Tag Archives: Robots

Personality Amplification: HER vs. TRANSCENDENCE

The Wall Street Journal examines HER, and finds that the Artificial Intelligence community is intrigued by the optimistic view of the future presented in the Spike Jonze film. TRANSCENDENCE, coming soon, may offer a different perspective. her-joaquin-phoenix-spike-jonze transcendence-full-trailer-johnny-depp

Above: A rosy Joaquin Phoenix. Below: A darker Johnny Depp.

“Exploring personality amplification through technology is a key concept” in HER, writes Robin Kawakami in WSJ. “In the same way that various gadgets enhance our abilities—whether it’s finding our way around with a GPS or moving objects with machines—an AI might enable us to accomplish certain goals, just as Samantha nudged Theodore toward a book contract.”

The article quotes Stephen Wolfram, “whose Wolfram Alpha drives the artificial intelligence-like component of Siri on the iPhone, thinks that an operating system like Samantha as depicted in the film is not only possible, the technology behind it isn’t that far off… ‘What could you achieve by having an emotional connection to a sophisticated, AI-like thing?’ he said. ‘Can you be the best instance of what you intended to be?'”In this future view, technology is here to enhance us.

Erik Sofge, writing in Popular Science, finds this optimistic vision refreshing: “even if it wasn’t intended as a counterpoint to the collective upswing in robophobia, Her does the job nicely. It presents an AI that feels realistic, in the way that it interacts with humans, and, maybe more importantly, in its complete disinterest in conquering us.” Sofge believes that “robot-related hysteria is on the rise,” pointing to developments such as Google’s recent purchases of robotics and AI companies.

Google, which spends nearly $8 billion per year on research and development, announced today it has acquired DeepMind, an artificial intelligence firm in the UK.  This follows Google’s purchase of 8 cutting edge robotics companies in the last 6 months. The crown jewel is Boston Dynamics, profiled here at Singularity Hub. “The firm’s humanoid Atlas and Petman robots can balance on two legs, walk, and do calisthenics…Beyond the bipedal, the company’s Cheetah robot runs faster than Usain Bolt; their WildCat robot recently took Cheetah’s tricks beyond the treadmill; their robot SandFlea leaps onto tall buildings; and LS3 autonomously follows soldiers across rough terrain, carrying gear and supplies on its back.”

Consider this Boston Dynamics model, the Petman, and then imagine this robot with advanced artificial intelligence:

TRANSCENDENCE, starring Johnny Depp, opens April 17, 2014. This film investigates a different course for the future of human/machine interaction.

TRANSCENDENCE promises to consider whether Personality Amplification is always a positive enhancement. Kawakumi anticipates this issue:

“can an AI-driven agenda aimed at personal improvement actually limit us? Since machines are generally better at predicting a little bit into the future than humans are, Wolfram sees a possibility of people following computer recommendations. ‘A funny view of the future is that everybody is going around looking at the sequence of auto-suggests,’ he said. ‘And pretty soon the machines are in charge.’”

Ultimately, Sofge finds hope in HER:

Being smart doesn’t guarantee malice, or a callous urge to enslave or destroy less-capable beings… Which is why Her, and its version of the Singularity, is so refreshing. Samantha doesn’t lose her charm, or her compassion, even as her intelligence surpasses biological comparison or understanding. In fact, she claims to love us more. The AIs (Samantha is one of many) don’t follow the vicious Darwinian logic that many in the Singularity camp see as a given. The machines become smarter, but not superior. They’re the ultimate intellectuals—far too busy with discourse and theory to even consider something as superfluous as enslaving or supplanting their creators.

Her is a beautiful movie, for Joaquin Phoenix’s stripped-bare performance, its patient direction and plotting, and a host of other reasons that belong in a genuine review. But it’s also a film that understands that AI doesn’t have to be inherently terrifying. Her is smart enough to find beauty in intelligence, whether its modeled after our own thoughts, or ascending towards something much stranger.

Not a movie: Robots have their own World Wide Web

_71855175_robotbodyBBC News reports that a world wide web for robots to learn from each other and share information is being shown off for the first time. In an article titled “Robots Test Their Own World Wide Web, Dubbed RoboEarth” the news site describes the system, which has been developed by research scientists from Philips and five European universities.

“At its core RoboEarth is a world wide web for robots: a giant network and database repository where robots can share information and learn from each other,” said Rene van de Molengraft, the RoboEarth project leader.

The aim of the system is to create a kind of ever-changing common brain for robots.

Author James Barrat, who has written extensively about the dangers of robots gaining their own intelligence, thinks there need to be safeguards.

“In the short term, RoboEarth adds security by building in a single point of failure for all participating robots,” he said.

“In the longer term, watch out when any of the nodes can evolve or otherwise improve their own software. The consequences of sharing that capability with the central ‘mind’ should be explored before it happens.”

Elsewhere on BBC News, Jane Wakefield reviews advances in artificial intelligence, in the article “Singularity: The Robots Are Coming To Steal Our Jobs.”

“AI’s are embedded in the fabric of our everyday lives,” head of AI at Singularity University, Neil Jacobstein, told the BBC.

“They are used in medicine, in law, in design and throughout automotive industry.”

Wakefield writes: “And each day the algorithms that power away, making decisions behind the scenes, are getting smarter.

It means that one of the biggest quests of the modern world – the search to make machines as intelligent as humans – could be getting tantalisingly close.

Mr Jacobstein predicts that artificial intelligence will overtake human intelligence in the mid-2020s.”

As an example of the coming changes in the workplace, she reports that “Chinese company Hon Hai, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, has announced it intends to build a robot-making factory and replace 500,000 workers with robots over the next three years.” The article points out that “Google has just bought eight robotic firms, while Facebook has its very own AI lab.”

She continues: “if the rise of the robots is inevitable – albeit a few years off – then it is also a logical step that humans will eventually be eliminated from the decision chain entirely, meaning AIs will be controlling other AIs.”

This seems to be happening already: RoboEarth.