“Those robots lucky enough to have limbs that can operate a doorknob, or to have the door left open for them, would have to contend with deceptively tricky rubber thresholds before they could get into the hallway. Hours later, most of them would be found in nearby bathrooms, trying desperately to exterminate what they have identified as a human overlord but is actually a paper towel dispenser.” Randall Munroe, via
Paul Waldman, Rise of the Machines
Tatsuhiko Itohara created a program for HRP-2 to follow his hand while playing the guitar. By watching and listening to the beat, HRP-2 can sync to the sound of an acoustic guitar!
A little bit faster now.
National correspondent Amy Harmon sits down to talk with the Bina48 about what it’s like to be a robot.
There is ongoing debate about what constitutes life. Synthetic bacteria for example, are created by man and yet also alive. Some go so far as to say that robot “emotions” may already have occurred—that current robots have not only displayed emotions, but in some ways have experienced them.
“We’re all machines,” says Rodney Brooks author of “Flesh and Machines,” and former director of M.I.T.’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, “Robots are made of different sorts of components than we are — we are made of biomaterials; they are silicon and steel — but in principle, even human emotions are mechanistic.” A robot’s level of a feeling like sadness could be set as a number in computer code, he said. But isn’t a human’s level of sadness basically a number, too, just a number of the amounts of various neurochemicals circulating in the brain? Why should a robot’s numbers be any less authentic than a human’s?
One of Brooks of his longtime goals has been to create a robot so “alive” that you feel bad about switching it off. Brooks pioneered the movement that teaching robots how to “learn” was more sensible that trying to program them to automatically do complex things, such as walk. Brooks work has evolved around artificial intelligence systems that learn to do things in a “natural” process like a human baby does. This approach has come to be known as embodied intelligence.
Cynthia Breazeal, once a student in Brooks Lab, is now an associate professor at M.I.T. and director of the Personal Robotics Group. Breazeal discovered firsthand how complicated it was to try to figure out whether the “social” robots she has helped developed were capable of “feeling”.
(Un)related: In researching Les “Robots Music,” I came across this — The Great Pianola War of 1898, a battle between concert pianist Mark Hambourg & “the future Mrs. Ziegfeld,” comedienne Anna Held. Hambourg detailed it in his autobiography:
“One of my fellow guests in the Hotel Martin, was Anna Held, the musical comedy actress, reputed to have the finest bare back in the world. She complained to the manager that I started practising too early in the morning, and disturbed her slumbers. As her habit was to stay up all night giving parties and dancing in her apartment which certainly disturbed me, I was indignant at her daring to complain of my noise. But the creature hired a pianola and made it play exactly the same pieces of music that I was working at, and with devilish ingenuity she would put on this wretched instrument whenever I started to practice.
“This nearly drove me distracted, and I was perforce obliged to stop playing. Eventually, however, through the good offices of Mr. Martin, we made a truce with each other, and I agreed not to start so early and she not to remain so late.”
Compromise! It rarely works in these disputes. You accept the noise, grudgingly. Or you move.