Category Archives: Sci-Tech

Ron Paul’s transhumanist Bilderberg financier Peter Thiel looks forward to a computerized system of robotic justice after “Singularity”

Peter-Thiel-007

Will the Singularity Improve the Legal System? Peter Thiel Seems to Think So

The future of law will be computerized.

betabeat.com |Dec 7, 2012

By Patrick Clark

Here’s a Friday afternoon head-scratcher: What will legal systems look like in 1,000 years? No, really. If our arbiters of right and wrong become more highly automated, will we be smoothing over the imperfections of Lady Justice, or placing our respective fates in the hands of heartless machines. What will sentencing guidelines be like after the singularity?

If it’s not clear yet, we’ve been reading an account of a Peter Thiel guest lecture in a Stanford Law School course on legal technology. This is not for the faint of heart.

“So the set of all intelligent machines would be the superset of all aliens,” write Blake Masters in an essay describing the lecture. “The range and diversity of possible computers is actually much bigger than the range of possible life forms under known rules.”

In other words, who the hell knows. But also, probably we would be better in the hands of computers, and maybe here’s how:

Our human-based legal system is dependent on the arbitrariness of the actors, that’s sometimes bad, and sometimes good. Bad in the case of a biased jury or a pissed off judge. Good because if we all got hauled into court every time we broke the law we’d spend our lives shuttling back-and-forth from jail.

But if automated legal technology means fewer law-breakers escape the long arm, something will have to give:

If uniformly enforcing current laws would land everyone in jail, and transparency is only increasing, we’ll pretty much have to become a more tolerant society.

In which case, we may join Mr. Thiel in looking forward to a Hal of justice.

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Risk of a Terminator Style Robot Uprising to be Studied

terminator

technorati.com | Nov 27, 2012

by Adi Gaskell

In the movie Terminator, machines had grown so intelligent that by 2029 they had effectively taken over the planet, seeking to exterminate what remained of the human race along the way.

While that is firmly in the camp of science fiction, a team of researchers from Cambridge, England, are investigating what risk, if any, technology poses to mankind.

The research, conducted by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CESR), will look at the threat posed by technologies such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and climate change.

While many of us may think it unlikely that robots will take over Earth, the scientists at the center said that dismissing such possibilities would in itself be ‘dangerous’.

“The seriousness of these risks is difficult to assess, but that in itself seems a cause for concern, given how much is at stake,” the researchers wrote on a website set up for the center.

The CSER project has been co-founded by Cambridge philosophy professor Huw Price, cosmology and astrophysics professor Martin Rees and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn.

“It seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology,” Prof Price told the AFP news agency.

“What we’re trying to do is to push it forward in the respectable scientific community.”

Simulated Brain Ramps Up To Include 100 Trillion Synapses


Neurosynaptic Cores This network of neurosynaptic cores is derived from wiring in the monkey brain. The cores are clustered into regions, also inspired by the brain, and each core is represented by a point along the ring. Arcs connect the different cores to each other. Each core contains 256 neurons, 1024 axons, and 256×1024 synapses. IBM

popsci.com | Nov 19, 2012

By Rebecca Boyle

IBM is developing a cognitive computing program under a DARPA program and just hit a major high.

The Sequoia supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, recently crowned world champion of supercomputers, just simulated 10 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections among them–the most powerful brain simulation ever. IBM and LLNL built an unprecedented 2.084 billion neurosynaptic cores, which are an IBM-designed computer architecture that is designed to work like a brain.

IBM was careful to say it didn’t build a realistic simulated complete brain– “Rather, we have simulated a novel modular, scalable, non-von-Neumann, ultra-low power, cognitive computing architecture,” IBM researchers say in an abstract (PDF) of their new paper. It meets DARPA’s metric of 100 trillion synapses, which is based on the number of synapses in the human brain. This is part of DARPA’s cognitive computing program, called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE).

To do it, IBM used its cognitive computing chips, which the company unveiled last year. They are designed to recreate the phenomena between spiking neurons and synapses. More than 2 billion of these cores were divided into 77 brain-inspired regions, with gray matter and white matter connectivity, according to IBM. The gray matter networking comes from modeling, and the white matter networking comes from a detailed map of connections in the macaque brain. The combined total 530 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses ran 1,542 times slower than real time–actually quite fast, in computing terms.

The ultimate goal is a computer that works like a brain, and can analyze information in real time from multiple sources. Under SyNAPSE, it would also be able to rewire itself dynamically in response to its environment, just like real brains do. It would also have to be very small and low-power, which in some ways will be even more challenging than developing the connections. IBM presented its latest results at the Supercomputing 2012 conference.

Rise of the Machines: Autonomous killer robots ‘could be developed in 20 years’


Rise Of The Machines: The third instalment of the Terminator film franchise imagines the chain of events that leads to death-dealing computers taking over the planet using robot soldiers

‘If a robot goes wrong, who’s accountable? It certainly won’t be the robot’

– Noel Sharkey, University of Sheffield

Militaries around the world ‘very excited’ about replacing soldiers with robots that can act independently

U.S. leads the way with automated weapons systems, but drones still need remote control operator authorisation to open fire

Human Rights Watch calls for worldwide ban on autonomous killing machines before governments start using them

DailyMail | Nov 21, 2012

By Damien Gayle

Fully autonomous robots that decide for themselves when to kill could be developed within 20 to 30 years, or ‘even sooner’, a report has warned.

Militaries across the world are said to be ‘very excited’ about machines that could deployed alone in battle, sparing human troops from dangerous situations.

The U.S. is leading development in such ‘killer robots’, notably unmanned drones often used to attack suspected militants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

Drones are remotely controlled by human operators and unable to kill without authorisation, but weapons systems that require little human intervention already exist.

Raytheon’s Phalanx gun system, deployed on U.S. Navy ships, can search for enemy fire and destroy incoming projectiles by itself.

The Northrop Grumman X47B is a plane-sized drone able to take off and land on aircraft carriers, carry out air combat without a pilot and even refuel in the air.

But perhaps closest to the Terminator-type killing machine portrayed in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action films is a Samsung sentry robot already being used in South Korea.

The machine is able to spot unusual activity, challenge intruders and, when authorised by a human controller, open fire.

ROBOCOP GETS REAL
US researchers are working on a real-life Robocop who would patrol the streets to combat crime – just like in the film. Injured policemen or soldiers will be wired up to the ‘PatrolBot’, pictured below, which will effectively give them mechanical limbs that they have lost whilst in service. The plan is to make a basic version of Alex Murphy, the fictional policeman in the 1987 hit Robocop, who is turned into a cyber cop after being nearly killed in the line of duty. The new technology is based on advances in the US military in telerobotics, which is where users are wired up remotely to a robot and given physical feedback to simulate the feeling of being there.

The warnings come from a new report by Human Rights Watch, which insists that such Terminator-style robots are banned before governments start deploying them.

The report, dubbed Losing Humanity and co-written by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, raises the alarm over the ethics of the looming technology.

Calling them ‘killer robots,’ it urges ‘an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.’

Such machines would mean that human soldiers could be spared from dangerous situations, but the downside is that robots would then be left to make highly nuanced decisions on their own, the most fraught being the need to distinguish between civilians and combatants in a war zone.

‘A number of governments, including the United States, are very excited about moving in this direction, very excited about taking the soldier off the battlefield and putting machines on the battlefield and thereby lowering casualties,’ said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch.

While Goose said ‘killer robots’ do not exist as yet, he warned of precursors and added that the best way to forestall an ethical nightmare is a ‘preemptive, comprehensive prohibition on the development or production of these systems.’

The problem with handing over decision-making power to even the most sophisticated robots is that there would be no clear way of making anyone answer for the inevitable mistakes, said Noel Sharkey, professor of robotics at University of Sheffield.

‘If a robot goes wrong, who’s accountable? It certainly won’t be the robot,’ he said.

‘The robot could take a bullet in its computer and go berserk. So there’s no way of really determining who’s accountable and that’s very important for the laws of war.’

DARPA looks to Android to control wearable, battlefield Predator Vision system

extremetech.com | Nov 16, 2012

By John Hewitt

Smartphones and tablets have been taking the military by storm. In short order they have proven that they can do a better job in many areas than special purpose systems, some of which have been under development for fifteen or more years. Now DARPA has issued a public proposal for the development of an Android-based system that can integrate multiple camera streams and send the processed data to helmet- or rifle-mounted displays, as well as to fellow combatants and central command centers.

Operating under codename PIXNET (Pixel Network for Dynamic Visualization), the project includes a mandate to optimize size, weight, power, and cost, attributes (known as SWaP-C in military-speak). It also calls for the helmet- or weapon-mounted cameras to collect data across the entire visual and IR spectrum. Composite images are then to be created by fusing this data and delivering it to displays that can be viewed in direct sunlight or discreetly in darkness. Fused images with data overlays have been likened to “Predator Vision” from the famous science fiction movie.

Systems which additionally incorporate face recognition technology would allow ground troops to tag potential foes as hostile or neutral, and share the data with fellow troops on the network. New techniques from the frontiers of neuroscience and computer vision may additionally be used to automatically pick out threatening targets, reducing the mental strain on war fighters.

SPECIAL OPERATIONS APPS 2

A few clues to creating hardware that is more SWaP-C were hinted at in the proposal. These include better designs for apertures, focal plane arrays, packaging, and materials science. The cost of the system has been prefigured at $3300.00 for a projected demand of 10,000 units per month. It is interesting to note that most of the basic building blocks for the technology exist and are in active use on the battlefield. The problem DARPA is facing can be summed up in one beastly word: noninteroperability. Most of the current hardware has dedicated functionality, operates in isolation of other instruments, and cannot effectively share data.

Having first looked to the iPhone 4S and iPad to address the problem with an odd set of adapters and apps, known as the Special Operations Apps/System for Optical Attachments, or [SOA]2 (pictured above), PIXNET is now looking to Android to solve the interoperability issue.

Exactly how this Predator Vision system is to integrate with existing army communication infrastructure is not made entirely clear. The 4th Brigade Combat Teams of the 10th Mountain Division presently in Afghanistan have, for example, brought along customized Android-powered Motorola Atrix devices. They are part of a communications program known as Nett Warrior. Troops will be able to transmit data in a series of relays using Rifleman radios connected to the Atrix devices. General Dynamics has also been recently tapped to furnish over 2,000 Nett Warrior radios to begin delivery in early 2013.

Rifle with Tablet mountCommercially available Ku-band Satcom has been commonly used by the army for real-time data and video communications. It can provide voice-over-IP, dynamic IP, and videoconferencing, as well as access to classified and unclassified networks. It appears that dedicated satellite communications will always be required for longer range communication, backup, and security in the absence of commercial coverage, but the on-board radios in Android devices may eventually be utilized at least for local communications. Apps written to use the smartphone’s radio should be easier to upgrade and transfer to new Android hardware as it is deployed in the field.

 

The old model in which the military obtains its instruments under the oversight of decades-long projects is now almost entirely gone. The new model is using off-the-shelf components which can work together and be easily replaced. The public sector has long benefited through spin-off of military technology (see: Changing the world: DARPA’s top inventions), and this trend is likely to continue into the smartphone age, only now both sides will be working with greater cooperation to drive the state-of-art forward.

Mind controlled android robot: Interactive Digital Human group, working towards robotic “re-embodiment”

Mind controlled android robot

Published on Nov 12, 2012 by Diginfonews

Mind controlled android robot – Researchers at the CNRS-AIST Joint Robotics Laboratory and the CNRS-LIRMM Interactive Digital Human group, working towards robotic re-embodiment

http://www.diginfo.tv/v/12-0199-d-en.php

DigInfo TV

BCI Controlled Humanoid Robot

Will Your Future Be Full of Robot Assassins and Spy Aircraft?

With Its “Roadmap” in Tatters, The Pentagon Detours to Terminator Planet

A Drone-Eat-Drone World

At the end of World War II, General Henry “Hap” Arnold of the U.S. Army Air Forces praised American pilots for their wartime performance, but suggested their days might be numbered.  “The next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all,” he explained.  The future of combat aviation, he announced, would be “different from anything the world has ever seen.”

alternet.org | Jun 2, 2012

By Nick Turse

Today’s armed drones are actually the weak sisters of the weapons world.  Even the Reaper is slow, clumsy, unarmored, generally unable to perceive threats around it, and — writes defense expert Winslow Wheeler — “fundamentally incapable of defending itself.”  While Reapers have been outfitted with missiles for theoretical air-to-air combat capabilities, those armaments would be functionally useless in a real-world dogfight.

Similarly, in a 2011 report, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board admitted that modern air defense systems “would quickly decimate the current Predator/Reaper fleet and be a serious threat against the high-flying Global Hawk.”  Unlike that MQ-1000 of 2030, today’s top drone would be a sitting duck if any reasonably armed enemy wanted to take it on.  In this sense, as in many others, it compares unfavorably to current manned combat aircraft.

The Navy’s even newer MQ-8B Fire Scout, a much-hyped drone helicopter that has been tested as a weapons platform, has also gone bust.  Not only was one shot down in Libya last year, but repeated crashes have caused the Navy to ground the robo-copter “for the indefinite future.”

Even the highly classified RQ-170 Sentinel couldn’t stay airborne over Iran during a secret mission that suddenly became very public last year.  Whether or not an Iranian attack brought down the drone, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board report makes it clear that there are numerous methods by which remotely piloted aircraft can potentially be thwarted or downed, from the use of lasers and dazzlers to blind or damage sensors to simple jammers to disrupt global positioning systems, not to mention a wide range of cyber-attacks, the jamming of commercial satellite communications, and the spoofing or hijacking of drone data links.

Smaller tactical unmanned aircraft may be even more susceptible to low-tech attacks, not to mention constrained in their abilities and cumbersome to use.  Sergeant Christopher Harris, an Army drone pilot and infantryman, described the limitations of the larger of the two hand-launched drones he’s operated in Afghanistan this way: the 13-pound Puma was best used from an observation post with some elevation; it only had a 12-mile range and, though theoretically possible to take on patrol, was “a beast to carry around” once the weight of extra batteries and equipment was factored in.

Terminators of Tomorrow?

As for the future, the Air Force’s 2011-2036 Roadmap has already hit a major detour.  In 2010, Air Force magazine breathlessly announced, “Early in the next decade, the Air Force will deploy a new, stealthy RPA — currently called the MQ-X — capable of surviving in heavily defended airspace and performing a wide variety of ISR [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance] and strike missions.”

Indeed, the 2011 Roadmap lists the MQ-X as the future of Air Force drones.  In February 2012 however, Lieutenant General Larry James told an Aviation Week-sponsored conference: “At this point… we don’t plan, in the near term, to invest in any sort of MQ-X like program.”  Instead, James said, the Air Force will be content simply to upgrade the Reaper fleet and watch the Navy’s development of its Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike or UCLASS drone to see if it soars or, like so many RPAs, crashes and burns.

The Holy Grail of drone ops is the ability of an aircraft to linger over suspected target areas for long durations.  But ultra-long-term loitering operations still remain in the realm of fantasy.  Admittedly, the Pentagon’s blue skies research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is pursuing an ambitious drone project to provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and “communication missions over an area of interest” for five or more years at a time.  The project, dubbed “Vulture,” is meant to provide satellite-like capabilities “in an aircraft package.”

Right now, it sounds downright unlikely.

While the Air Force has had a hush-hush unmanned space plane orbiting the Earth for more than a year, much like a standard satellite, the longest a U.S. military drone has reportedly stayed aloft within the planet’s atmosphere is a little more than336 hours.  Plans for ultra-long duration flights took a major hit last year, according to scientists at Sandia National Laboratories and defense giant Northrop Grumman.

In an effort to “to increase UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] sortie duration from days to months while increasing available electrical power at least two-fold,” according to a 2011 report made public by the Federation of American Scientists’Secrecy News, the Sandia and Northrop Grumman researchers identified a technology that “would have provided system performance unparalleled by other existing technologies.”  In a year in which the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster turned a swath of Japan into an irradiated no-go zone, the use of that mystery technology, never named in the report but assumed to be nuclear power, was deemed untenable due to “current political conditions.”

With the Pentagon now lobbying the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace to its robotic aircraft and ever more articles emerging about dronecrashes, don’t bet on nuclear-powered, long-loitering drones appearing anytime soon, nor on many of the other major promised innovations in Drone World to come online in the near term either.

From Dystopian Fiction to Dystopian Reality

Until recently, drones looked like a can’t-miss technology primed for big budgetincreases and revolutionary advances, but all that’s changing fast.  “Realistic expectations are for zero growth in the unmanned systems funding,” Weatherington explained by email.  “Most increases will be in technical innovations improving application of delivered systems on the battlefield, and driving down the cost of ownership.”

Major Jeffrey Poquette of the Army’s Small Unmanned Air Systems Product Office talked about just such an effort.  By the late summer, he said, the Army planned to introduce more sophisticated sensors, including the ability to track targets more easily, in its four-pound Raven surveillance drones.  Put less politely, what this means is no roll-outs of sophisticated new drone systems or revolutionary new drone technology: the Army will simply upgrade a glorified model airplane that first took flight more than a decade ago.

Sci-fi it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean that nothing will change in the world of drone warfare.

The Terminator films weren’t exactly original in predicting a future of unmanned planes dominating the world’s skies.  At the end of World War II, General Henry “Hap” Arnold of the U.S. Army Air Forces praised American pilots for their wartime performance, but suggested their days might be numbered.  “The next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all,” he explained.  The future of combat aviation, he announced, would be “different from anything the world has ever seen.”

The most salient and accurate of Arnold’s predictions was not, however, his forecast about drone warfare.  Pilotless planes had taken flight years before the Wright Brothers launched their manned airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, and drones would not become a signature piece of American weaponry until the 2000s.  Instead, Arnold’s faith in a “next war” — a clear departure from thesentiments of so many Americans after World War I — proved accurate again and again.  Over the following decades, American aircraft would strike in North Korea, South Korea, Indonesia, Guatemala, Cuba, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Kuwait, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq (again), Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen (again), Libya (again), and the Philippines.  New technologies came and went, air strikes were the constant.

In Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and the Philippines, the U.S. deployed pilotless planes as per Arnold’s other prediction.  From Afghanistan onward, all of the countries that have experienced American air power have also experienced lethal drone attacks — just how many is unknown because figures on drone strikes are kept secret “for security reasons,” the Air Force’s Spires recently told TomDispatch.  What we do know is that drone attacks have increased radically over the years.  “More” has been the name of the game.

Still, barely a decade after our drone wars began, dreams of Terminator-esque efficiency and technological perfection are all but dead, even if the drone itself is increasingly embedded in our world.  Fantasies of autonomous drones and submarines fighting robot wars off the coast of Africa are already fading for any near-term future.  But drone warfare is here to stay.  Count on drones to be an essential part of the American way of war for a long time to come.

Air Force contracting documents suggest that the estimated five Reaper sorties flown each day in 2012 will jump to 66 per day by 2016.  What that undoubtedly means is more countries with drones flying over them, more drone bases, more crashes, more mistakes.  What we’re unlikely to see is armed drones scoring decisive military victories, offering solutions to complex foreign-policy problems, or even providing an answer to the issue of terrorism, despite the hopes of policymakers and the military brass.

Keep in mind as well that those global skies are going to fill with the hunter-killer drones of other nations in what could soon enough become a drone-eat-drone world.  With that still largely in the future, however, the Pentagon continues to glow with enthusiasm over the advantages drones offer the U.S.

Regarding the importance of military robots, for instance, the Pentagon’s Dyke Weatherington explained, “Combatant commanders and warfighters place value in the inherent features of unmanned systems — especially their persistence, versatility, and reduced risk to human life.”

On that last point, of course, Weatherington is only thinking about American military personnel and American lives.  Tomorrow’s drone warfare will likely mean “more” in one other area: more dead civilians.  We’ve left behind the fiction of Hollywood for a less high-tech but distinctly dystopian reality.  It isn’t quite the movies and it isn’t what the Pentagon mapped out, but it indisputably provides a clear path to a grim and grimy Terminator Planet.

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