Archive for 2001 a space odyssey


Posted in Mortal Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

Watching a video online yesterday got me thinking about robots and the new possibilities of AI’s within them. It also made me think. Are we really that stupid?

I believe so.

From the beginning of the robot fascination, a decade or so after the beginning of the 19th century, ideas quickly began to turn a little sinister. The reason being is that if you intend to create a robot that can perform the functions of a human and have it built to last for an incredibly long long time, with next to no care for human survival at all, you can expect a lot of hassle.

Now, you instantly start thinking of  a few things from your recent past, mainly films. i-Robot, Terminator, 2001 A space Odyssey and short circuit. In a nutshell robots will mess you up and that’s partly because we made them and partly because we’re really that stupid.

Big corporations at the forefront of technology have used the money they earn from selling us overly priced, cheaply made plastic things that light up and thrown it at robots and AI. Usually what is showcased for example, is a piano playing, break dancing, skipping, helpful little robot with a smiley or vacant face, finished with a colourful paint job. The only reason these things haven’t started to dig mass graves for us is because we’ve yet to find a safe and compact way of storing massive energy.

In the 1987 film, Robocop, the lead role in the film plays a cop and is brutally murdered in a warehouse by a bad ass gang. When located, he is then whisked off by medical staff and put through a process to create a new prototype “cyborg” cop. Part man, part machine, all cop, was the tag line of the film. Alex Murphy (the cop who was killed) is haunted by the residual memories of his past, up until the point where he took a bullet to the head and had his body replaced with a suit of silvery blue armour. He lived on, albeit with a basic digestive system, he survived by eating a nutritional paste (a bit like baby food), this was enough, combined with the rest of the suit, to go about his cop duties.

Thankfully he didn’t want to harm everyone he meets, due to some of the memories that lingered, instead he sets about systematically murdering anyone involved with the gang who gave him a head full of lead. Cyborgs, being part man, part machine, are in my opinion something we should develop as much as possible…so that even the most handicapped person could enjoy super human strength and the ability to smash through walls.

Right now we have computer brains that are learning all the time, they are somewhat stationary, for now, but it’s all to obvious where this is leading. There are robotic experts trying to re-create the human skeletal system using machines…they are also giving these robots the ability to learn. Take a look at this video from Japan, I have no idea why the decided to make it look like a hairless pale child but given what the Japanese usually get up to, this isn’t all that weird.

Developments in silicon skin have reached a point where an android covered in the synthetic skin are hard to spot in a crowd. I heard recently about an android in Japan that was sat in a chair before a meeting commenced, programmed to simply fidget, blink and breathe. It was only when pointed out to the guests that they were in presence of an android, that they realised. The robot, who looked female, obviously would have given the game away if she spoke, because it would be through speakers and her face moves like that of a person with a melted plastic bag over their face.

Here is a robot showcasing the movement and the synthetic skin.

I have always been a very visual person, even as a child. As an engineer myself, my opinion is that I think we’re a long way from recreating the fluid movement of a human being, in a robot. If you take a look into the natural geometry of the human body i.e the golden ratio, studied by the late great Leonardo da Vinci and any great architect or artist worth their salt,. The perfect form of the human body and the biological mechanics within it are mind boggling. It’s hard to comprehend with the sheer size of some people today, that there is a natural mathematical rhythm to everything but there is. To replicate muscle structure, bone strength and combine it with balance, is very very difficult…not only because we produce our own perfectly balanced power source through consuming burgers and beer but because it is simply one of the most complex arrangements of space junk we’ve ever seen.

Take a look at this short video below to see some of the natural occurrences robotics engineers world wide have to recognise.

Where was I?

To ensure the absolute destruction of the human race, we need to crack on. AI is improving at a staggering rate, one can only imagine what the first artificial intelligence that learns at a geometric rate will be sat in but i’m not sure we’ll like it. Some home truths are bound to be exchanged and god help the thing if we literally plug it into our internet.

This leads me onto mention just how small robots can be.

At a molecular level scientists have managed to create robots so small, they could perform tasks inside your body, with no sedation whatsoever. The subject of Nano technology may or may not ring any bells but quite simply, it is the art of creating materials from the very core elements of our universe. Using atomic sized building blocks, new materials can be created with unreal characteristics. Take the simple example in the video below of a spray on material that creates an instant water repellent surface.

Science fiction writers have already predicted how we could potentially kill ourselves with nano technology but as always, we plough on, into the unknown like a blind bee keeper. Prince Charles knows a thing or two about these predictions, he has given out the warning that a “grey goo” could potentially eat the world.

“It offers a nightmare vision straight out of science fiction – the destruction of the environment, perhaps even of the world, by robots smaller than viruses, able to share intelligence, replicate themselves and take command of the planet. “

A quote taken straight from this article in the Gaurdian. A threat bigger than his ears

The subject of the grey goo, otherwise known as utility fog and other hypothosised theories of tiny nano robots, is pretty freaky. In the weaker installment of the four Terminator films, Terminator 3’s bad guy was in fact a woman. Now, i’m a big fan of the films and as far as ideas go, this was hot shit. Sadly Jonathan Mostow ruined it with his take on dark “humour” and it became a bit of stain on the franchise. Nevertheless, the female terminator or T-X model was a combination of nano technology and futuristic alloy’s. She had the ability to control other mechanised objects and could shape shift to what ever she saw fit for purpose. Imagine a world where this is a possibility, a woman who can not only make herself look like *insert your ideal woman here* but could also wipe your computer and control your car remotely or just punch her fist through your face. It’s all hypothetical, obviously but judging by what you can easily put together yourself by looking on Youtube and the like, is that we haven’t paused long enough, to recognise that we’re literally creating our own demise.

But not all of the future of robotics or AI technology is a bleak one. Forever running parallel to the fairly blatant military applications of these creations are also the robots that will be helping us out in daily life. Anything from firefighting robots, medical robots (currently being used for major operations) and post natural disaster robots. There is still someway to go before we have to consider fallout shelters and shotguns.

I leave you with this