‘More human than human’, after a fashion

typed for your pleasure on 21 June 2006, at 8.43 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Message from home’ by Broadcast

You get Two Bonus Anecdotes along with this post; one now, and one at the end.
A long long time ago, in a highschool far, far away, Monti and I would periodically work on a script for a science-fiction-flavoured action film entitled ‘Give me fifteen dollars’. Don’t ask me about the title now — there’s a long story behind it, and I’m trying to rein in my tangents, here. Anyway, one of the main characters was Blitz, a Gynoid that was a part-time assassin and a part-time office worker, played by Monti. Would it surprise you to learn that I came up with that character? In one scene, Blitz is with her two friends, and she’s reading a book, and laughing uproariously. They ask her what’s so funny, and she holds up the book, which is by Isaac Asimov, and she replies, ‘”The Three Laws of Robotics”?? What bullshit!!’

No sex please, robot, just clean the floor
Ed Habershon and Richard Woods
The Sunday Times, June 18, 2006

THE race is on to keep humans one step ahead of robots: an international team of scientists and academics is to publish a “code of ethics” for machines as they become more and more sophisticated.

Although the nightmare vision of a Terminator world controlled by machines may seem fanciful, scientists believe the boundaries for human-robot interaction must be set now — before super-intelligent robots develop beyond our control.

“There are two levels of priority,” said Gianmarco Verruggio, a roboticist at the Institute of Intelligent Systems for Automation in Genoa, northern Italy, and chief architect of the guide, to be published next month. “We have to manage the ethics of the scientists making the robots and the artificial ethics inside the robots.”
the complete article is here

An article like this is both encouraging and disheartening. The positive side I see is that technology is progressing along at a fair enough rate, where there’s actually a need to consider that genuine Synthetiks might well exist within the next couple of decades. Of course, you can always factor in that technological progress always seems to be accelerating — it took less time for humanity to get from automobile to Segway, than from wheel to automobile, for instance, so it might even be less than twenty odd years. The negative side would of course be this whole paranoia-driven jumping the gun mentality of ‘well, we’re gonna be dealing with semi-sentient lifeforms pretty soon, so we need to start keeping very strict tabs on them before they start a Robot Apocalypse’. Sure, if we can simulate a lifeform that can think like Organiks do, then obviously there’ll be a need to implement a sense of Right and Wrong in their operating systems. But the line ‘ensuring human control of robots’ kinda rings of slavery to me. There’s a vast and nebulous grey area that comes with this concept, and like I’d said, it’s ace that they’re giving this some thought right now, but I can only hope that the members of Euron and other similar AI ethics groups have their own morals and ethics in order, before saddling them onto brand-new lifeforms.
Didn’t veach once ask a cluster of questions related to this topic? Yes, yes he did. I still have to get round to finishing those..

The other tale: I had taken fencing for a semester back in 1990, which was one of the few classes I enjoyed, as I got a B+ out of it. One of my classmates was this bloke by the name of Brian. We never hung out at all outside of class, so it was a surprise to run into him again in a parking lot in Ferndale several years later. We chatted for a few minutes — about what, I can’t recall — but we touched upon the topic of career study fields. From completely out of the blue, he said, ‘I think you’d be good at something like building robots or Androids.’ Keep in mind, that startled/pleased me twice as much as normal, cos he didn’t know of my slavering lust for fascination with Synthetiks. But the very next sentence out of his mouth was, ‘Although I think you should probably take a few ethics classes beforehand.’
I laughed like a drain

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

Any Synthetiks-related news, Davecat? (Feb 2013) on February 1st, 2013

Hoorej for Synthetiks on October 5th, 2006

3 have spoken to “‘More human than human’, after a fashion”

  1. SafeTinspector writes:

    Shit, Veach asked those questions last November! Now he may never hear the answer. (although he once posted a comment indicating he was watching us, like some overwrought desert spirit.)

    Sounds as if your long lost friend was a very keen observer. Perhaps more keen than yourself, as he was able to glean so much more of you from the time you both shared than you did of him.

    You should, however, ignore his advice. Your ethics are just fine. Fine grained, like the wood of a fine piece of furniture.

  2. Davecat writes:

    Well, when I finish those questions off, I’ll either post them here, or Email them to veach, or both. Don’t worry — he wrote ’em, he’ll get ’em back. 🙂

    My ethics are like a piece of fine wood furniture? Are you saying that they are dull through exposure to the outside world, and need a good polishing?
    I’d concede that..

  3. SafeTinspector writes:

    No, silly. They are convered in stain, but still present a pleasant appearance and hold their value over time.
    In fact, I saw a man in a wheelchair crooning your praises on PBS, saying that your ethics were a fine example of early federalism.

Leave a charming reply