[PHOTO] Meet the Faces of Japan’s First Robot-Staffed Hotel

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Via Mat SmithEndgaget has a gallery of photos

 

 


China Restricts Exports of Drones, Supercomputers

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China has been strengthening its control over its technology industry, as it seeks to avoid infiltration by foreign spies and build up globally competitive tech companies.

Eva Dou reports: China is curbing its exports of advanced drones and supercomputers, in the country’s latest move to tighten control over technologies linked to national security.

Starting in mid-August, Chinese makers of super-powerful drones and some advanced computers will have to obtain an export license, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs on Friday.

Computers will require an export license if they exceed 8 “teraflops” – which means they can process more than 8 trillion calculations a second, roughly equivalent to the processing power of 33 Xbox 360s.

China has been strengthening its control over its technology industry, as it seeks to avoid infiltration by foreign spies and build up globally competitive tech companies.

Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

China’s drones have also caused political incidents in recent months, after unmanned aircraft sold by Shenzhen-based SZ DJI Technology Co. were flown onto the roof of the office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the grounds of the White House in Washington. Tensions flared between Pakistan and India last month after Pakistan’s military shot down an Indian “spy drone” in the disputed region of Kashmir that appeared from pictures to be made by DJI. Read the rest of this entry »


#Robot Waitress Debuts in #Zhejiang

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On Wednesday, a company in Yiwu, eastern China Zhejiang Province, has finally launched their first batch of catering robots that can deliver food to customers, and other types of robots such as security robots after a three-year endeavor. Such gorgeous-looking robots are expected to be available in the market very soon. These robots basically consist of human simulations and chasses, through which they can discern the chromatism on the floor and thereby make moves. Catering robots are able to endure weight of more than 35 kg while security robots patrol on their own.


OH YES HE DID: Kentucky Man Shoots Down Drone Hovering Over His Backyard

William H. Merideth

‘If you cross that sidewalk onto my property, there’s going to be another shooting.’

 reports: The way William Merideth sees it, it’s pretty clear-cut: a drone flying over his backyard was a well-defined invasion of privacy, analogous to a physical trespassing.

“Are you the son of a bitch that shot my drone?”

Not knowing who owned it, the Kentucky man took out his shotgun and fired three blasts of Number 8 birdshot to take the drone out.

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“It was just right there. It was hovering, I would never have shot it if it was flying. When he came down at my girl’s room, and came with a video camera right over my back deck, that’s not going to work. I know they’re neat little vehicles, but one of those uses shouldn’t be flying into people’s yard and videotaping.”

“It was just right there,” he told Ars. “It was hovering, I would never have shot it if it was flying. When he came down at my girl’s room, and came with a video camera right over my back deck, that’s not going to work. I know they’re neat little vehicles, but one of those uses shouldn’t be flying into people’s yard and videotaping.”

William Merideth Mug shot

William Merideth Mug shot

“We have a lawyer and there’s a court date and then there’s going to be a hearing. It’s not going to stop with the two charges against me, which I’m confident that we’ll get reduced or get dismissed completely.”

Minutes later, a car full of four men that he didn’t recognize rolled up, “looking for a fight.”

[Read the full story here, at Ars Technica]

“Are you the son of a bitch that shot my drone?” one said, according to Merideth.

“The people that own the drones and the people that hate guns are the only ones that disagree with what I did.”

His terse reply to the men, while wearing a 10mm Glock holstered on his hip: “If you cross that sidewalk onto my property, there’s going to be another shooting.”

The men backed down, retreated to their car, and waited for the police to arrive.

 “Now, if I’d have had a .22 rifle, I should have gone to jail for that. The diameter of those things are going to come down with enough force to hurt somebody. Number 8 birdshot is not. Number 8 is the size of a pinhead.”

“His only comment was that he hoped I had a big checkbook because his drone cost $1,800,” Merideth added.

“The bottom line is that it’s a right to privacy issue and defending my property issue. It would have been no different had he been standing in my backyard. As Americans, we have a right to defend our rights and property.”

The Kentuckian was arrested Sunday evening in Hillview, Kentucky, just south of Louisville and charged with criminal mischief and wanton endangerment. He was released the following day. The Hillview Police Department did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment. Read the rest of this entry »


Robotic Sports: Ready for Prime Time

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Robotic Sports Will One Day Rival the NFL

Cody Brown writes: When I was 13, I watched a season of Battle Bots on Comedy Central then attempted to build a killer robot in my parent’s basement. You might think, oh, you were probably a weird kid (and you’d be right) but I think eventually this is behavior that will become normal for people all around the world. It’s had some moments in the spotlight but a bunch of factors make it seem like robotic sports is destined for primetime ESPN in the next five years.

1.) A drone flying through the forest looks incredible at 80 mph.

A new class of bot (FPV Quadcopter) has emerged in the past few years and the footage they produce is nuts. Robots can do things we’re fascinated by but can’t generally achieve without risking our own lives. Drones the size of a dinner plate can zoom through a forest like a 3 pound insect. A bot that shoots flames can blow up a rival in a plexiglass cage.

You can make an argument that the *thrill* of these moments is lightened if a person isn’t risking their own life and limb and this is true to a certain extent. NASCAR crashes are inherently dramatic but you don’t need to burn drivers to make fans scream.

Just look at the rise of e-sports. This League of Legends team sits in an air conditioned bubble and sips Red Bull while a sold out arena screams their lungs out. They’re not in any physical danger but 31 million fans are watching online.

The thing that ultimately matters is that the sport looks incredible on video and fans have a connection to the players. And right now, the video, in raw form, is mesmerizing.

2.) Robot parts have gotten cheaper, better and easier to buy.

When I was a kid, I was limited to things available at the local Radio Shack or hardware store. Now I can go to Amazon, find parts with amazing reviews and have them delivered to my house in a day. The hobby community has had many years to develop its technology and increase quality. Brands like Fat Shark, Spektrum, and adafruit have lead the way.

3.) Top colleges fight over teenagers who win robotics competitions.

If you’re good at building a robot, chances are you have a knack for engineering, math, physics, and a litany of other skills top colleges drool over. This is exciting for anyone (at any age) but it’s especially relevant for students and parents deciding what is worth their investment.

There are already some schools that offer scholarships for e-sports. I wouldn’t be surprised if intercollegiate leagues were some of the first to pop up with traction.

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4.) The military wants to get better at making robots for the battlefield.

This one is a little f***ed but it’s worth acknowledging. Drones (of all sizes) are the primary technology changing the battlefield today. DARPA has an overwhelming interest to stay current and they’re already sponsoring multimillion dollar (more academic) robotics competitions. It’s up to the community to figure out how (or how not) to involve them. Them, meaning the giant military apparatus of the United States but also military organizations around the world who want to develop and recruit the people who will power their 21st century defense (and offense). Read the rest of this entry »


Robot Rights, or Robot Privilege?

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Read more…

Daily Mail Online


A Robot Just Passed the Self-Awareness Test

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Roboticists at the Ransselaer Polytechnic Institute have built a trio of robots that were put through the classic ‘wise men puzzle’ test of self-awareness – and one of them passed.

Duncan Geere reports: In the puzzle, a fictional king is choosing a new advisor and gathers the three wisest people in the land. He promises the contest will be fair, then puts either a blue or white hat on each of their heads and tells them all that the first person to stand up and correctly deduce the colour of their own hat will become his new advisor.

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Selmer Bringsjord set up a similar situation for the three robots – two were prevented from talking, then all three were asked which one was still able to speak. All attempt to say “I don’t know”, but only one succeeds – and when it hears its own voice, it understands that it was not silenced, saying “Sorry, I know now!”

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However, as we can assume that all three robots were coded the same, technically, all three have passed this self-awareness test. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan Hotel Features Robot Receptionists

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Interestingly, the robots have been made to look like dinosaurs

 writes: Step aside, receptionists. Robots are coming to get you. At least, that’s what’s happening at a hotel in Japan. Called Weird Hotel, the place of business uses robots in order to cut costs, according to the Associated Press.

“I wanted to highlight innovation. I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up.”

— Hotel owner Hideo Sawada

The owner of the hotel, Hideo Sawada, says robots are used to boost efficiency, too, and not as a gimmick to attract tourists. Interestingly, the robots have been made to look like dinosaurs. “If you want to check in, push one,” it says in English. The visitor then needs to enter their information into a touch screen. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Pixar Tech Director Alonso Martinez is Building His Own Desktop Robot Companion with Emotional Intelligence

Technical director at Pixar, Alonso Martinez, is currently in the early stages of developing a new companion robot. Mira, as it is currently named, is apparently an exploration into human-robot interaction and emotional intelligence. While currently in the very early stages of development, the small desktop companion is already equipped with some pretty impressive facial recognition and quite an adorable little personality.

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As her understanding of the world and people’s emotions get richer so will her ability to interact with people in a more meaningful way.”

As you can see in the video above, Mira’s favorite activity at the moment is peak-a-boo. Able to realize when you have covered your face, it will light up in excitement like a small child once revealed again making happy blips and bleeps while changing color. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] IT’S ON: Megabots Inc. vs Suidobashi Heavy Industry: USA Challenges Japan to Giant Robot Duel, Japan Accepts Fight!

“Suidobashi, we have a giant robot. You have a giant robot. You know what needs to happen. We challenge you to a duel. Prepare yourselves and name the battlefield. In one year, we fight.”

Japanese engineers have accepted a challenge from an American company to duel with giant robots.

It all started last week when American company MegaBots, Inc. released a YouTube video showing off its 12,000-pound Mk. II robot.

Wearing an American flag as a cape, MegaBots’ Matt Oherlein bragged about the Mk II’s big guns: a cannon capable of shooting 3-pound paintballs at 100 mph. Read the rest of this entry »


First Robot Wedding Takes Place In Japan

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 reports: Japan became the first country to host a robot wedding as people gathered in Tokyo on Saturday to watch two robots — Frois and Yukirin — get married. Sure, Frois and Yukirin may be robots but that did not stop the affair from being a traditional ceremony with cake, dancing, music, and a wedding kiss.

Those who attended the wedding paid roughly $81 — in lieu of a gift, perhaps? — to join the occasion. Those who paid the fee received an official wedding invitation with a picture of the two robots inset in a heart.

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“Pepper, the world’s first robot with feelings, officiated the ceremony in front both robot and human guests. Made of white plastic and measuring less than four feet, Pepper has been created to recognize human voice and facial expressions.”

Read the rest of this entry »


AI: Will the Machines Ever Rise Up?

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From Ex Machina to Terminator Genisys, ‘synths’ and robots have invaded our popular culture. But how real is the reel depiction of artificial intelligence?

 writes: The harried parents in one family in the Channel 4 drama Humans are divided about having a robot called Anita.

The father is delighted with the extra help; the mother unnerved and threatened. The teenage daughter, bright and hardworking, gives up at school after wondering why she would spend seven years to become a doctor, when a “Synth” could upload the skills in as many seconds. The teenage son, of course, is preoccupied with the sexual possibilities.

The thriller has become the biggest home-made drama on Channel 4 for more than two decades, according to viewing figures published this week, and is the latest to explore what has been described as perhaps the greatest existential threat the human race has ever faced, artificial intelligence: the idea that computers will start thinking for themselves and not much like what they see when they cast their eyes on their creators.

The humanoid robots in Humans are not portrayed as good or evil but are dropped into suburbia, where the crises they cause are domestic: disrupting relationships, employment aspirations, and feelings of freedom.

AI robot Ava in the film Ex Machina. Photograph: Allstar/FILM4/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

AI robot Ava in the film Ex Machina. Photograph: Allstar/FILM4/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

It is a theme that has increasingly attracted screenwriters. In the 2013 film, Her, Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with his computer’s intelligent operating system. In Ex Machina, Alex Garland’s directorial debut, a young coder must administer the Turing test to an AI robot called Ava with deadly results. There is also the release of Terminator Genisys the fifth instalment of the series, in which humans are forever trying to prevent a future world destroyed by the machines.

[Read the full story here, at The Guardian]

“We didn’t want to make a judgement on this world, but offer up the pros and cons in a world where synths exist and let our audience decide: is it good or bad?” Jonathan Brackley, one of the writers of Humans, told the Guardian. Co-writer, Sam Vincent, who worked with Brackley on Spooks, adds: “At the heart of the show is the question, does something have to be human for someone to have human feelings about it? The answer to us is no.”

The fictional Persona Synthetics shop selling ‘synths’. Channel 4 drama, Humans, creates a future where families buy human-like robots - synths, that help them with a variety of tasks from household chores to doing homework. Photograph: Persona Synthetics/Channel 4

The fictional Persona Synthetics shop selling ‘synths’. Channel 4 drama, Humans, creates a future where families buy human-like robots – synths, that help them with a variety of tasks from household chores to doing homework. Photograph: Persona Synthetics/Channel 4

The series plays out the consequences of human-like artificial intelligence in the humdrum reality of modern life, but Vincent and Brackley see parallels with our increasing attachment to electronic devices. “Technology used to be just for work. But we use it more than ever now to conduct every aspect of our lives. We are more intimate with it, and it understands us more, even as we understand it less,” says Vincent.

“There’s this very speculative human-like AI side to the series, and a completely real side of what our technology is doing to our emotional lives, our relationships, and society at large,” he adds.

Apocalyptic pronouncements from scientists and entrepreneurs have driven the surge in interest. It was the inventor Elon Musk who last year said artificial intelligence might be the greatest existential threat that humans faced. Stephen Hawking joined in the chorus, warning that the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. The same year, the Oxford scientist Nick Bostrom, published the thoughtful book Superintelligence, in which he made similarly gloomy predictions.

Concerns about the consequences of creating an intelligence that matches, or far exceeds, our own are not entirely new. Read the rest of this entry »


Humanoid Robots as Models: Julie Watai’s Manga & Otaku-Inspired Photography

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Japanese photographer Julie Watai creates manga and otaku-inspired photography, often using humanoid robots as models. Watch TheCreatorsProject‘s exclusive video on her here.

TheCreatorsProject


Answer to Question ‘Are You a Robot?’

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Sacré bleu! French Invent Robots to Replace Border Police

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French company Thales promises robots to replace immigration officers

French electrical systems company Thales premiered its new equipment designed to speed up passage through airports.

In their vision of the future, passengers will no longer deal with check-in desks — an innovation already making inroads in many airports.

A woman tests the new technology. Photo: AFP

A woman tests the new technology. Photo: AFP

To take that even further, Thales has designed a machine that not only scans passports and prints boarding passes, but also records an image of the passenger’s face and iris, which are then shared with computers around the airport.

The images are already in the system when the passenger arrives at the immigration desk, allowing a tall, white robot to
frenchmanautomatically confirm the person’s identity without the need for human border staff.

“You would only need one agent for every four or five machines,” said Pascal Zenoni, a Thales manager presenting the equipment at the air show.

“These systems can free up staff for the police and create more space in the airport,” he added.

The passenger’s face is also printed in encrypted form on the boarding pass so that it can be scanned by staff at the gate for a final identity check.

Thales hopes to build on its expertise as the maker of biometric passports and ID cards for 25 countries, including France.

Perhaps robots will be drafted in at French airports where the border police have been criticized for not being polite enough.

(A woman tests the new technology. Photo: AFP)

(A woman tests the new technology. Photo: AFP)

Last week the French foreign minister unveiled a new campaign aimed at making France more polite for visitors. It includes one measure that will force border police to say “Hello, “thank you” and “goodbye” to every passenger as they check their passport.

Meanwhile, in another air show stand, competitors Safran discussed their new systems for coping with the giant amount of data being collected on passengers. Read the rest of this entry »


Jobs That Humans Will Never Do Again, As Long As We Have Robots

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 writes: Robots are entering the workforce. Some will work alongside you. Others, sadly, will put you out of work. The question is, which jobs are actually on the chopping block?

The answer to that has been bathed in media hype, but we talked to experts who gave us some realistic answers about which human careers might be endangered — and why.

Warehouse and factory workers

Robots are already working in distribution centres. This kind of setting is fertile ground for robot takeover, because bots are good at repetitive tasks that don’t require them to adapt to new situations on the fly. Adjusting to dynamic environments, improvising reactions, and nuancing your behaviour based on the changing situation are still very human things to do. Robot developers have a hard time perfecting those behaviours in robots, which is why we don’t see a Rosie the tidying, talking, wisecracking housemaid bot yet.

But in factories, robots can be programmed to do one thing, in one place, over and over again. It’s called “narrow AI.” A robot can be stationed in one spot on the distribution warehouse floor, lifting palettes that are all the same shape and size, and placing them on a conveyor belt whose location never changes. In fact, this is already happening in shipping centres like United Parcel Service in the US, where 7,000 packages are sorted every minute.

Chauffeurs, cab drivers, etc.

Add professional car drivers to the vulnerable list. We’re already in the midst of this transition. “I think cars, especially cars for hire, will probably be autonomous,” says Richard Alan Peters, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University and CTO at Universal Robotics.

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Obviously, companies like Google have some crash-related kinks to iron out of their self-driving experiments. Plus a nightmarish morass of legislation awaits this industry of automatic magic cars that cruise busy streets without a human at the helm. But it’s happening: Look at Carnegie Mellon University, where Uber has a whole lab set up solely for self-driving cars.

Security Guards

“Especially [security guards] that are out observing the perimeter after hours. Checking doors and halls will be automated,” Peters says. Basically, any job that’s super repetitive could be a target for robot replacement. To compound that, any repetitive job that the robot can do better than a human is especiallyvulnerable.

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Robo security guards already kind of exist. Microsoft announced last year that they have toyed with Dalek-shaped sentries roaming their Silicon Valley campus. These five-foot tall, lidar-equipped bots scan intruders, recognise licence plates, and comb social media activity for any hints of danger in the area. The makers of these robots say the intention is not to replace human security guards. We’ll see about that, though, as the tech continues to advance.

Large-Scale Custodians

Here, we’re talking about facility cleaning that doesn’t require fine motor skills. So folks who might come to your office and power blast your cafeteria floor, for example, could be replaced by robots. Polishing, vacuuming, scrubbing… that’s what robots will be doing (and already are doing in many homes with Roombas). However, not all custodians need worry (yet).

“The history of robotics shows that most tasks — e.g., tidying a room — are much harder for robots than one might think,” says Seth Lloyd, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT. Tasks like cleaning an apparatus that’s a bit more complex — say a toilet or sink — will still require humans who have articulated manipulators and nimble fingers covered with sensor-packed skin.

[Read the full text here, at Gizmodo Australia]

Lloyd is “pretty sceptical” about robots taking over jobs. He quips that based on how some people talk so grandly about robots in the workforce, that although “robots still won’t be able to tidy a room,” we will have “robotic teenagers able to mess up rooms in new and creative ways.”

Construction Workers

“A lot of research is going into cooperative assembly by robots,” Peters explains. He says that assembly of huge objects like ships and planes will be largely automated soon. Again, the main reason is a lot of manual labour is involved: pick up that piece of drywall, hold something in place, screw something in. Read the rest of this entry »


Navy to Accelerate Artificial Intelligence Development for Warfighting, Support Roles

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 reports: The Navy wants to integrate robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) into more of its workload, from warfighting missions to non-combat support roles, and is seeking fleet input on what types of AI research are worth investing in.

“Traditionally in the Department of the Navy the focus is on the warfighting mission, and rightfully so, but maybe not so much on the support side. So how does artificial intelligence and robotics fit into some of the operational support functions or even management?”

— Bob Kozloski, deputy director of Task Force Innovation and deputy chief of the Office of Strategy and Innovation

The service already has, in varying stages of completion, its Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) in the air, a Large Diameter Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) under the sea and the Swarmboat unmanned vehicle on the surface. The warfighting value for these platforms is clear, the service said.

“The private sector is investing heavily in AI and robotics automation for decision-making and physical implementation tasks. ”

“Traditionally in the Department of the Navy the focus is on the warfighting mission, and rightfully so, but maybe not so much on the support side,” Bob Kozloski, deputy director of Task Force Innovation and deputy chief of the Office of Strategy and Innovation, told USNI News on Wednesday. “So how does artificial intelligence and robotics fit into some of the operational support functions or even management?”

“The DON could benefit from considering how to adapt recent private sector advances in fields such as machine learning, natural language processing, ontological engineering, and automated planning for naval applications.”

— From the memo

Kozloski’s office released a memo on June 5 outlining the path forward in identifying opportunities to integrate robotics and AI into Navy operations and for leveraging commercial development.

“The private sector is investing heavily in AI and robotics automation for decision-making and physical implementation tasks,” according to the memo. “The DON could benefit from considering how to adapt recent private sector advances in fields such as machine learning, natural language processing, ontological engineering, and automated planning for naval applications.” Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Troubling Robot Revolution

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China is now shifting its appetite to robots, a transition that will have significant consequences for China’s economy — and the world’s

Martin Ford writes: Over the last decade, China has become, in the eyes of much of the world, a job-eating monster, consuming entire industries with its seemingly limitless supply of low-wage workers. But the reality is that China is now shifting its appetite to robots, a transition that will have significant consequences for China’s economy — and the world’s.

In 2014, Chinese factories accounted for about a quarter of the global ranks of industrial robots — a 54 percent increase over 2013. According to the International Federation of Robotics, it will have more installed manufacturing robots than any other country by 2017.

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Midea, a leading manufacturer of home appliances in the heavily industrialized province of Guangdong, plans to replace 6,000 workers in its residential air-conditioning division, about a fifth of the work force, with automation by the end of the year. Foxconn, which makes consumer electronics for Apple and other companies, plans to automate about 70 percent of factory work within three years, and already has a fully robotic factory in Chengdu.

[Check out Martin Ford’s book “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future” at Amazon.com]

Chinese factory jobs may thus be poised to evaporate at an even faster pace than has been the case in the United States and other developed countries. That may make it significantly more difficult for China to address one of its paramount economic challenges: the need to rebalance its economy so that domestic consumption plays a far more significant role than is currently the case.

China’s economic growth has been driven not just by manufacturing exports, but also by fixed investment in things like housing, factories and infrastructure — in fact, in recent years investment has made up nearly half of its gross domestic product. Meanwhile, domestic consumer spending represents only about a third of the economic pie, or roughly half the level in the United States.

This is clearly unsustainable. After all, there eventually has to be a return on all those investments. Factories have to produce goods that are profitably sold. Homes have to be occupied, and rent has to be paid. Generating those returns will require Chinese households to step up and play a larger role: They will have to spend far more, not just on the goods produced in China’s factories, but increasingly in the service sector.

[Read the full text here, at NYTimes.com]

Making that happen will be an extraordinary challenge. Indeed, the Chinese leadership has been talking about it for years, but virtually no progress has been made. One problem is that even in the wake of recent wage increases, average Chinese households simply have too little income relative to the size of the economy. Read the rest of this entry »


Ray Kurzweil: Humans will be hybrids by 2030

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That’s the prediction of Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, who spoke Wednesday at the Exponential Finance conference in New York.

“We’re going to gradually merge and enhance ourselves. In my view, that’s the nature of being human — we transcend our limitations.”

Kurzweil predicts that humans will become hybrids in the 2030s. That means our brains will be able to connect directly to the cloud, where there will be thousands of computers, and those computers will augment our existing intelligence. He said the brain will connect via nanobots — tiny robots made from DNA strands.

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“As I wrote starting 20 years ago, technology is a double-edged sword. Fire kept us warm and cooked our food but also burnt down our houses. Every technology has had its promise and peril.”

“Our thinking then will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking,” he said.

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The bigger and more complex the cloud, the more advanced our thinking. By the time we get to the late 2030s or the early 2040s, Kurzweil believes our thinking will be predominately non-biological.

We’ll also be able to fully back up our brains. Read the rest of this entry »


James R. Hagerty: Meet the New Generation of Robots for Manufacturing

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They are nimbler, lighter and work better with humans. They might even help bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

James R. Hagerty writes: A new generation of robots is on the way—smarter, more mobile, more collaborative and more adaptable. They promise to bring major changes to the factory floor, as well as potentially to the global competitive landscape.

Robots deployed in manufacturing today tend to be large, dangerous to anyone who strays too close to their whirling arms, and limited to one task, like welding, painting or hoisting heavy parts.

“Robots are going to change the economic calculus for manufacturing. People will spend less time chasing low-cost labor.”

— Hal Sirkin, a Chicago-based senior partner of Boston Consulting Group

The latest models entering factories and being developed in labs are a different breed. They can work alongside humans without endangering them and help assemble all sorts of objects, as large as aircraft engines and as small and delicate as smartphones. Soon, some should be easy enough to program and deploy that they no longer will need expert overseers.

“Researchers hope robots will become so easy to set up and move around that they can reduce the need for companies to make heavy investments in tools and structures that are bolted to the floor.”

That will change not only the way an increasing number of products are made. It could also mean an upheaval in the competition between companies and nations. As robots become less costly and more accessible, they should help smaller manufacturers go toe to toe with giants. By reducing labor costs, they also may allow the U.S. and other high-wage countries to get back into some of the processes that have been ceded to China, Mexico and other countries with vast armies of lower-paid workers.

“That would allow manufacturers to make shorter runs of niche or custom products without having to spend lots of time and money reconfiguring factories.”

Some of the latest robots are designed specifically for the tricky job of assembling consumer-electronics items, now mostly done by hand in Asia. At least one company promises its robots eventually will be sewing garments in the U.S., taking over one of the ultimate sweatshop tasks.

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“Robots are going to change the economic calculus for manufacturing,” says Hal Sirkin, a Chicago-based senior partner of Boston Consulting Group. “People will spend less time chasing low-cost labor.”

The changing face

Today, industrial robots are most common in auto plants—which have long been the biggest users of robot technology—and they do jobs that don’t take much delicacy: heavy lifting, welding, applying glue and painting. People still do most of the final assembly of cars, especially when it involves small parts or wiring that needs to be guided into place.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Now robots are taking on some jobs that require more agility. At a Renault SA plant in Cleon, France, robots made by Universal Robots AS of Denmark drive screws into engines, especially those that go into places people find hard to get at. The robots employ a reach of more than 50 inches and six rotating joints to do the work. They also verify that parts are properly fastened and check to make sure the correct part is being used.

At a Renault car plant, robots drive screws into engines—a sign of their progress in handling small parts. Photo: Renault

At a Renault car plant, robots drive screws into engines—a sign of their progress in handling small parts. Photo: Renault

The Renault effort demonstrates a couple of trends that are drastically changing how robots are made. For one, they’re getting much lighter. The Renault units weigh only about 64 pounds, so “we can easily remove them and reinstall them in another place,” says Dominique Graille, a manager at Renault, which is using 15 robots from Universal now and plans to double that by year-end. Read the rest of this entry »


Professor Yuval Noah Harari: Humans ‘Will Become God-Like Cyborgs Within 200 Years’

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 writes: Wealthy humans are likely become cyborgs within 200 years as they gradually merge with technology like computers and smart phones, a historian has claimed.

“I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering of by the creation of cyborgs, part organic part non-organic.”

Yuval Noah Harari, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the amalgamation of man and machine will be the ‘biggest evolution in biology’ since the emergence of life four billion years ago.

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“It will be the greatest evolution in biology since the appearance of life. Nothing really has changed in four billion years biologically speaking. But we will be as different from today’s humans as chimps are now from us.”

Prof Harari, who has written a landmark book charting the history of humanity, said mankind would evolve to become like gods with the power over death, and be as different from humans of today as we are from chimpanzees.

Yuval Noah Harari holds a homo sapiens skull

Yuval Noah Harari holds a homo sapiens skull

“What enables humans to cooperate flexibly, and exist in large societies is our imagination. With religion it’s easy to understand. You can’t convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana with the promise it will get 20 more bananas in chimpanzee heaven. It won’t do it. But humans will.”

sapiens-bookHe argued that humans as a race were driven by dissatisfaction and that we would not be able to resist the temptation to ‘upgrade’ ourselves, whether by genetic engineering or technology.

[Order Professor Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” from Amazon.com]

“We are programmed to be dissatisfied, “ said Prof Harari. “Even when humans gain pleasure and achievements it is not enough. They want more and more.”

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“Most legal systems are based on human rights but it is all in our imagination. Money is the most successful story ever. You have the master storytellers, the bankers, the finance ministers telling you that money is worth something. It isn’t. Try giving money to a chimp. It’s worthless.”

“I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering of by the creation of cyborgs, part organic part non-organic.”

“God is extremely important because without religious myth you can’t create society. Religion is the most important invention of humans.”

— Yuval Noah Harari

“It will be the greatest evolution in biology since the appearance of life. Nothing really has changed in four billion years biologically speaking. But we will be as different from today’s humans as chimps are now from us.”

[Read the full text here, at the Telegraph]

However he warned that the ‘cyborg’ technology would be restricted to the wealthiest in society, widening the gap between rich and poor in society. In the future the rich may be able to live forever while the poor would die out. Read the rest of this entry »


Clinton emails silent on deadly danger facing Americans in Benghazi

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a round table discussion at Smuttynose Brewery, Friday, May 22, 2015, in Hampton, NH. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Byron York writes: The newly released Hillary Clinton Benghazi emails do not contain any communications relating to security from the critical last month before the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. facility in Libya. During that period, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who along with three other Americans would die in the attack, warned Clinton and other State Department officials of a growing danger, indeed a security emergency, in Libya. Stevens specifically noted that the possibility of an attack on Americans was growing, and, if such an attack occurred, the U.S. contingent did not have the strength to repel it. But to judge from the emails made public Friday, Clinton gave not a thought to the matter.

Go back to August 2012. On the 15th of that month, U.S. security officers in Libya held an “emergency” meeting to address the very real possibility that growing violence in the area could soon target Americans. The next day, Aug. 16, Stevens sent a cable to Clinton concluding that the Americans in Libya could not defend U.S. facilities “in the event of a coordinated attack, due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound.” Read the rest of this entry »


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