Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Our Post-Biological Future, Maybe

Futurists, including science fiction and fantasy readers and writers may find this article by William Grassie of the Metanexus Institute useful. The article is a report about the Singularity Summit 2009, and its 26 technophile speakers, including Ray Kurzweil.

According to Ray Kurzweil, a tipping point will occur in three or four decades that will send evolution into hyper mode, resulting in a post-biological civilization with its "blending of super-machines, enhanced brains, and immortal bodies," the Singularity.

Or not.

Kurzweil relies on curing death
through "exponential developments in genomics, nanotechnology, and robotics," and the Law of Accelerating Returns which he reckons is woven into the fabric of the universe. Other technophiles are suspicious of exponential growth, citing natural limitatons, such as unsolvable math problems (which I take to mean computationally infinite problems), and an unwarranted expectation that Moore's Law (doubling of computation power every ten years) will continue and apply to technologies other than computing, such as nanotechnology. The most damning-sounding counter to Kurzweil's vision is software development, which technologists say, in so many words, sucks, perhaps even going in the wrong direction. As a software developer, I find that attitude totally, um, believable.

Here is the article on our theorized post-biological future: "Millennialism at the Singularity: Reflections on Metaphors, Meanings, and the Limits of Exponential Logic," with ample references and links.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Artificial Ethics and Intelligence

Isaac Asimov paved the way for science fiction writers with respect to artificial ethics with his three laws of robotics, but others are taking a serious look at this topic as well as artificial consciousness. Having written an unreadable novel based on the latter topic, I have found interesting this review on SlashDot of Artificial Ethics: Moral Conscience, Awareness and Consciencousness (sic) by Jacques Pitrat. I assume that misspelling is Amazon.com's rather than the author's. (Asimov was more concise with his titles and they were easier to spell, I Robot.)

Here's the reviewer's pitch for the book, though it is $80 and not available, yet:

For people interested in robotics, ethics or science fiction, J.Pitrat's book give interesting food for thought by explaining how indeed artificial systems can be conscious, and why they should be, and what that would mean in the future.

Here is the SlashDot article. The book provides insights into artificial consciousness and ethics, the scope of the software effort required, and strategies for success.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poor Lost Little Robot

An experiment: will strangers in New York City's Washington Square Park nudge a helpless little robot (a tweenbot) in the right direction along its way from one corner of the 10-acre park to the opposite corner? Possible potholes in this quest: potholes (of course), curbs, benches, trees, helpful but direction-challenged strangers, vandals, critters (including children), angry robot monkeys, etc. Kacie Kinzer's project web page includes a video of helpful strangers.

There must be a flash fiction story here. Get busy.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Human-Like Abilities in Machines

As a software engineer and an occasional writer of robot stories, I found this article interesting. Says New Scientist: Nowadays, although UK mathematician Alan Turing's test is still relevant, and unbeaten, new forms of it have evolved. In this online special, New Scientist discovers the different ways in which machines can be tested for human-like abilities - and how close they have come to passing as one of us."

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Robots at War: The New Battlefield

Over at The Wilson Quarterly, P.W. Singer discusses "Robots at War: The New Battlefield." I actively dislike the first portion of it, where he tries to yank our heartstrings, but there's some interesting content in the rest of it.


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