Interview: Martin Ford, Author Of ‘Rise Of The Robots’
From the self-checkout aisle of the grocery store to the sports section of the newspaper, robots and computer software are increasingly taking the place of humans in the workforce. Silicon Valley executive Martin Ford says that robots, once thought of as a threat to only manufacturing jobs, are poised to replace humans as teachers, journalists, lawyers and others in the service sector.
“As we look forward from this point, we need to keep in mind that this technology is going to continue to accelerate. So I think there’s every reason to believe it’s going to become the primary driver of inequality in the future, and things are likely to get even more extreme than they are now.”
“There’s already a hardware store [in California] that has a customer service robot that, for example, is capable of leading customers to the proper place on the shelves in order to find an item,” Ford tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies.
In his new book, Rise of the Robots, Ford considers the social and economic disruption that is likely to result when educated workers can no longer find employment.
“As we look forward from this point, we need to keep in mind that this technology is going to continue to accelerate,” Ford says. “So I think there’s every reason to believe it’s going to become the primary driver of inequality in the future, and things are likely to get even more extreme than they are now.”
Any jobs that are truly repetitive or rote — doing the same thing again and again — in advanced economies like the United States or Germany, those jobs are long gone. They’ve already been replaced by robots years and years ago.
So what we’ve seen in manufacturing is that the jobs that are actually left for people to do tend to be the ones that require more flexibility or require visual perception and dexterity. Very often these jobs kind of fill in the gaps between machines.
For example, feeding parts into the next part of the production process or very often they’re at the end of the process — perhaps loading and unloading trucks and moving raw materials and finished products around, those types of things. Read the rest of this entry »
Students at The University of Pennsylvania have created DORA, a robot that both mimics the movements of and sends visual information to a virtual reality headset. Their goal is to give users the experience of actually inhabiting the robot’s body, even if it’s halfway around the world. WSJ‘s Christopher Mims reports.
A panel of experts discusses the prospect of machines capable of autonomous reasoning
Ted Greenwald writes: After decades as a sci-fi staple, artificial intelligence has leapt into the mainstream. Between Apple ’s Siri and Amazon ’s Alexa, IBM ’s Watson and Google Brain, machines that understand the world and respond productively suddenly seem imminent.
The combination of immense Internet-connected networks and machine-learning algorithms has yielded dramatic advances in machines’ ability to understand spoken and visual communications, capabilities that fall under the heading “narrow” artificial intelligence. Can machines capable of autonomous reasoning—so-called general AI—be far behind? And at that point, what’s to keep them from improving themselves until they have no need for humanity?
The prospect has unleashed a wave of anxiety. “I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” astrophysicist Stephen Hawking told the BBC. Tesla founder Elon Musk called AI “our biggest existential threat.” Former Microsoft Chief Executive Bill Gates has voiced his agreement.
How realistic are such concerns? And how urgent? We assembled a panel of experts from industry, research and policy-making to consider the dangers—if any—that lie ahead. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Toshiba’s Communication Robot Chihira Aico’s Debut as a Receptionist Impresses Department Store CustomersPosted: May 14, 2015
“Humanoid robot capable of expressing various feeling.”
According to RocketNews24, Toshiba has plans to expand its robotics business outside of customer service and into healthcare, especially as companions for Japan’s aging population. Read the rest of this entry »
Bill Gertz reports: China’s military plans to produce nearly 42,000 land-based and sea-based unmanned weapons and sensor platforms as part of its continuing, large-scale military buildup, the Pentagon’s annual report on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) disclosed Friday.
“Together with the increased mobility and survivability of the new generation of missiles, these technologies and training enhancements strengthen China’s nuclear force and bolster its strategic strike capabilities.”
China currently operates several armed and unarmed drone aircraft and is developing long-range range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for both intelligence gathering and bombing attacks.
“The acquisition and development of longer-range UAVs will increase China’s ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations,” the report said.
China’s ability to use drones is increasing and the report said China “plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.”
“The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV.”
Four UAVs under development include the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian, with the latter three drones configured to fire precision-strike weapons.
“The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV,” the report said.
The drone buildup is part of what the Pentagon identified as a decades-long military buildup that last year produced new multi-warhead missiles and a large number of submarines and ships.
“China will likely continue to invest considerable resources to maintain a limited, but survivable, nuclear force to ensure the PLA can deliver a damaging responsive nuclear strike.”
Additionally, the Pentagon for the first time confirmed China’s development of an ultra-high speed maneuvering strike vehicle as part of its growing strategic nuclear arsenal.
“China is working on a range of technologies to attempt to counter U.S. and other countries’ ballistic missile defense systems, including maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRV), [multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles], decoys, chaff, jamming, and thermal shielding,” the report, made public Friday, states.
“The United States and China acknowledge that the Chinese tested a hypersonic glide vehicle in 2014,” the report noted.
It was the first time the Pentagon confirmed the existence of what is known as the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle, a strike weapon that travels at the edge of space at nearly 10 times the speed of sound.
The Wu-14, designed to deliver nuclear weapons through U.S. missile defenses, was first disclosed by the Washington Free Beacon, which reported on three tests conducted in 2014.
“Together with the increased mobility and survivability of the new generation of missiles, these technologies and training enhancements strengthen China’s nuclear force and bolster its strategic strike capabilities,” the report said. Read the rest of this entry »
Vipal Monga writes: Five years ago, 80 clerks and salespeople at Pilot Travel Centers LLC spent a combined 3,200 hours a week tracking and paying for orders for thousands of goods, ranging from candy bars to diesel fuel.
“Today, a computer ‘robot’—basically software—automates these tasks…software sends out payments and records every transaction. As a result, the company needs just 10 clerks working a weekly total of 400 hours to pay suppliers.”
They typed the orders into an accounts-payable database, and printed out thousands of checks to pay suppliers. After slipping them into envelopes and adding postage, they put the checks in the mail.
“Automation is threatening to replace swaths of white-collar workers, much as mechanical robots have displaced blue-collar workers on assembly lines.”
“It was just awful,” said David Clothier, treasurer of the Knoxville, Tenn., company, which operates more than 500 Pilot Flying J truck stops nationwide. “There were humans everywhere.”
Today, a computer “robot”—basically software—automates these tasks. Suppliers send their invoices to Pilot Travel electronically. Its software sends out payments and records every transaction. As a result, the company needs just 10 clerks working a weekly total of 400 hours to pay suppliers.
Robots are taking over corporate finance departments, performing work that often required whole teams of people. Big companies such as Pilot Travel, New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and GameStop Corp., of Grapevine, Texas, are among those using software to automate many corporate bookkeeping and accounting tasks.
Businesses use these programs to save time and staffing costs. Since 2004, the median number of full-time employees in the finance department at big companies has declined 40% to about 71 people for every $1 billion of revenue, down from 119, according to Hackett Group, a consulting firm. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON — Jeff Foust writes: The failure of a Russian Progress spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station is unlikely to have a significant near-term effect on station operations, but will place a greater burden on upcoming resupply missions and could alter the cargo those missions carry.
A Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrying the Progress M-27M spacecraft lifted off on schedule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:09 a.m. Eastern time April 28. The launch appeared to take place normally, putting the spacecraft on track to dock with the ISS about six hours later.
However, shortly after the Progress reached orbit, controllers reported that two antennas used as part of the spacecraft’s docking system failed to deploy properly. NASA initially announced that the docking would be delayed until early April 30 to give engineers time to resolve the antenna problem.
“Roscosmos announced that the Progress will not be docking and will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere here some days in the future.”
— NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, April 29, 2015
Within hours, though, it was clear the problem with the Soyuz was more serious than a faulty antenna. The spacecraft entered a roll, and Russian controllers reported problems maintaining communications with the spacecraft. NASA announced later April 28 that it had called off an attempted April 30 docking.
The U.S. Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center, tracking the Progress, said in an April 28 statement that the spacecraft was rotating “at a rate of 360 degrees every five seconds,” or 12 RPM. The Air Force also reported tracking 44 pieces of debris in the vicinity of the Progress and its Soyuz upper stage, but could not determine from which object the debris originated.
NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos ruled out any attempt to dock the Progress with the ISS on April 29. “Roscosmos announced that the Progress will not be docking and will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere here some days in the future,” NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, currently on the station, said in an interview on NASA Television April 29.
The cause of the Progress failure, including whether it is a flaw with the spacecraft or its launch vehicle, is unclear. Roscosmos, in an April 29 statement, said telemetry from the Progress was interrupted 1.5 seconds before the Progress was scheduled to separate from the Soyuz upper stage. When contact was restored after separation, the spacecraft was in a spin.
With no ability to control the spacecraft, the Progress’s orbit will decay and the spacecraft will reenter some time in early May. Holger Krag, head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, said April 30 that he estimated the Progress would reenter on May 9, with a margin of error of two days.
Most of the spacecraft will burn up in the atmosphere. “However, we cannot exclude the chance that some portion of its structure, for example the heavy docking mechanism or tanks and thrusters, could survive reentry to reach the surface,” Krog said. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Robotic Spacecraft MESSENGER Is Out of Fuel, Doomed to Crash Into Mercury This Afternoon at More Than 8,750 MPHPosted: April 30, 2015
The robotic spacecraft MESSENGER has run out of fuel. With no way to make major adjustments to its orbit around the planet Mercury, the probe will smash into the surface at more than 8,750 miles per hour (3.91 kilometers per second). The impact will add a new crater to the planet’s scarred face that engineers estimate will be as wide as 52 feet (16 meters).
The robot’s purchases included a Hungarian passport, Ecstasy pills, fake Diesel jeans, a Sprite can with a hole cut out in order to stash cash, Nikes, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, cigarettes and the ‘Lord of the Rings‘ e-book collection
Arjun Kharpal reports: This is the curious story of how a robot armed with a weekly budget of $100 in bitcoin managed to buy Ecstasy, a Hungarian passport and a baseball cap with a built-in camera—before getting arrested.
The “automated online shopping bot” was set up in October last year by Swiss art group, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, as an art installation to explore the “dark web”—the hidden, un-indexed part of the Internet.
Each week, the robot was given $100 worth of Bitcoin— the major hard-to-trace cryptocurrency—and programmed to randomly purchase one item from Agora, an online marketplace on the dark web where shoppers can buy drugs and other illegal items. The items were automatically delivered to a Swiss art gallery called Kunst Halle St Gallen to form an exhibition.
“This is a great day for the ‘bot, for us and for freedom of art!”
— !Mediengruppe Bitnik, in a blog post
The robot was christened “Random Darknet Shopper” and its purchases included a Hungarian passport, Ecstasy pills, fake Diesel jeans, a Sprite can with a hole cut out in order to stash cash, Nike trainers, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, cigarettes and the “Lord of the Rings” e-book collection.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the robot and his artistic creators had a run in with the law. In January 2015, the Swiss police confiscated the robot and its illegal purchases.
However, three months later, the Random Darknet Shopper was returned to the artists, along with all its purchases except the Ecstasy (also known as MDMA) tablets, which were destroyed by the Swiss authorities.
The artists behind the robot escaped without any charges. Read the rest of this entry »
Brian Krassenstein reports: Education is probably one of the areas that will benefit the most from 3D printers in the long run. The problem though is getting the machines into the schools in the first place. With prices generally ranging from $400 to $3,000 for typical desktop 3D printers, they are not cheap, and with budgets within many school districts running dry, both in the United States and overseas, the unfortunate fact is that many schools simply can’t afford them, not to mention the materials and time it takes to train teachers to use them.
Speaking with former MakerBot CEO, Jenny Lawton, at CES this year, she told me that 3D printing will become mainstream and really begin to explode as far as adoption rates go, when a full cycle of education has been exposed to the technology. Just like many of us who were exposed in school to desktop computing back in the ’80s and ’90s can’t envision not having access to a computers now, the children of today may one day think the same about 3D printers.
The United States clearly understands the importance of this technology, particularly President Obama. In addition to investing heavily to bring manufacturing back to US soil, he has mentioned the importance of 3D printing on several occasions, visiting manufacturing facilities that are using 3D printers, and even going as far speaking about the technology in one of his State of the Union Addresses.
According to Shen, the Chinese government has a new policy to install a 3D printer in each of its approximately 400,000 elementary schools over the next two years. This number caught me totally off guard for two reason. First of all, that’s a lot of elementary schools. For instance, in the United States we have approximately 70,000 elementary schools, and approximately 100,000 total public schools. As a nation we could easily match China’s ambitions. Read the rest of this entry »
A perfect storm of economic forces is fueling the trend
Timothy Aeppel reports: Having devoured many of the world’s factory jobs, China is now handing them over to robots.
China is already the world’s largest market for industrial robots—sales of the machines last year grew 54% from 2013. The nation is expected to have more factory robots than any other country on earth by 2017, according to the German-based International Federation of Robotics.
A perfect storm of economic forces is fueling the trend. Chinese labor costs have soared, undermining the calculus that brought all those jobs to China in the first place, and new robot technology is cheaper and easier to deploy than ever before.
Not to mention that many of China’s fastest-growing industries, such as autos, tend to rely on high levels of automation regardless of where the factories are built.
“We think of them producing cheap widgets,” but that’s not what they’re focused on, says Adams Nager, an economic research analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation in Washington. Mr. Nager says China is letting low-cost production shift out of the country and is focusing instead on capital-intensive industries such as steel and electronics where automation is a driving force.
China’s emergence as an automation hub contradicts many assumptions about robots. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Meet キロボ Kirobo: The First Companion Robot to Go to Space Returns to Earth After 18-Month JourneyPosted: April 2, 2015
After a 18-month mission aboard the International Space Station, the tiny Japanese robot Kirobo returned to Earth on February 2015. During a press conference, organizers celebrated the successful project.
A patent that has just been awarded to Google suggests that either could be possible and that we could potentially download different personality types from the cloud.
In fact, if you can’t choose what kind of personality you want for your future robo-pal, it’s highly possible that it might be able to choose for you. It would do this by accessing your devices and learning about you, before configuring a tailored personality based on that information. In addition it could use speech and facial recognition to personalise its interactions with you.
“It’s possible that if you uploaded its personality to the cloud you might be able to transfer it to another robot.”
The original question posed still stands though — you could potentially always choose a specific personality type for your Google robot that represents the kind of person you enjoy interacting with. This personality could even be triggered by specific cues or circumstances that the robot could detect, says the patent, which was spotted by Quartz.
“Unlike Newton and Stephanie from Short Circuit who were devastated when they believed their beloved Johnny Five had been destroyed, you never need get emotional over or be concerned about the physical destruction of your robot.”
“The robot personality may also be modifiable within a base personality construct (i.e., a default-persona) to provide states or moods representing transitory conditions of happiness, fear, surprise, perplexion (e.g., the Woody Allen robot), thoughtfulness, derision (e.g., the Rodney Dangerfield robot), and so forth,” states the patent.
“A more concerning concept perhaps though is that a robot could be programmed to take on the personality of a real-world person — the patent suggests a deceased loved one or a celebrity — so that effectively you could get someone to live on after their death in robot form.”
It also suggests that should a cruel fate befall your robot, that might not spell the end of its days. It’s possible that if you uploaded its personality to the cloud you might be able to transfer it to another robot.
Unlike Newton and Stephanie from Short Circuit who were devastated when they believed their beloved Johnny Five had been destroyed, you never need get emotional over or be concerned about the physical destruction of your robot. Read the rest of this entry »
Drones are enabling filmmakers experiment with aerial cinematography in ways not possible before. From action sports to music videos, check out footage captured with the help of drones.
CBCNews: Hillary Clinton gets her own ready-for-action figure
The human self has five components. Machines now have three of them. How far away is artificial consciousness – and what does it tell us about ourselves?
“I say robot, you say no-bot!”
Jon Swartz reports: The chant reverberated through the air near the entrance to the SXSW tech and entertainment festival here.
About two dozen protesters, led by a computer engineer, echoed that sentiment in their movement against artificial intelligence.
“Machines have already taken over. If you drive a car, much of what it does is technology-driven.”
— Ben Medlock, co-founder of mobile-communications company SwiftKey
“This is is about morality in computing,” said Adam Mason, 23, who organized the protest.
Signs at the scene reflected the mood. “Stop the Robots.” “Humans are the future.”
The mini-rally drew a crowd of gawkers, drawn by the sight of a rare protest here.
The dangers of more developed artificial intelligence, which is still in its early stages, has created some debate in the scientific community. Tesla founder Elon Musk donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute because of his fears.
Stephen Hawking and others have added to the proverbial wave of AI paranoia with dire predictions of its risk to humanity.
“I am amazed at the movement. I has changed life in ways as dramatic as the Industrial Revolution.”
— Stephen Wolfram, a British computer scientist, entrepreneur and former physicist known for his contributions to theoretical physics
The topic is an undercurrent in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a documentary about the fabled Apple co-founder. The paradoxical dynamic between people and tech products is a “double-edged sword,” said its Academy Award-winning director, Alex Gibney. “There are so many benefits — and yet we can descend into our smartphone.”
As non-plussed witnesses wandered by, another chant went up. “A-I, say goodbye.”
Several of the students were from the University of Texas, which is known for a strong engineering program. But they are deeply concerned about the implications of a society where technology runs too deep. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, this is sneaky — and for some, a little heartbreaking.
Tinder users at the SXSW festival on Saturday were encountering an attractive 25-year-old woman named Ava on the dating app. A friend of ours made a match with her, and soon they were have a conversation over text message. clear something was amiss…
There was one photo and one video, both promoting Ex Machina, a sci-fi film that just happened to be premiering Saturday night here in Austin. The link in her bio went to the film’s website. And it turns out the woman in the photos is Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who plays an artificial intelligence in the movie…(read more)
The Doll records children’s speech with an embedded microphone and sends it over the web
An advocacy group protested on Wednesday a so-called “eavesdropping” Barbie, which records children’s speech and sends that data over the Web.
The Doll records children’s speech with an embedded microphone and sends it over the web, which leaves kids vulnerable to stealth advertising tactics, the group said.
Chief executive Oren Jacob of ToyTalk, the San Francisco-based startup that created the technology in the doll, told the Journal that the captured audio files is “never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff. Not at all.” Instead, the technology is used to improve speech recognition, Jacob said.
Children press a button to chat with Hello Barbie, which “listens” to their speech and sends the audio recording over a WiFi connection to ToyTalk’s cloud-based servers, where that speech is recognized and processed. The Barbie can then make a response….(read more)
CHICAGO (CBS) — For generations, moms and dads across America have tried to dazzle their kids on the weekends, creating silly designs out of pancakes.
Typically, it would involve creating some sort of animal out of the batter. (Think, Mickey Mouse.)
Miguel Valenzuela aims to change that game, with the Pancake Bot–which is essentially a device that prints flapjacks. Read the rest of this entry »
Zip your zipper
It can go around curves and move forward and backward. Get ready for tiny bots to zip around your pants, jackets, and dresses.
Slay Motörhead covers
Just listen to that drumming. Lemmy may have found the band’s seventh drummer.
Swim like an octopus
These robot octopuses use webbed arms to quickly whip through the water.