The Robots Are Getting Closer - 8
1/10/2003

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What Does Rampant Robotics Mean to You?
    This is all very well, but how is it going to make you disgracefully wealthy, even better-looking than you already are, and bring you a life of endless health and happiness?
    Hm-m m... Well...
    I guess what's significant about this is that robots are going to be BIG, and it's going to be a growing field. (This has been proclaimed several times before, but this time, it's for real.)
    Conservatively-speaking, ten years from today, you should be able to buy, for less than $1,000, an Intel-inside computer that can crank out at least 600 gigaflops of processing power, together with (conservatively) 64 gigabytes of RAM and 24 terabytes of disk storage. If The Cell pushes everybody, speeds may be much higher than that. If Intel delivers a 1-teraflops microprocessor in 2010, then a 3-teraflops microprocessor might be in the cards for 2013. Of course, that could be restricted to servers, the way Itanium is restricted to servers today.(For MMx-types of integer, multimedia calculations, Intel microprocessor speeds are presumably several times greater than clock speeds would indicate.)  
    Along with this, there will probably be software and hardware kits to assist with robotics experimentation and training. I've used a Clodbuster radio-controlled toy truck, with a Supercircuits color video camera and 2.3 GHz video downlink for my teleoperation experiments. I attached the battery case, the video transmitter, and the video camera to the truck with Velcro, anchored with sticky-back. (I used a hinged piece of Lucite as a mounting platform for the truck.) It works great! For robotics applications, it would be desirable to upload the raw digital video data to a desktop computer, which would analyze the data, and then send driving, panning, tilting and focusing commands to the toy-truck-mounted equipment.


    One marketing opportunity might be to sell robotics probe kits that would either (1) mount a laptop on the probe so that graphics processing could be carried out on the probe, or (2) would compress the raw video signal before transmission to a desktop computer, or (3) would have sufficient bandwidth to upload the output of the stereo video cameras directly to the desktop computer without preprocessing it onboard the toy truck.
    Almost all of this equipment is already mass-produced, with decades of product refinement behind it.

Pulling Together What We've Got
    One interesting exercise would be to try to pull together what presently exists in the way of speech-to-text, text-to-speech, facial recognition, and other human-surrogate capabilities to see how these supporting technical proficiencies could be combined in an AI. For example, the use of "phrases-in, phrases-out" could permit a limited kind of conversation, although it would have to be framed in clichés. Query situations in which someone is interested in standard questions with standard answers--rule-based expertise--might lend themselves to this approach. 
    It would be helpful to have such a ready-made package so that as more flexible intelligence arises, its designers could avail themselves of such a "platform" in which to incorporate higher cognitive functions.
    Something like the Honda Asimo and Sony's SDR-4X Robot (Sony Dream Robot-4X) could provide extensive technological input.
    Another potential supporter of intelligent anthropomorphic robots are the makers of life-size dolls (XXX-Files- Adult Robotics). These very realistic dolls sell for as much as $5.000 to $6,000, so it could be a lucrative business. There will be incentives for these doll makers to develop life-like "behavior" on the parts of their dolls. A collaboration with them might be helpful for both the doll makers and the roboticists.
    
    Collectively, humans create great problems for themselves as results of environmental distortions, cultural inculcations and physical and/or mental dysfunctions.

Some of the problems in our society stem from various kinds of cultural brainwashing, and from individuals like Ted Kaczynski  and Timothy McVeigh. Other, greater problems arise from men who become tyrannical dictators. This gets us into the desire for power, and the need to control. Once someone gets into a position like this, it might be hard to let go. one might make a lot of homicidal enemies, who would like nothing better than to assassinate one's self. Could a need to control stem, perhaps, from insecurity arising from early feelings of helplessness? Another driver for this might be a form of hubris in which someone thinks that only he or she is capable of deciding what a group should do. Could this be an outgrowth of the evolutionary value of leaders among primate tribes?

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