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I, Kurzweil

May 8, 2009

Wow, what a fantastic title for a book.  Based on my purchase of Wired for War, Amazon has recommended Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robotswhich sounds like a satire along the lines of The Zombie Survival Guide, but it’s not:

Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots represents the most serious attempt to date to set out how to build an ‘ethical robot.’ An eminent engineer and roboticist, who has spent several years in conversation with philosophers, lawyers, and military ethicists, Professor Arkin is uniquely placed to pursue this project. This timely book outlines and directly addresses the ethical dilemmas posed by the development of autonomous military robots, which will confront roboticists and military policy makers in the future. Arkin’s thesis, that appropriately designed military robots will be better able to avoid civilian casualties than existing human warfighters and might therefore make future wars more ethical, is likely to be the subject of intense debate and controversy for years to come.

Not for the layman, this book has a list price of – ay caramba! – sixty dollars, so even with the Amazon discount this paperback is forty bucks – beyond my pay grade, no question, during my current half time employment.  If I had more readers, I’d appeal for someone to send me a copy (I doubt the publishers would fork over a review copy to a blogger).

Interesting articles via Slashdot yesterday on a new movie about Ray Kurzweil.  Transcendent Man is a biographical film that focuses on Kurzweil the man as much as Kurzweil the technoprophet.  It looks good from the trailer; living as I do in Reno NV I imagine I’ll have to wait for the DVD.

As always, good comments on Slashdot, some worth quoting:

The main issue is that he’s ignoring politics. He’s ignoring the fact that technologies which comes into existence get used by existing power structures to perpetuate their rule, not necessarily "for the good of all". Mind reading technology he predicts won’t be floating around for everybody to play with, it will be used by intelligence agencies to prop of regimes which will scan the brains of potential opposition, consolidating their rule. Quantum computers, given their code breaking potential, won’t be in public hands either, but rather will strengthen surveillance operations of those who already do this stuff…In other words, this technology won’t make the past go away any more than the advent of the atom bomb made middle ages Islamic mujahadeen go away. Rather it will combine with current political realities to accentuate the ancient political realities of haves and have not that date back to ancient times.

Reading that quote, and this one:

What I suspect is going to happen is that we’re going to get good AIs and robots, but they won’t be cheaper than people. Suppose that an AI smarter than humans can be built, but it’s the size of a server farm. In that case, the form the "singularity" may take is not augmented humans, but augmented corporations. The basic problem with companies is that no one person has the whole picture. But a machine could. If this happens, the machines will be in charge, simply because the machines can communicate and organize better.

…make me all the more certain that we need a strong open source approach to AI, to prevent it from becoming a centralized power tool.  The more open the code, the more people have a part in its creation, the less likely it is to be used against us.

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