument for the future of jobs foreshadows how this next industrial revolution – one that is inevitable, one that is facilitated by very smart robots – will be sold to the masses.

“Machines automate tasks, not jobs. Many of these tasks require straightforward logic or hand-eye coordination,” Kaplan said. “If your job requires a narrow set of duties, then indeed your employment is at risk.”
He contrasted licensed nurse duties (a lengthy list of activities that involve empathy and problem solving) with bricklayer duties (laying bricks). Kaplan put up a slide to show what he sees as the future workplace. On the slide is something that looks like Pac-Man eating a lawyer, a driver and a doctor. Behind it, it has spit out “online reputation manager” and blogger.

“This doesn’t make society worse, it makes it better,” he said. “It may take only 2% of the population to accomplish what 90% of our pop does today. So what?”

He said new jobs would emerge and cited the fact that his daughter’s job hadn’t existed 10 years ago – she’s a social media manager.

Kaplan mentioned other employment options that will remain: tennis pros, party planners, flower arrangers and undertakers.

“No one wants to go to a robotic undertaker,” he said. “Can you imagine?”

Though the robots might take jobs, they wouldn’t be doing so consciously, so we can stop worrying about that: “Robots don’t think the way people think. There’s no persuasive evidence that they’re on the path to becoming sentient beings.”

“AI is simply a natural expansion of longstanding efforts to automate tasks,” he said.

“Robots don’t cook or make beds. They don’t have independent goals and desires,” he said. “They aren’t marrying our children.”

Very comforting.


Belgian Hospitals Employ Robots as Receptionists

The humanoid robot will help guide patients and visitors to the right departments

Two hospitals in Belgium have employed robots to welcome patients and visitors, in what is reportedly the first use of automata to greet people in a medical setting.

The robot, named Pepper, was unveiled Monday at a hospital in the eastern city of Liege, where it will act as a receptionist, Agence France-Presse reports. The cartoon-featured humanoid robot, which costs about 30,000 euros ($33,800), is also being introduced at another facility in Ostend — in northwest Belgium — where it will perform the extra function of guiding visitors to the hospital’s appropriate departments.

Pepper the robot is manufactured by Tokyo-based tech firm SoftBank and versions are assembled in France, where they have already been tested out in a few shopping malls.

The robot, described by its makers as “kindly, endearing and surprising,” has a tablet computer mounted on its chest. It interacts with humans using cameras and microphones fitted in its head and touch sensors in its head and hands.


comment: "surprising"

Friday, 12 February 2016

Meet Alex

Meet Nadine, the terrifyingly lifelike 'social robot' that looks and acts like its owner and could one day work in your office

Behind the welcome desk at a Singapore university, a receptionist called Nadine is causing a stir. 
She has mousy, shoulder-length hair neatly parted to the side, remembers what you talked about last time she saw you and returns your greeting with a friendly hello. 
But there's something unusual about Nadine - she's the latest in a line of so-called 'social robots' that have personalities and emotions of their own. 
Nadine is touted as the latest in a new generation of robots, capable of conversing with people, adapting their responses and remembering previous conversations. 
The advanced robot is the creation of Professor Nadia Thalmann, director of the Institute for Media Innovation at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. 
According to Professor Thalmann, the humanoid has her own personality and is capable of displaying positive and negative moods and emotions. 
A video of the robot in action sees her answer questions from her creator in a pseudo-emotional computerised Scottish accent. 
'You are a beautiful and attractive social robot,' says Professor Thalmann. To which Nadine replies: 'Thank you. You look attractive too.' 
The android can also react appropriately to negative sentiments. For instance, when Professor Thalmann says 'I hate you', Nadine replies with a chipper: 'Tell me more about that'.

This new wave of social robots could ultimately be commercialised for use as personalised assistants in the workplace, and even as companions for children and the elderly. 
The technology could also be rolled out at much lower cost, by appearing on a screen or monitor. 
'Robotics technologies have advanced significantly over the past few decades and are already being used in manufacturing and logistics,' said Professor Thalmann. 
'As countries worldwide face challenges of an ageing population, social robots can be one solution to address the shrinking workforce, become personal companions for children and the elderly at home, and even serve as a platform for healthcare services in future.' 
In addition to the lifelike Nadine, NTU is working on several 'telepresence' robots that could be used to carry out work remotely. 
Edgar is another of this team's creations. While Edgar doesn't have the human-like facial features of Nadine, it does provide a glimpse into the workplace of the future.
This type of telepresence robot can be controlled remotely by users from anywhere in the world. 
Users simply stand in front of a specialised webcam and their upper body gestures are projected by the robot.
In addition, their facial expressions can be displayed on the robot's face, in real-time.
Professor Thulmann added: 'Over the past four years, our team at NTU have been fostering cross-disciplinary research in social robotics technologies -involving engineering, computer science, linguistics, psychology and other fields - to transform a virtual human, from within a computer, into a physical being that is able to observe and interact with other humans. 
She added: 'This is somewhat like a real companion that is always with you and conscious of what is happening.

Alex press photo

Celebrity endorsements

20,000 servers under the sea

The Microsoft cloud is diving into the deep blue sea to make its services the most reliable, accessible and secure.
Over the past nine months, Microsoft has been significantly investing in dark fiber capacity through partnerships that span multiple oceans and continents, writes David Crowley, managing director of Network Enablement. On Monday, those connections across the Atlantic and Pacific just got stronger. New partnerships will help link Microsoft’s datacenter infrastructure in North America to Europe and Asia. 
“Competition in the cloud and infrastructure space continues to heat up,” Crowley writes. “But it’s not a battle that will be won on just cloud or infrastructure alone, but instead on holistic innovation and providing value to customers from the ‘sea to the sky.’” Swim over to the Azure blog for the whole story.
Jake SiegelMicrosoft News Center Staff

10 PRINT "LOLZ"; 20 GOTO 10

The Pixels Weave A Person

Poster #3,213

Everyone's fantasy

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