Thursday, March 19, 2020

Deconstruction of Isaac Asimov is wrong !!!



Isaac Asimov





















     As a young lad I read many of Isaac Asimov's books. Those in this twenty-first century who have not read his words are missing out on an experience that is hard to describe. It is  intellectual and adventurous and a fun treat! His writings are like your favourite meal or drink, they never age. He never insults the reader as he weaves his magic with mere words. His stories are brilliantly conceived with many endearing characters you come to care about.
He wrote more than 500 books on a great number of subjects. He wrote about astronomy, space travel, science, biology, physics, science fiction and religion. He was truly a renaissance man!!


     Other science fiction writers would ask him to help them clear up any scientific questions. At an early age he was tired of those stories that were written about robots. These stories would always go along the same predictable plot, person creates a machine with intelligence and the machine turns against the creator. Asimov recognized this as the Frankenstein story. Before I go on I want to tip my hat to Mary Shelley for her well written and during tale. The many movies that have come out in our modern era are great fun to watch but are never true to her original work. I hope everyone reading these words has the chance to read her work. It is well worth the and effort.




     Asimov wrote his stories which made the creation, the robot, more as a benefit and friend to mankind. Since most complex machinery has safeguards, Asimov thought that the most complex machines created should also have some kind of control. He explored this idea in several stories. His now famous and often referred to, Three Laws of Robotics were the natural conclusion of this line of reasoning. Let us examine them now.


                    

#1     A robot may not injure a human Being, or through inaction,  allow a human being to come to harm.

#2     A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.

#3     A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.

                                                                                                   Handbook of Robotics
   56th Edition 2058




      Simple enough at first sight , but a bit of analysis will show how complicated they really are. The first law makes supreme sense. A robot of complex construction, intelligent, very strong, ambulatory and independent cannot be allowed to hurt its creator. Without this law the robots, the children of mankind's collective genius, will never be able to integrate into our society. In order for them to be effective they must be invisible, in the sense that humans will not have to look over their shoulders concerned about what they will do. Asimov constructed the laws as a cascading logical sequence. One law leads to the next. They build a potential that guides the robot properly.

     The second law is to me a bit problematic. I am a daily witness to how , humans do not always reach for their highest potential. Humanity, the apex of evolution still makes dubious choices. They act like they are mercifully devoid of the vestiges of intelligence. So when a robot MUST obey the orders given to it by a human being, I shudder. What are those individuals who are not competent giving orders to a robot to do ??? As it stands I will have to leave it but I think it deserves a second and third look.

    The third law makes the most sublime sense. A robot must protect itself, so long as such protection do not conflict with the first and second law. It will most likely incorporate very complex and costly components and highly sophisticated programming. To be destroyed or ever abused would not only be a terrible waste , but a crime.!!




     Now Asimov realized than when you mix humans and robots with the three laws situations arise that are far from ideal. He explored these in some fascinating stories. We are so fortunate that he left us entire books and series of books about robot and human characters interacting with each other.

     I know a very, very long preamble, I must come to the reason for all this fascinating stuff. It seems that over the past few years far too many writers have questioned how applicable the three laws are to the so called real world.

     My biggest problem with anyone questioning Asimov, is that as far as I know, no one, NO ONE, has built a sentient, intelligent, autonomous robot. You will hear a great deal how wonderful artificial intelligence ( I prefer the term Machine Intelligence ) is going to be. These pie in the sky articles are written by persons who do not know what they are taking about. I find it personally nauseating to read these articles. I suspect that not one in a hundred of these authours would be able to pick out a hundred kilo-ohm resistor from a pile of electronic components. I love to labor the point and will say they are talking through their hats. Building robots is very challenging and of course lots of fun. To build a true machine intelligence is still a work in progress. I know for I stand before these challenges daily!!

     I have read, to my disgust, how some people have written that Asimov's three laws are out of date, they cannot possibly be applied, or that the A.I. out there have gone beyond them.

      Now the first group who argue against his laws are talking about the so called autonomous weapons. Created by the minions of the various military groups around the world to destroy their perceived enemies. In reality their devices are not true robots, but I will argue for the sake of clarity and for the sake of sanity. These so called smart bombs violate the first law because they have little or no intelligence and as such are not allowed to make up their non-existent minds. The generals and politicians do not want back talk or this case back code. They want slave soldiers, slave machines, created, designed and programmed to obey, without question, all orders given to them. The first law would nullify these destructive artifacts.

      That is why the first law must be employed in robots. Scientists are trying to ban these weapons, however the back splash is affecting legitimate robot research. I recall my old black and white TV and the Superman serial that ran. The introduction went like this " ......... able to change the course of mighty rivers!!! ". Many of us are unaware that we possess great powers. We may not be able to change the world, but each of us affect those around us. As such if enough good people do the right things an ocean of change can occur!!



     Now the Second Law restricts some of an autonomous robot's actions. The generals hate this law, because even though a robot must obey any order given to it by a human, it must never disobey the First Law. In other words it cannot be ordered to kill a human being. Now to the military mind on this or any other planet with so called intelligent life, what would be the use of that. Spend millions in research and development and it ain't going to kick butt. Hey idiots that is my whole point. Robots to me are the children of humankind's collective genius. I firmly believe that they can help us survive and thrive. To use them for killing is just plain stupid and a complete waste.

      Isaac Asimov saw this even before we had the first personal computer. He has gone well before his time. It saddens and angers me that people attack his well developed ideas. He is not here to defend himself. In my mind's eye I see him formulating and expressing his devastating argument against these people. I am a poor substitute for his wisdom but I could not live with my self if I did not try in my own small way to take up his gauntlet and stand against this seemingly overwhelming tide of ignorance. To do otherwise is not even to be considered. I am firmly in Asimov's vision of the future. It makes more sense and where I want to be. Let Mr. Scott for the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 say to those who dare criticize Isaac Asimov,


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID 19 KEEP CALM !!

     
    I have a t-shirt with this on it and I wear it often!! I have the sublime privilege of being able to this. I have assembled a mountain of parts and equipment and have spent many decades doing this delicious work. I have been lacking and lax at placing blog entries. That will stop soon . I do not rush my entries and so this blog is a breaking of this rule.

    Over the years I have been consumed by this most noble task of building robots. I usually keep my distance both physically and intellectually from those who do not share my interests. However in the midst of this biological crisis we now have social distancing . People rush by me and they stay in their cars when I pass too close. I think how great that is but then I notice the fear in their eyes. I argue that this will end soon and I get some who say it will get worse. Again the fear shows in their eyes.

     I am an old man and have seen many things and finally we will come through it. In a hospital in my home of  Toronto there is a plaque and it has this written on it: ' We are all angels with one wing, the only time we fly is when we help each other '. So as the world gets a bit too panicky I say : STAY CALM : , listen to the better angels of our nature and know that it will end. 

   Sadly we have the know nothing media, scared and passing the fear to millions. We have people running and buying out essential items when there is no need. We have governments that should of acted sooner , overreacting. I feel we need DR. WHO and not that WHO organization that should have been more proactive.

    I know as a human that lives on this most beautiful planet that as individuals we all have within us more power that we realize. We have a strength and resilience that we each can tap when we have to and that time is now. Let that be our guide out of this to a better world.

     I will leave you for now with a public service announcement that made me laugh. The Three Stooges are personal heroes of mine and I am considered by some as the fourth stooge. WE all need to laugh for that scares the fear away !!


Thursday, January 3, 2019

CHINA LUNAR LANDING !!!!!!!!!!!

                                        SUCCESS !!!!


I have decided to end my long silence to say a congratulations to the Chinese space agency. You have done it and it can never be reversed! Chang'e 4 has landed on the so called dark side of the moon. Actually it gets a lot of light. However we on earth only see one side of the moon. 

                                         Chang'e 4





This is an artist's rendition of what  the rover it looks like on the moon's surface. To me this is exciting news, anything in space has always fascinated me . As a human I share  and enjoy the accomplishments of brave women and men in space. I also get a kick when the robotic probes are successful. I have a special place in my heart for all robots. They are our ambassadors to the great unknown and they light the way for mankind to reach out into space. 





Will you look at this amazing photograph!!! I get chills just looking at it! This is a picture of the moon that has never been seen even by telescopes. Great, great work all you women and in the Chinese Space Program. I want to say a personal THANK YOU !!! There are those in this world that only look at their feet or the very simple things on their television and forget to see the wonder that is all around if they only look up. Let the stars get into your eyes!!



Now look at how the signal is being sent to earth. There is not a direct line of sight since the craft is on the other side or farside. So the signal is sent to an orbiting satellite and relayed to Earth. I must say what a neat  and logical solution.  This done because the orbiting satellite is in a lagrangian orbit.  That is a small object will maintain its position relative to a larger object.

It the upcoming days we shall see more pictures as the rover goes for a walk, or in this case a roll. These are exciting times for those of us who appreciate what is going on.

The reason I am writing after a long while is because this is worth standing on the roof tops and yelling to the world to take notice. I have not been this excited since Yutu. However I have noticed that the western news media is not very happy about the news. Though they do tell us there is not the level of respect that they show when the United States does something in space.

Over the years I have seen that most of the people of the world care more about stupid, mundane things. I have seen the great powers of space fight and argue with each other. In this year of 2019 I thought we would be more united and prosperous. This creates in me a profound sadness. I know that at my age I should not be so idealistic , but not being so is no alternative.




Dream with me for a little while. I would like to see the world a happier place where everyone lives in peace. I would like the nations of the world uniting and solving the problems of ecology and society. Then the  entire population can live with enough food, wealth and housing. In order for the universe to be properly explored and used well no one nation alone can do it. It is far too expensive and will require the talents of all of humanity. Space will unite the human race and as such we will be a better species. We must see beyond race and politics and faith and finally realize our destiny !!

















                                                                                                                  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A DRONE IS NOT A ROBOT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  A DRONE IS NOT A ROBOT !!!!





     A drone is not a robot !!! Let me repeat this again A DRONE IS NOT A ROBOT !! Yet these things are in the press as the cutting edge of robotic technology. Over the years I know the press has the flavour of the month mentality and all the no nothings get all excited by such stories. All this type of nonsense will last about a nanosecond. For those that do not know, this is a very, very, very brief amount of time. Oh yes they are giving us pictures from above, they are spying on those guys in the black hats, and they are going to deliver our goods.










To me it sounds like a lot of baloney. Let me know go through my thoughts about this subject. First let me state like I often do that I owe much of my thinking about what a robot is to David Heiserman. I learned how to truly build robots by reading his books. To anyone who has not I recommend them without any reservation, In these days of arduino and C-language they may seem old but I believe one must learn to crawl, then walk. A great deal of what he wrote is still applicable today. Robot builders of this century owe a great deal to the robot pioneers of the last century and we should never forget what they have taught us. His most revolutionary concepts were to question and the answer what a true robot could be.This short note is not that place to give it the attention it richly deserves, and I will make it the subject of a future blog. I love to write about robots !! His idea was that true robots must have autonomy. The capability to give his creations the chance to decide for itself what to do. To structure the program and the physical artifact in such a way, that after it has helped the humans that are around, it does what it wants to do.








 I have yet to see any robotic creation come close to his vision. Yes I know the reason people make robots  as little slave machines and that is so limiting. Imagine, a useful tool in all robot builders tool box, that someone told you what you can and cannot do. In this century as humans we have a lot of problems that we are trying to solve. Sadly we still have the social problems of the last to deal with and this takes so much valuable time and energy away from the creation of a much better future. Today you see it everywhere, robots made to be slaves to mankind so that the great expense and even greater trouble to build them is justified. Why spend a small fortune and a great deal of time, blood , sweat and even tears to give your robot autonomy. Gee a robot has got to do something useful for his master. What a load of idiotic thinking.



 I have read articles that cannot break out of this way of conceptualizing. I realize that building and paying for this building is expensive. Let us face it that there are no altruistic funding sources. They want something for their cash. How last century is that kind of thought pattern. Let a pair of robots express how I feel.


                     

 Drones from the most sophisticated to the very cheap  are controlled by remote. This disqualifies them from being robots. They are essentially cameras that fly. The military ones stay afloat for longer times but they are still controlled by a human. Those cute pictures and videos are taken by someone pressing a button. An all too human operator will drop your breakable electronics order from a great height in front of your door. Sure drones can deliver stuff but they are afflicted by something that has not progressed as far as some us had hoped. Anyone who has built a machine that runs on batteries sees the problem. Robots  today still need the rechargable batteries and this is a serious situation. One big problem with building robots is the power needed to run the electronics, cpu and motors. Any one who has built even the simplest robot will know that well over 50% of the overall weight is usually the battery. To make matters worse the length of time that this battery can function with adequate current is all to brief.
  



 Let us consider those so called delivery drones. They usually have four motors connected to the rotors. As they lift off with their payload they are using a lot of energy. As they get airborne they have the weight of the package and themselves so the energy consumption is greater still. Every maneuver, up ,down, left or right uses more juice. With the batteries that exist today they will not carry enough juice to go very far, and so the package they carry will have to be very, very, tiny. If you want to carry a bigger package you will need bigger motors and a bigger battery. I could go on but you can see where I am heading with all of this, this flavour of the week technology is not going to work unless we improve  the batteries.



 Ah you may be thinking what about those big fella drones used by the military. Now I am aware of them as most people are, but I do not have a great deal of information about them more then what the defense departments of the world release. I know that DARPA funds a lot of robotic research in the United States. And according to my Golden Rule, he who has the gold makes the rules. Their objective is to keep and extend the capability of the armed forces and not jeopardize human lives. It is worthwhile in the sense you are saving precious lives. However it is at the very same time horribly wrong since they may use the children of our collective genius, robots, to hurt others. Using robots to kill is just plain wrong. Since the decision and execution of the killing order is done by humans the blame cannot be given to the slave machine, tethered and controlled by us. How sad when they cannot see the vision of the future where these robots could be used for so many better objectives.


 I have written before and will continue to write this one thing that I see always before my mind's eye. Robots should and could be used to help mankind make it up the hill of survival. They can , if they so desire, help us light up the darkness of our ignorance. They can help us survive and thrive. However this can only be achieved if we use and guide them properly. As humans we are so lucky to live on such a bountiful planet. Alas witness what we have done to our poor Mother Earth. We have poisoned the air and the sea, killing the other species that cohabit our world. We play with nuclear waste that has the potential of killing everything . Sadly as stewards of life we have failed but it is not too late to walk away from the brink of extinction. With our , good , dear friends the robots we could change all that now. The analogy that comes to mind is that of a plant. Depending on the seed and the place it is planted and if it is tended and nurtured correctly it can grow into a beautiful flower. What kind of seed are we planting ??



Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas !!!!!!!!!!!!

       
Seems that we all get so busy this time of year that we forget what is REALLY important. This blog is going to be very short and sweet. I wanted all those unique and wonderful people around the world who visit my humble blog a very HAPPY HOLIDAY !!

No matter who you are or where you are on this special day I want you to enjoy and by all means have FUN !!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Westworld 2016

    



   
I have been watching the series Westworld that HBO produced. I have seen the original made many, many decades ago. I have also watched the sequel to that , Futureworld.  In the latter  the owners had a devious plan to replace the rich and important people with identical looking creations they can control. The new one has very interesting conversations between the characters. They even mention the bicameral mind. Of course I recognized it since I am familiar with the book, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", by Julian Jaynes in 1976.  This subject is very, very complex and I will be back to it in another blog. I was  interested in this latest attempt by the entertainment industry to explain this technology.



    Because I actually build robots I have a very satisfying fascination with anything robotic. I have watched all the movies that deal with this subject. I am not always happy with the portrayal of these children of our collective genius. One I saw that was completely unknown to me was made decades ago and not very popular. It was , " The Creation of the Humanoids", in 1962. Google it and if you are interested download and watch it all. It may not made with computer generated images, but the dialogue is still interesting.



    As a fan of Isaac Asimov my view of robots have been influenced greatly by his writings. His approach was well considered and sensitive. Alas it seems nowadays that others fear the rise of the robots. This one word , ROBOT, is not easy to explain. I do not mean drones or this new fangled notion of having cars without those pesky humans behind the wheel. I mean autonomous artifacts that try to make there way in our chaotic world. I look forward to the day when these machines are able to actually have a conversation with us. However in many cases when I watch the results of Hollywood's very limited imagination I am made sad and at times mad.


  
   Once again , ad nauseam,in this HBO version, the creations are complex but still being controlled and manipulated by humans to do rather stupid things over and over again. The story has some interesting plots and subplots and the dialogue is so very cool and deals with rather deep subjects. I have to admit that some it leaves me scratching my head and it makes me think, which is always a good thing to do. One day soon someone will have the vision and courage to make something that deals with the very positive aspects of our future interactions with our robots. Where the future is a bright and cheerful place and ignorance and stupidity are banished into the dark corners. Of course this is an ideal request but not one that I feel is impossible. I have felt for many years now that these creations of our genius will help us survive and thrive!!


     I have to see this series to its conclusion and then I will see if it is worthy to be placed with my collection of movies that at least are trying to show how things might be. I know that whatever is done is done by us, with our minds, hearts and hands. As such I know that in this world , with some seven billion souls, there some good people ready to step to the challenge. As always I will be watching.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I WILL BE BACK !!

        I love that line from the Terminator series. yes I have been gone too long. I am pleased that people from all over this world still take an interest in my humble words and ideas. I have not forgotten my work and the reason I have been not writing as much is that I have done a lot of thinking. I mean A LOT of thinking and questioning my ideas about robots. So as a video hero once said " hang on to your socks!"