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.


Sioux said...

I don't think the robot will tell kids to ask for permissions unless you remember to specifically program it. I think it's going to say, "Jimmy, did you like that story?" and if Jimmy says yes, it will automatically BUY more at that point. I think it will have the auto-order utility as default. Amazon would buy into that! "Shoot, we're out of mouthwash!" id heard from the bathroom. Next thing you know the Amazon drone has delivered more mouthwash. Thanks Jibo!

David W. Irish said...

I think there is already a legal precedence against the robot auto-buying without your consent. If you told the robot to buy stuff, that's a different story, but not asking for permission before it rings up a sale is a clear violation of existing laws. But because it's a robot, and not an internet app, they may have a loophole!

David W. Irish said...

Thank you for the feedback I will try to answer your questions as best as possible.

(1) Will Jibo collect data from me and my family while he is in our home, and send that information over the internet to data collectors, who may use that information for marketing? Will Myjibo,com sell any of the information that Jibo collects to other companies?
• There is no plan to do so and if the decision were ever taken to do so, customers would be presented a choice to opt-in, or not, depending on the value to them.

(2) Will information collected from the Jibo in my home be used to target specific advertising to me or my family members? Will my Jibo ever talk to me, and recommend products to me based on marketing information sent to it over the Internet?
• Not our intention nor is any advertising-related application of Jibo planned at this time.
• In the future, if Jibo, Inc. decided to perhaps offer a lower-priced unit in exchange for advertising (much the way TV or the Web or Amazon Kindles do, or have offered), it will be the customer's choice whether to accept.
• That said, no plans for advertising delivered via Jibo today. The information Jibo will understand through a family's usage will be used to make Jibo recognize family members, and remember preferences so he can best respond to individuals in the family. There is no plan to make any data available to any other external party at this time.

(3) Can I tell Jibo to cut-off or ignore communications sent to it from specific vendors? Would I be able to tell Jibo to ignore communications from your company?
• There is no planned information from "vendors" as noted above.
• I'm not clear on the 2nd part of the question, because 'communication from Jibo, Inc.' would take the form of software upgrades and like any consumer technology, I would hope consumers would take advantage of those upgrades because they will contain performance enhancements and new capabilities over time.

(4) If Jibo loses access to a wifi network, shortly after being set up in my home, will he still be able to work, or does he require constant access to the internet (and your company) in order to function? For example, suppose I decide to take him on a camping trip away from Wifi. Will he still be a companion and talk to me, or will he be stuck just asking me to check the Wifi connection?
• His capabilities will be limited if the network fails. He is designed to function, after having been set-up, in a more limited way without a network connection. At this time, we cannot be more specific but of course, communication applications like real-time video connections, and messaging, and any access to a Jibo from a family member's mobile device, require network connections.

(5) Will Jibo take pictures and video without being asked by me to specifically do so? Could a technician at Myjibo,com access Jibo’s camera without my permission?
• No.

There is no remote access without consumer permissions (and even then, remote access will be limited to 'service access,' vs access to any data). Similar to a laptop or tablet, if there is remote service offered, that service can only happen when consumers specifically approve it in short, time-out sessions.

(6) Can I modify Jibo’s personality or voice? Could there be a punk rock, Goth, flamboyantly gay, or John Cleese personality for my Jibo, so he can be more fun to be around?
• He is like a companion...with one personality and identity. That said, we plan on having him take on personality 'flavors' just like people do!
• You could help us clothes our messages -- what we call "Jiboticons" -- so Jibo can trick-out in a costume ... Goth Jibo! Would sell like hotcakes.

Thank you for your interest in JIBO!

The JIBO Family

fredmcg said...

I can't say how glad I am david is no longer writing things online, the fact that he's been doing it from the early 2000s to 2014 is bad enough but to be fair, was anyone really paying any sort of attention to his insane,useless and childlike ramblings?

David W. Irish said...

What makes you think that I am no longer writing things online? I still write plenty of idiotic, childish rants and ramblings all the time, in multiple places.

If you like, i could pay special attention to you, and write stuff directed at you, personally.