NAO Next Gen : the new robot of Aldebaran Robotics
At the beginning of this report’s section, I suggested that there is a continuum from a fully human animal to a cybernetic organism to a fully robotic machine. This spectrum is perhaps defined by how many human body parts we replace with mechanical ones, ranging from zero to all. Enhanced warfighters, then, could fall somewhere in the middle of this continuum. If “robot ethics” is different from human ethics, at least where relevant facts about humans and robots differ, then it seems that “cyborg ethics” too would diverge from human ethics where there’s a relevant difference in the construction and abilities between cyborgs and humans. Though not all enhanced persons are cyborgs, e.g., if the enhancements are genetic, pharmacological, or otherwise not robotic, we can also reasonably conclude that ethics for enhanced persons generally may be different from the standard human ethics.
New technologies reveal ambiguities and hidden assumptions in international humanitarian law.
Science fiction, or actual U.S. military project? Half a world away from the battlefield, a soldier controls his avatar-robot that does the actual fighting on the ground. Another one wears a sticky fabric that enables her to climb a wall like a gecko or spider would. Returning from a traumatic mission, a pilot takes a memory-erasing drug to help ward off post-traumatic stress disorder. Mimicking the physiology of dolphins and sled-dogs, a sailor is able to work his post all week without sleep and only a few meals.
All of these scenarios are real military projects currently in various stages of research. This is the frontlines of the Human Enhancement Revolution — we now know enough about biology, neuroscience, computing, robotics, and materials to hack the human body, reshaping it in our own image. And defense-related applications are a major driver of science and technology research.
But, as I reported earlier, we also face serious ethical, legal, social, and operational issues in enhancing warfighters. Here, I want to drill down on what the laws of war say about military human enhancements, as we find that other technologies such as robotics and cyberweapons run into serious problems in this area as well.
Should enhancement technologies — which typically do not directly interact with anyone other than the human subject — be nevertheless subject to a weapons legal-review? That is, is there a sense in which enhancements could be considered as “weapons” and therefore under the authority of certain laws?
In international humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the laws of war, the primary instruments relevant to human enhancements include: Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907), Geneva Conventions (1949 and Additional Protocols I, II, and III), Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (1972), Chemical Weapons Convention (1993), and other law. Below, I discuss these agreements and what their implications may be for human enhancement.
If autonomous robots are clearly regulatable weapons, then consider the spectrum of cyborgs — part-human, part-machine — that exists between robots and unenhanced humans. Replacing one body part, say a human knee, with a robotic part starts us on the cybernetic path. And as other body parts are replaced, the organism becomes less human and more robotic. Finally, after (hypothetically) replacing every body part, including the brain, the organism is entirely robotic with no trace of the original human. If we want to say that robots are weapons but humans are not, then we would be challenged to identify the point on that spectrum at which the human becomes a robot or a weapon.
Toyota has given a taste of self-drive car safety technology ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week. The car maker revealed a video clip of a Lexus fitted with safety features designed to minimise car crashes. The technology includes on-board radar and video cameras to monitor the road, the surroundings, and the driver. The car can also communicate with other vehicles, according to a Toyota spokesman. Driver aid “We’re looking at a car that would eliminate crashes,” said the spokesman. “Zero-collisions is our ultimate aim.” The video shows a prototype Lexus LS fitted with what Toyota’s described as an “Intelligent Transport Systems” (ITS) technology. The “advanced active safety research vehicle” prototype uses ITS and existing Toyota technology to monitor whether the driver is awake, to keep the car on the road, and to stop at traffic signals. The technology is designed to be used in conjunction with a driver, but the car can control itself, said the spokesman. (via BBC News – Toyota sneak previews self-drive car ahead of tech show)
Meet Roboy, “one of the most advanced humanoid robots,” say researchers at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the University of Zurich. Their 15 project partners and over 40 engineers and scientists are constructing Roboy as a tendon-driven robot modeled on human beings (robots usually have their motors in their joints, giving them that “robot” break-dance look), so it will move almost as elegantly as a human. Roboy will be a “service robot,” meaning it will execute services independently for the convenience of human beings, as in the movie Robot & Frank. And since service robots share their “living space” with people, user-friendliness and safety, above all, are of great importance, roboticists point out. Which is why “soft robotics” — soft to the touch, soft in their interaction, soft and natural in their movements — will be important, and Roboy will be covered with “soft skin,” making interacting with him safer and more pleasant. Service robots are already used in a wide variety of areas today, including for household chores, surveillance work and cleaning, and in hospitals and care homes. Our aging population is making it necessary to keep older people as autonomous as possible for as long as possible, which means caring for aged people is likely to be an important area for the deployment of service robots, roboticists say. To speed up the process, the AI Lab researchers set a goal to build Roboy in just 9 months (the project began five months ago). Roboy will be unveiled at the Robots on Tour March 8 and 9, 2013 in Zurich. To make this ambitious schedule possible, they decided to finance the first grassroots robotics project via crowdfunding. To participate, see Make Roboy your friend. You can also friend Roboy on Facebook. By announcing the birth of a humanoid baby robot, we are not implying any relationship to a current holiday and certain Futurama episodes — get that idea out of your head! BTW, Roboy just accepted my friend request. That’s not something you see every day. —- Ed. (via Advanced humanoid Roboy to be ‘born’ in nine months | KurzweilAI)
As director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich, Dr. Rolf Pfeifer has long argued that embodiment is one of the best methods for attaining artificial general intelligence (AGI). The embodiment hypothesis, is based on the idea that human intelligence is largely derived from our motor abilities, and therefore to create artificial general intelligence, a robotic body that interacts with the physical environment is crucial. Previously Pfeifer worked to this end via the humanoid robot ECCEROBOT, that was also referred to as Cronos. Now Pfeifer and his team of of researchers, have stated the ambitious goal of building a new humanoid robot, Roboy, in a record nine months. (via 33rd Square | Rolf Pfeiffer And His Team Working On Crowd Funded, Open-Source Humanoid Robot)