Tag Archives: robotics

Artificial Intelligence is almost all grown up

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was the first pop culture example of artificial intelligence. Since then, the media, and especially Hollywood have depicted artificial intelligence numerous times. The depictions of artificial intelligence that we see in movies like Terminator or I, Robot are still nothing but science fiction, but the possibility of super smart artificial intelligence capable of matching human intelligence is no longer a far-fetched idea. In fact, due to the exponential growth of the artificial intelligence industry, we could see that level of artificial intelligence in a matter of years.

According to analysts who track the growth of computing costs and the costs for such technologies, in just four years, $4,000 dollars would be enough to buy a computer than could rival the human brain. Such a computer would be able to perform twenty quadrillion calculations per second.

AI in the workplace

Artificial intelligence just might be the biggest game changers in the world of technology this century. One of the reasons it has grown so quickly in such a short period of time is because businesses are beginning to see the useful real-world applications it has to offer. Already, dozens of industries such as healthcare diagnostics, automatic trading, business processing, advertising, and social media are using artificial intelligence to operate more efficiently and be more successful. It’s predicted that spending on artificial intelligence will increase from just over 200 million in 2015, to over 11 billion in 2024 as more businesses begin to invest in the technology.

Although artificial intelligence is relatively new to the workplace, it’s already shaking up the way we do business. Some of the top companies in the world are changing their business models to integrate artificial intelligence as opposed to sticking with a humans only approach. These businesses have a distinct advantage when it comes to gathering vast amounts of data in a very short period of time and then using that vast amount of data to make decisions. This enables companies to be quicker on their feet as they evaluate various analytics and make adjustments to their business strategy.

AI and the future

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and in many subsequent science fiction novels and films, the artificial intelligence humans create inevitably comes back to haunt them. Artificial intelligence isn’t without its risks. Some fear that if artificial intelligence could surpass human intelligence, they could overthrow us. Another fear is that artificial intelligence could lead to many people being out of a job as they’re replaced by machines. But experts in the field of artificial intelligence believe these fears are unfounded. It all comes down to human programming and how much power authority we grant them.

As for the work force, most analysts predict that an artificial intelligence boom will create many more jobs than it eliminates.

Source: Information Age

Asimov’s three laws of robotics in action


Isaac Asimov, the famed science fiction author, did more than write novels. He is also credited with coming up with the three laws of robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws.

According to Asimov, these laws will need to govern the use of robotics to keep both them and humanity safe. A major fear is that artificially intelligent robots could eventually pose a threat to humans either by actively seeking to harm them, or by failing to act in a manner that would preserve human life. Because humans are beginning to give robots control over essential infrastructure, the latter is as especially big concern.

Recently, an employee at a Volkswagen plant in Germany was crushed when he became trapped in a robot arm. The machine was only doing what it was programmed to do and wasn’t able to alter its programming even when a human’s life was in danger. To make robots safer for humans, robotics researchers at Tufts University are working on developing artificial intelligence that can deviate from its programming if the circumstances warrant it. The technology is still primitive but it’s an important step if artificially intelligent robots are going to be coexisting with humans someday.

How it works

Researchers at Tufts University’s Human-Robot Interaction lab designed a robot that recognizes that it is allowed to disobey orders when there is a good reason. For example, when facing a ledge, the robot will refuse to walk forward even when ordered to. Not only will the robot refuse, but he is programmed to state the reason—that he would fall if he were to obey. To understand how the robot is able to do this, we have to first understand the concept of “felicity conditions.” Felicity conditions refer to the distinction between understanding the command being given, and the implications of following that command. To design a robot that could refuse to obey certain orders, the researchers programmed the robot to go through five logical steps when given a command:

  1. Do I know how to do X
  2. Am I physically able to do X now? Am I normally physically able to do X?
  3. Am I able to do X right now?
  4. Am I obligated based on my social role to do X?
  5. Does it violate any normative principle to do X?

This five step logical process enables the robot to determine whether or not a command would cause harm to itself or a human before following an order. The researchers recently presented their work at the AI for Human-Robot Interaction Symposium in Washington DC.

Source: IBTimes

A brief history of artificial intelligence

The concept of artificial intelligence began as pure fiction, something to be imagined but never actually existing. Today, we know that that’s no longer the case. Artificial Intelligence is real and there are already real-world applications where artificial intelligence is helping us solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity. We’re still a ways off from creating true artificial intelligence but we’re getting closer every day. Here’s a look at how artificial intelligence has developed through the years.

Greek myths

The earliest known reference to something we could term artificial intelligence dates back to the ancient Greeks. According to their mythology, Hephaestus, the blacksmith of Olympus created life-like metal automatons that were created to carry out certain functions.

The birth of science fiction

The concept of artificial intelligence stays relatively quiet until the early 19th century when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, considered by many to be the first true science fiction novel because of the emphasis on the use of scientific methods and equipment to create a semi-intelligent monster. This novel gave way to more science fiction, some of which deal with the theme of robots and robots taking over humanity.

The first computer that was never made

Charles Babbage, a Victorian era inventor designed the first computer (on paper anyways) in 1822. It was designed to carry out mathematical calculations. He died before he could build his device which he called the Difference Engine but based on his designs, the machine could have worked had it been built and would have been the first computer.

The Turing Machine and the Turing Test

Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician who helped bring World War II to an end by using his Turing Machine to break the German’s code. He is considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. He is also famous for coming up with the Turing Test which is designed to differentiate between computers that can be said to have artificial consciousness and computers that can’t.

Dartmouth Conference

In the summer of 1956, the scientific field of artificial intelligence was born over the course of a month long conference held at Dartmouth College. The boundaries of the field were set and plans were made to recreate human intelligence in a machine.

Hot and cold seasons

Researchers left the Dartmouth Conference with a lot of research money and optimism. Early AI researchers quickly realized that creating artificial intelligence was going to be a lot harder than they previously thought. This led to discouragement, lack of funding and very little progress in the field of AI in the early 70s and 80s though there were also resurgences as well.

AI in Hollywood and the real world

This brings us to today. Artificial Intelligence is now a part of our pop culture thanks to dozens of Hollywood movies that deal with the concept of artificial intelligence. Many of these portrayals are negative and depict robots overthrowing humanity, but some are more nuanced and treat the subject in a very thoughtful way. Artificial intelligence is now a part of our daily lives thanks to personal assistants like Siri and Cortana.

Source: History Extra

Does AI spell doom for the workforce?


For approximately a hundred years, humans have theorized the possibility of artificial intelligence and the implications that such an invention would bring about. In literature and on the big screen, we read or see stories where artificial intelligence overthrows humanity and tries to wipe us off the face of the earth. Authors and movie producers aren’t the only ones spreading fear of AI. Some of the most brilliant minds of today, like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have also issued warnings about the potential for AI to turn against humanity if given too much independence.

But another fear, and perhaps one that’s a little more understandable, is that AI could one day leave millions of people jobless as their work is outsourced to artificially intelligent machines. This thought isn’t a new one. It was first brought up in the 70s and 80s when computers were becoming more mainstream. The discussion has been rekindled due to recent advancements in artificial intelligence. The question then is, do we really need to fear? The answer isn’t so simple.

The computer revolution scare

When computers were starting to become more affordable and mainstream in the late 70s and through the 80s, many people feared that companies would fire humans and replace them with computers who could do the work that people did. Because computers were cheaper than paying employees in the long run, it wasn’t hard to believe that companies might favor computers over human workers.

But of course, we never saw the widespread job loss that many predicted. Though computers did have a huge impact on the workforce, this impact was largely positive. Though many jobs were replaced by computers, the existence of computers in the workplace led to many more jobs than it eliminated.

Will the robot revolution will be different

Though similar fears have been put to rest in the past, those warning of an impending job crisis due to the advancement of artificial intelligence and robotics say this time will be different. Already artificial intelligence is demonstrating its ability to perform tasks that could in theory render many human professions obsolete. For instance, driverless cars are already a reality that will eventually become mainstream. Who needs bus or taxi drivers when buses and taxis can be outfitted with a computer that can follow a specified route or take people to a specified destination?

Of course, just like with the computer revolution, a robot revolution would certainly create jobs as well as people would be needed to design them.

Blue collar vs. white collar jobs

Though the robot revolution will certainly have a large impact on the workforce, it’s still unclear what that impact will be. Some argue that blue collar jobs face the largest risk as the work is menial and can more easily be replaced. But others have been quick to point out that as artificial intelligence becomes more intelligent, white collar jobs might also be at stake, perhaps even more so than blue collar jobs. In the end, people in the work force will just have to wait and see what the robot revolution brings.

Source: Inquisitr


Implications of AI: legal responsibility and civil rights

Just a few years ago, the idea of artificially intelligent robots would have seemed like pure science fiction. The first mention of an automaton in in Homer’s Illiad. More recently, early science fiction writers like H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov wrote about artificially intelligent robots. Today, we’re treated to at least one movie each year that deals with the subject of artificial intelligence.

Only in the last few years has artificial intelligence began to seem like a reality. Every day artificial intelligence is more science and less fiction. Already there are real world applications for artificial intelligence. They’re beginning to take over jobs that were once handled by humans. In the next few years, experts predict that artificial intelligence will continue to become more a part of our daily lives. It’s predicted that by 2025, robots will be replacing humans in one third of today’s jobs. We’re only just now coming to terms with the implications that a future shared with artificial intelligence has in store.

The robot apocalypse

A favorite motif in artificial intelligence fiction is the robot apocalypse, in which artificial intelligence decides that humans needs to go and turns its focus to obliterating all human life. Nearly every Hollywood movie about artificial intelligence in the last decade has included this plot line. Though these movies and stories are science fiction and pure speculation, many brilliant minds are concerned that there could be a real threat in creating artificial intelligence, especially if they’re given control of our weapons systems.

Big names in the scientific community like Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla Motors) and Stephen Hawking, along with more than 1,000 other AI and robotics researchers have signed an open letter citing the dangers of using AI in weapons development.

What about the legal and social implications

Though Hollywood—and the general public—like to imagine worst-case-scenarios—there are other important implications that haven’t been given as much consideration. Consider the example of the automated shopping robot designed by a Swiss art group. It was programmed to purchase illegal products over the Darknet. It was able to purchase a Hungarian passport and some Ecstasy pills as well as a few other illegal products before it was “arrested” by Swiss police. Ultimately, no charges were brought against the robot or its creators but the idea remains, how will society deal with the criminal activities of artificially intelligence beings in the future, especially when they are acting on their own and not on the programming of humans? Will artificial intelligence be held legally responsible? If so, will they need the same human rights that most people have in free countries such as the right to legal counsel? Will we see artificially intelligence beings fighting for equal rights? Only the future can tell, but perhaps it is just as likely we’ll see a robot civil rights movement as a robot apocalypse.

Source: Tech Crunch