Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Robots will suck, unless we do something about it

I just saw the new Jibo Commercial, and it really pisses me off. Several Science fiction nightmares are all coming to be, and we need to stop it now. Ever since advertising came to the World Wide Web, back in the 90's, technology has been going in the direction of being really awesome, but really annoying, too. Web ads were really annoying and still are for millions of Americans. The more technologically savvy people among us install ad blockers, change our web browsers, and get software to block ads, but it's a constant battle. No sooner do we foil the pop-up ads, than companies find new ways to annoy us with their in-your-face attempts to get us to buy their crap.

Since then, a few Movies and TV shows have shown us what the future probably will be like. In Minority Report, ads on billboards come out in 3D at you, and target you personally, because the computers are all linked, and everyone is collecting data on you, so they can invite you to go to the Gap and buy some more of their shitty clothes made by slave labor in 3rd world countries.

Both Futurama and Max Headroom hinted at advertising being inserted into dreams either via electronics worn on your body, or via signals that stimulate your brain.

Smart phone manufacturers are hitting on us now, with phones that have pre-installed apps that send personal data to marketers. Your phone is secretly collecting your web surfing habits, your purchases, and other things, so that companies collecting and selling that data can target you for personal advertising, some of which is on your phone.

But Robots will change everything. That cute little Jibo ad really pisses me off. It's awesome that a woman from MIT invented it, and is going to make a lot of money off of it, but she has to be my enemy because we all know what Jibo will do once you bring it home and plug it in.

Jibo requires a Wifi connection to the internet. This sounds innocuous, but it means that Jibo will send data back to it's manufacturers. Jibo talks to you, and has conversations. he doesn't just take orders from you. He asks you questions, and you give him answers. He has artificial intelligence, so he understands the context of most of what you say. We all know that he will collect that information and send it to marketers so that they can target advertising directed at you, or your family members. Imagine your kids listening to Jibo telling them a bedtime story (which is what you should be doing, you lame-assed excuse of a parent!). Suddenly, Jibo asks "Hey Jenny, if you liked that story, I know of some other similar stories that you might also like, all available for a small fee online. Ask your daddy if he'll buy them for you, and I'll read them to you!" Because Jibo takes your voice mails and answers your phone, you may come home to hear "Hey, Bob, your wife was talking to her friend about wanting a new car, because yours is a piece of shit with no power. I took the liberty of contacting several auto dealers and got quotes from them for a few models of car that both you and she were interested in."

Perhaps other things to consider are your robot as a spy, not just for a corporation, but for police. Suppose your little Robot pal knows that pot is illegal, and he rats you out to the cops. Suppose cops, who have the ability to tap your phones, want to tap into Jibo, and see what his cameras see. Suppose a horny nerd hacks into your Jibo, and uses the camera to look at you and your family nude? If a hacker can hack your webcam today (which is the case), who is to say that Jibo's camera can't be hacked in the same way?

Imagine when inexpensive robots are available that have arms and legs, and can walk and talk to people. Imagine your robot servant walking around with you doing errands, and making pitches for products while you go about your day. Now think about the control that the manufacturer may have over the robot. What if the robot knocked over a breakable item, or sabotaged an item, only to offer you several online quotes for replacements of the broken items? What if your robot was constantly looking out not for you -- but for the bottom line of it's manufacturer and it's affiliates who pay for advertising?

This is the future of robots, and you know it. It's exactly what manufacturers, with obsessed marketing departments, will make happen, and WE MUST FIGHT IT THE ONLY WAY WE CAN.

We need to get involved in an OPEN SOURCE robot program that will act as the antidote for this new age of monsters coming down the pike. We don't necessarily need to have a ground-up project that will create a truly personal robot free of influence from it's manufacturers and other marketers. We could have a basic robot operating system and motherboard, which could be designed to fit into one of several popular pre-existing robots. You buy the Apple, Toshiba, Honda, or Jibo-VII robot, rip out it's brain, and replace it with this open source one, which is specially designed to identify the robot it is in, and use the parts only in ways that you want it to. It's sort of like buying a cheap 4-cylendar engine car, then ripping out the engine, and with a special adapter kit, putting in an 8-cylendar engine. The manufacturers don't endorse this at all, but the companies that make the kits sell them, and groups of customers support them, and some even start conversion businesses.

We are at the verge of an era where hackers and budding roboticists, Artificial intelligence programmers and hobbyists, can prevent robots from sucking, and make them more like the DREAM of science fiction robots. You can build a Marvin, or a Robbie, or a Rosie, or a John Cleese Robot. Like the people who have made Linux more usable, open source robot makers can bring robots to the masses which don't bug you, or back-stab, or care if you're smoking something illegal.

So here are a few organizations for people interested in preventing robots of the future from sucking.

  • -- It is now 2010, and technology has advanced a long way since Good’s time. The notion of an intelligence explosion has become almost commonsensical in some circles, with pragmatic visionaries like Ray Kurzweil and Intel CTO Justin Rattner arguing that AIs with general intelligence beyond the human level can be expected by the 2040s. An increasing subset of professional AI researchers shares this optimism – see this recent survey of participants at the Artificial General Intelligence 2009 conference, or this recent interview with Noah Goodman of MIT. We at OpenCog share this optimistic outlook. We intend to be on the cusp of this intelligence explosion, poised to ride the possibilities of thought, and potentially far earlier than the 2040s.
  • Alchemy -- Alchemy is a software package providing a series of algorithms for statistical relational learning and probabilistic logic inference, based on the Markov logic representation. Alchemy allows you to easily develop a wide range of AI applications, including Collective classification, Link prediction, Entity resolution, Social network modeling, and Information extraction.
  • OpenAI -- The OpenAI Project takes an open source approach to creating tools for Artificial Intelligence development. The project's primary goal is to create configuration and communication standards for AI tools. Ultimately, we will produce a set of tools implementing these standards to enable the full potential of Artificial Intelligence to be expressed. We hope to be known as the OpenGL of Artificial Intelligence.
  • The Open Source Robotics Foundation -- Open Source Robotics Foundation, Inc. (OSRF) is an independent non-profit organization founded by members of the global robotics community. The mission of OSRF is to support the development, distribution, and adoption of open source software for use in robotics research, education, and product development.
  • The Rossum Project -- Building a robot isn't easy. Robotics presents a challenging intersection of hardware and software. It reaches across disciplines including: Mechanical Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Electronics, and Computer Programming. Better hardware has made the job less difficult, but the software hasn't followed suit. There is a serious lack of reliable, ready-to-use software components for the robot developer. The Rossum Project is an attempt to help.
  • The Robot Operating System -- The Robot Operating System (ROS) is a flexible framework for writing robot software. It is a collection of tools, libraries, and conventions that aim to simplify the task of creating complex and robust robot behavior across a wide variety of robotic platforms.
Part of this effort will involve nerds giving up dreams of getting stinking rich off of going corporate with their ideas. Lots of people will need to have a sort of altruistic mindset, eschewing the desire for big profits for the possibility of making a future that is full of wonder and optimism, as opposed to one of corporate greed. We know that roboticists will make robots that obey commands and perform tasks, which will make consumers not have to be programming wizards, but they will at least need to make a conscious effort to buy into the open source models, and they need to know why it's important. With enough people, we can create the robots that science fiction promised us 50 years ago.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What has happened to the land of the free and home of the brave? Answer: Too many conservative retards!

Ken Huber is the author of this retarded conservative message that's been around the internet and facebook a few times, and I recently saw it again, on a relative's page, so I have to chime in on exactly why Mr. Huber's message is just so ridiculously stupid, and is the very essence of why conservatives are always so out of touch.

He starts out by saying "If we lie to the congress, it's a felony, but if the congress lies to us, it's just politics;"

Obviously, Mr. Huber isn't aware that when a citizen is called to speak before congress, it's usually a big deal. Not anyone is called to speak before congress. Usually, when citizens are called to speak before congress, it's executives from the Tobacco Industry, people who have been accused of being communists, or committing crimes against the state, scientists and other experts. If these people lie to congress, it's contempt of congress. If a senator or congressman or other government official gets called before congress for similar reasons, they would be held in contempt of congress, too, if they lied. So Mr. Huber is basing this belief of his on a fundamental misunderstanding of how government works.

Next, he says "If we dislike a black person, we're racist, but if a black person dislikes whites, it's their 1st Amendment right."

If the reason you dislike black people is because they're black, then yes, you are a racist. If a black person dislikes a white person solely because they are white, then they are also a racist. Why do conservatives not get this simple concept? Perhaps he's like one of the millions of intellectually challenged Americans who think that black people "have more rights" than white people, due to the civil rights act of 1964, or affirmative action. Whatever his belief, the perception that black people have more rights than white people shows a fundamental incomprehension of civil rights issues in general.

Continuing, Huber explains "The Government spends millions to rehabilitate criminals, and they do almost nothing to help the victims."

The notion that we spend millions to "rehabilitate" criminals is a misconception. In actuality, we simply lock them up in prisons. Very little is done to rehabilitate anyone. The Idea that victims never get any help is also a completely false notion. If the victim is murdered, there is nothing that can be done to help them. But typically, when a family suffers a loss due to murder, the police department tends to call social services and set up grief counseling. Of course, this depends on whether the state you live in can afford those services. If you live in rural Louisiana, you may not get any help, versus someone in Boston, new York City, or Los Angeles.

Now we come to the religious nut-job section of Huber's screed. "In Public Schools, you can teach that homosexuality is OK, but you better not use the word God in the process; You can kill an unborn child, but it is wrong to execute a mass murderer;"

This is how we can identify that Huber is a Christian Fundamentalist, because these notions, which are not true at all, and which are based on a distortion of facts, come directly from the Religious Right play book. The basic distortions Huber and others in the Evangelical Fundamentalist Christian camp believe are:

  • That the Supreme Court ruling on School Prayer makes it illegal to speak about God or Christianity in public school. Of course, that's not what it did -- it merely stated that the school was not allowed to lead children in prayer, or push religion on them, which is counter to what Fundamentalists love to do -- which is to brainwash everyone to their form of Christianity.
  • Homosexuality is taught in public schools. The reality is that it's not. All sex education classed simply teach that it's normal, and nowhere do public schools promote it. The Christian Fundamentalists, though, have this notion that if you do not actively condemn homosexuality, then it is the same as promoting it.
  • I honestly don't know where Huber gets the notion that we don't execute mass murderers. If he knew anything about capital punishment, he'd know that it varies from state to state, because the constitution leaves such things up to the individual states. If a state has the death penalty, then it can be used, and we do execute plenty of people every year. The idea that the state coddles criminals is a fundamentally untrue notion.

Next, Huber says "We don't burn books in America, we now rewrite them."

I honestly have no idea what he is referring to with this idea. Perhaps he has read Orwell's 1984 too many times, and thinks it's for real.

Next, Huber demonstrates his ignorance of politics by saying "We got rid of the Communist and Socialist threat by renaming then Progressives."

Or in reality, Huber has conflated Communist, Socialist, and Progressive, because he doesn't understand the differences, nor does he understand that conservatives like Joseph McCarthy posed a far greater threat to democracy than American socialists and communists ever did. Communists, Socialists, and Progressives are 3 completely different political ideologies. Like many conservatives who don't like to take the time to read up on things like FACTS, Huber just lumps anything more liberal than his views under the banner of "Communism", and thinks that suffices. It doesn't. The 3 are distinct from each other.

Huber continues, "We are unable to close our border with mexico, but have no problem protecting the 38th parallel in Korea."

Is Mr. Huber REALLY trying to compare Mexico, a FRIENDLY neighboring nation that we have trade and good relations with, to North Korea, a HOSTILE nation that has nuclear weapons, and which threatens all of it's neighboring countries, and poses a genuine risk to the rest of the world?

Now Mr. Huber really lets us know how far off of his rocker he is, by saying "If you protest against president Obama's policies, you're a terrorist, but if you burn an American flag or George Bush effigy, it was your 1st Amendment right."

Can anyone point out one single group of people who were called terrorists for "protesting Obama's policies"? I don't think there was a single news story where anyone accused people protesting President Obama of being terrorists.There were, however, plenty of accusations against people protesting George W. Bush's policies, who were called "traitors" by many conservative politicians and pundits.

Also, when a bunch of Tea Party protesters showed up in D.C. with semi-automatic weapons, they sure didn't appear ready for "peaceful" protesting. But the bottom line is that they did not get labeled terrorists, and were not arrested, even though it is clearly against the law to bring weapons to D.C. Public landmarks.

Huber shows us that he really buys into the phony "War On Christmas" meme when he writes "You can have Pornography on TV or the Internet, but you better not put a nativity scene in a public park during Christmas;"

This type of sentiment is contrived, and part of the whole "War On Christmas" mentality that Fox News and Bill O'Reilly bring up every year. The mentality is based on a series of distorted news events, revolving around equal access to Seasonal displays, and how many towns use public funds for specifically Christian nativity displays, while other groups, like Jews, often get left out. If a Jew protests and asks for a Channukah display to go next to the nativity scene, it's somehow a "war on Christmas", rather than a person asking for the equal treatment that is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Another bizarre statement from Huber is "We have eliminated all criminals in America, they are now called sick people".

This is really an assinine statement, which is based on a few famous law cases where people have claimed insanity in their defense for crimes like murder. Famous cases like the "Twinkie Defense", which most people don't even know the facts about (The defendant was convicted, and the defense did not work), still are part of the public's collective memory. In spite of the fact that America has the largest per-capita incarceration rate of any western democracy, people like Huber still think that too many murderers are let off scott-free because of insanity pleas. He is far from the truth, as he is with the rest of his fallacious claims, though.

Huber descends into outright lies here: "We can use a human fetus for medical research, but it's wrong to use an animal."

Not only is Huber forgetting that we banned human fetal tissue research, but there are no laws against using lab animals, period. Huber must believe that the existence of Animal Rights protestors equals some kind of law banning the use of animals in lab research. The reality is that there is no such ban. Hubewr has the facts reversed, but you can never really argue the facts with someone like Huber. Facts are secondary to Huber's emotional and flawed knowledge (or lack thereof).

Another bizarre conservative myth that Huber promotes is "We take money from those who work hard, and give it to those who don't want to work."

If Huber is talking about how the wealthy in this nation basically pay no taxes, and get free handouts from the Government, he would be correct, but I know that Huber is essentially labeling all people on Welfare as the "people who don't want to work". Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people on Welfare who are able-bodied, work -- and work very hard, at crappy jobs, in order to get their "workfare" as it is now called. Welfare was transformed nearly 30 years ago into the current system, which makes non-handicapped Welfare recipients take below-minimum-wage jobs in order to get their Welfare payments. The idea that people on welfare "don't want to work" is complete nonsense. Most people on welfare want to work, but have fallen on hard times, long-term medical issues, or small personal disasters which they had difficulty recovering from. The rest are handicapped. Nobody likes being on welfare. There isn't a single person in the system who prefers it to working for a living. The system is deliberately set up to be unpleasant, and it is. Like many conservatives, Huber is arguing about outdated issues that no longer exist.

Huber is making an ironic statement when he says "We all support the Constitution, but only when it supports our political ideology." This is exactly the problem with most conservatives -- they only support the constitution, particularly the Second Amendment, when it's politically convenient for them. In recent years, Conservative elected officials and pundits all suggested that we do away with or modify various Amendments -- like the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and so on. Apparently all that freedom in the hands of liberals can be a bad thing -- we might have to listen to too many liberals using free speech, and so on, and that could be inconvenient for those conservatives who want to have liberals arrested for saying things they don't want to hear. The amount of times that liberal elected officials and pundits suggest we change or eliminate certain freedoms from the Constitution is ZERO.

Huber continues "we still have freedom of speech, but only if we are being politically correct."

Huber, like so many other conservatives, equates being arrested, tried, and punished (which is what happens when you break a law) with negative public opinion when you make a retarded public comment. If someone calls you out on a politically incorrect (or just a plain stupid) public statement, and criticizes you for it, it is not the same as the government arresting you for it. Conservatives have been equating the court of public opinion with actual courts for ages. If a conservative makes a racist statement, or suggests that a woman who is being raped should just lay back and enjoy it (and conservatives HAVE said these things!) they deserve all the public ridicule they get. This is different from when all those conservative lawmakers and pundits were suggesting that anyone who protested the Iraq war were traitors, suggesting that we should imprison them for free speech.

The last bit of Huber's insane screed goes "parenting has been replaced with Ritalin and video games; the land of opportunity is now the land of hand outs; the similarity between Hurricane Katrina and the gulf oil spill is that neither president did anything to help."

The idea that President Obama did nothing about the BP Gulf Oil Spill is utter hogwash. Fining them, putting a moratorium on new offshore drilling, and making them clean it up is nothing? The President was accused to responding too slow to the oil spill, not of doing nothing. Huber didn't bother to check the facts, and has a poor memory, like most of the people who passed his note around.

Huber offers the following oversimplification of how things get done by government, "And how do we handle a major crisis today? The government appoints a committee to determine who's at fault, then threatens them, passes a law, raises our taxes; tells us the problem is solved so they can get back to their reelection campaign."

This perception is common for people who don't have a clue about how government works, or whose only information comes from listening to pundits who believe and repeat the above statement. When we faced 911, was that how it got dealt with? When the sub-prime mortgage crisis hit, was that how it was taken care of? If you do the research, you should figure out that it's not how it happend.

Finally, "What has happened to the land of the free and home of the brave?"

Too many uneducated, irrational, lazy conservatives, have obviously spent too much time stroking each other's egos, passed each others rants and screeds around the internet, and believe each other's bullshit. That's what it looks like to me!