Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Real Laws of Robotics

From issue 2649 of New Scientist magazine, 27 March 2008, page 26:

Make robots, Not War

As military robots grow more sophisticated, some of their designers are now taking action to prevent autonomous ones being used as killing machines.

Noel Sharkey, a roboticist at the University of Sheffield in the UK, has long campaigned against arming autonomous robots. He is working with Landmine Action, a London-based NGO, on a proposal to create an international treaty that would ban the practice. "I want an immediate international ban on autonomous mobile weapons that are allowed to make decisions regarding the application of lethal force," Sharkey says. He also hopes to involve the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International.

Meanwhile, earlier this month in a discussion on robot ethics at the Human-Robot Interaction conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Peter Kahn, a researcher in social robotics at the University of Washington, Seattle, called on roboticists to stop accepting research grants from the US Department of Defense (DoD): "We can say 'no'. And if enough of us say it we can ensure robots are used for peaceful purposes."

Although today's armed robots are remote-controlled by soldiers, there are plans to give them decision-making capabilities. "Verification and validation of the software is being worked on," says Ronald Arkin of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who attended a meeting about armed robots at the Pentagon. His controversial view is that because robots' judgements will be unclouded by fear or other emotions, they will be less likely than human soldiers to break the ethical conventions of war. He is writing a set of ethical rules that could be programmed into a robot.

Even though many roboticists agree with Sharkey and Kahn, and not with Arkin, joining such campaigns is not always straightforward. "If I don't work for the DoD, I don't work," says one American roboticist.

I find it pretty fascinating that not only have robots gotten to this point, but also that the potential for things to take the direction that science fiction writers, like Isaac Asimov, predicted is very high. Arkin is writing something very similar to Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. It's nice to see that according to this article, most people don't think that he's right in doing so. If there's anything that scifi has taught us its that this kind of thing always goes very wrong, although generally it has a rockin' soundtrack.

I also find the last sentence in the article interesting. While looking for potential scholarships, I always came across oppurtunites from the Department of Defense for entomological studies. To receive money, you had to join the DoD immediately after graduation, which seemed weird and scary to me, although they offered a lot of money. I imagined that they were looking for ways to spread biological agents via insects, or to protect against such an attack but from last weeks issue of the same magazine (which is an awesome magazine):

and this:

Meet the robo-bug

An odd-looking three-wheeled robot pivots on the spot, seemingly with a purpose, but there's no human directing it. Instead, it is under the control of a rather large moth.

This curious creation is the brainchild of Charles Higgins and his team at the University of Arizona in Tucson. They have found a way to intercept signals from the moth's visual system to guide the robot. They connected an electrode to a single, micrometre-wide nerve fibre on one side of the moth's brain, tapping into the electrical pulses it normally uses to keep itself flying straight.

The moth is held horizontally inside the robot and surrounded by a vertical cylinder with vertical lines drawn on the inside. When the cylinder is rotated, the moving lines trick the moth into thinking it is turning left or right. This triggers a response in the moth's brain, which the system detects and translates into motion in the robot. The team presented their results late last year at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, California.

Higgins sees such hybrid machines as the next step in the evolution of robotic systems. "This is where I see computing going. We'll have some living components and some non-living components. They'll all be mixed together in the way that works best."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Germaine. German.

Our friend Chris Philips and his band played in portland last night. I didn't see them because it was before all of us got off work. They stayed at our place overnight and are a nice group of folks. This is their van. I ate vegan donuts at sweetpea bakery with them this morning. Now i am on my way to meet yolanda for lunch before work.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cart in the creek. No one cares.

One of our carts gets thrown into the protected creek every few weeks and stays there for a while. The last one was there for over a month. I am going to see if i can fish this one out while i am on the clock today. I might get bit by a goose.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Photoshop Express

Adobe just went live with Adobe Photoshop Express, a web based photo editing and storage area for photos that, so far as I have tried it out, is really fasy and pretty good. If you don't feel like finding a pirated version of Adobe Lightroom, that's what it feels most like. There's not a lot of tools for drawing or painting digitally, but there's a lot of tools for photoediting, but a lot are sort of automatic and lack the ability to fine tune, which is kind of annoying. It's free though, so who can complain. They also host images to embed in blogs and websites:

I guess if you can't get your hands on the actual photoshop or lightroom or just want to get 2 gigs of free space that you can edit after you upload, it seems like a pretty good tool. It's far easier to use then picasa, which is really slow, and it gives you more free space then flickr, which limits you to 200 images.

You can also import all of your existing photos from photobucket, facebook, or picasa, so if you've had it with those servies (like i have with picasa) its easy to move them all over, which is great, i guess.

Horse Sense

turns out he rides this nauseous horse. I really like the camera on my new phone! I never thought i'd be able to focus that close with a camera phone. Nice job, LG!

bolus of fate

i spotted this figure at michael's, the craft store, after i coughed a big wad of snot on it. its pretty weird. a knight with a goose on his head.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008


sorry if you read my blog via an RSS subscription. If you do, you may have gotten a lot of test posts, weird pictures and titles and descriptions that i was using to test various mobile blogging services. They were all driving me crazy, since i couldn't figure out if it was blogger, flickr or verizon that was trying to put a stop to it.
I got the flickr one to work after resetting my upload URL a few times and waiting an hour or two for it to take effect, and I got the blogger mobile method to work after emailing the help people to get my "claim token" which verizon has for some reason blocked on their network. The blogger mobile method is much better because i can have titles and descriptions, but it might crash my phone. The flickr method works but is unreliable, and if i include the descriptions, you also get an ad for verizon that is three paragraphs long. The shozu method works, but has a big ugly shozu logo. I posted the stupid dog's picture using and it looks like a normal post, which is what I wanted. Sorry for all the previous test posts if you got them.

i hate her!

the most annoying dog in the world

price tag on new jeans, originally uploaded by CrunchbotPhone.

This was the price tag on a pair of knock-off diesel jeans that liam's friend got in columbia. i ended up with the jeans because they fit me and no one else, and the button closure on the top ended up falling out after 3 wears. I thought that they price tag was funny, but if that is in pesos, the jeans are only $139.

looks like it finally works.

looks like it finally works. it took refreshing my posting URL and some patience. i can't have descriptions without an ad.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

il_430xn13092833, originally uploaded by CrunchbotPhone.

does this work? does anything work? why doesn't flickr see my phone's pictures? I wish i took this picture with my phone.

Friday, March 21, 2008

gonna get a lot of questions at work.

i have this weird bruise on the tip of my nose. it appeared last night. i don'tk
know what caused it. also i got a new phone last night and we have unlimited picture messaging so i am trying it out. i just missed the recycling guy at the curb. Hopefully not the garbage yet.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Look Around You

This came out in the UK in 2002, but i only just found out about it. It's funny!

Nice n quiet

I came to the school library to study for my physics exam tonight, because i figured it'd be nice and quiet and i could get a lot done, but instead somebody decided to shoot off a gun in the neighborhood, or light firecrackers and throw them according to one guy with a beard, and now the "active shooter alarm" is going off, and has been for about 10 minutes or more. We are advised to stay away from the windows, and it's hard to study with the alarm beaconing. Here's a video! Live blogging from the scene of the emergency!

We had a drill for this about two weeks ago. It was scheduled and we were waiting for it. What's funny is i got a text message and my phone beeped during lab, and my physics teacher started hearding us into the back room saying "There it is! There's the drill!" and it took a while to explain it was my phone. I got a stern look for not turning off my phone. Right after everyone calmed down and got back to lab, it went off.

I'm glad I am studying right now instead of trying to take a final with all this noise.

...25 minutes later, it's all done! As soon as it stopped i got this email:

Portland Community College: PCC Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth St., currently is locked down due to reported gunshots fired in the vicinity. The shots reportedly were fired around 4:10 p.m.

I guess that 25 minutes was an exaggeration. 15 minutes then.

Jimmy, colby, and noel are off to japan today or tomorrow. I hope they have a fun safe trip with no shooter alerts.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

hitting the wall

I feel like i have hit a wall in chemistry.

I understand what is going on mostly, but the numbers aren't working. I can see what I am supposed to do, and i understand what I am reading, but i am not retaining it, and i feel like what we've learned in lecture is not entirely the same as what's going on in the homework, especially where the formulas are concerned. It's a little worrisome, since I need to know this stuff not only for monday's final, but i still have to take another quarter of general chemistry, and another three quarters of organic chemistry.

At least when I hit this point in calculus, it was only a couple of weeks before the end of the last term of math i ever had to take and I was able to fake it/ride it out to the end. This is really worrying me though. It's a little late to ask for help too, since my final is in about 32 hours, and i am working a lot of those hours, and i have to sleep at some point too, as well as somehow learn the material, finish the homework, prepare note cards, and take the final. Then i have 8 hours or so to prepare for my physics final that evening, but that one will be fine. I think i could not take the final and still get an A, I have a lot of points in that class. Ugh. Did I leave it to the last minute? Sort of, but i dunno. I'm just really worn out and sick of looking at numbers. I've literally been doing math problems every day for the last 2 years now. Have you ever run out of batteries on a calculator? I've replaced mine twice since i got it last spring. That's another sad thing - i really really love my TI-89 and i can't use it next term in chemistry because it can do things we are supposed to be able to do without a calculator, and it wouldn't be fair if some of the students could use them on exams and some couldn't.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

California Academy Of Sciences reopening

The california academy of sciences is reopening on September 27th, 2008. However, Yolanda and i will get to go there before it opens to the public because we became charter members this morning!

I went to the website awhile ago to see if there was any way to get into any sort of black tie reopening gala, but the only thing i found was that if you were a charter member, then you would be invited to a visit to the academy before it reopened to the public. I called this morning to find out what they meant, and they told me that if you become a charter member (which is automatic at any membership level until the end of the month of march) you will get an invititation to go to the academy before the grand opening. Totally great! This is a date yolanda and I made over 3 years ago. I didn't think i we'd be able to do it! It's also perfect timing, since it will be in august or september, and school here doesn't start again until september 29th or something. The New DeYoung is a lot of fun too, and right across the park. I'll enjoy going there again.

watch a sneak preview of the tour here. They still have the creepy taxidermy and the alligator pit! And so much more!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

underwater sculptures

yolanda came across this artist who's made a park of sculptures underwater.

you can watch a movie too, but i think that the photos are nicer:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Physics Doodles

Here's a couple of doodles that i did in physics that i thought were pretty good:


Thursday, March 6, 2008

savory waffles!

I forgot to mention the savory waffles that yolanda and I ate with Noel and Colby last night over on belmont. totally good. I had the idea for some kind of dinner waffle after we got our waffle iron, but i am way behind in that dept, 'cause i guess yolanda's pal nicole already thought of it, and the guy that runs Jace Gace also did, and made a cafe gallery with beer and wine out of the idea.

I got a curry one with asparagus and cranberry, yolanda got huevos rancheros. They were both good. Colby got the same as me. Noel got grilled cheese. I'd like to go back and try them all. I also wanted to go see cloverfield again, but i felt i was falling asleep.
I'm at the mall again waiting for yolanda. I just got my computer back and I am sitting outside of the apple store, using their wifi whilst i wait. I figure that i should use the time while i am waiting to see if my screen is going to start flickering again while i am here, so i can take it back, but this time it was done instore, and the part they replaced is the "inverter" which message-board posters on the internet agree is the cause of the flickering. This last guy that helped me was really surprised and angry that they hadn't replaced that part yet, and this time it was done in store so it was finished pretty quickly (In and 12:30 pm mon, out at 10 am thursday). I would like to be optimistic about it, but who knows.

I am also trying to justify in my mind getting another ipod touch, to replace the one i lost. I really really really liked the one i had, but they are expensive. I checked to see if my renter's insurance would cover it, since it covers my computer if it's lost or stolen while on vacation, ut it says that it isn't. Plus there'd be a $250 deductible, if it was. Since i am giving up on the violin, the money i budgeted for that is open, but i have a habit of spending money when i have it instead of saving. The car needs an oil change, as well as new shocks. I'll also need a dedicated macro lens for my camera for the upcoming semester, where i'll be collecting and photographing insects for a pamphlet to be placed in Portland area parks. But boy, was i organized with that ipod!

jon's band was in town on tuesday. it's always good to see him. i wish he'd stick around in town longer!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

flicker! for god's sake!

i am at the apple store trying to get my screen to start flickering again so the guy can see it and replace my stupid computer but it's not doing it. I've been trying to do this for a half an hour now. driving me crazy standing here and waiting for this stupid thing to fail. ARGH.