Tag Archives: technology

We’ve Built a Race of Robots

I’ve always wanted a robot. Or robots, actually. Just a couple of them, wandering around the house at all times. They don’t even need to do chores. They can just…be there. Being robots.

And I’m not talking about robots that are remote controlled. It has to have some kind of AI.

For me, the idea of robots just wandering around the landscape has been one of those signs that THE FUTURE IS HERE. It’s a sign that humanity has progressed enough that we can create something that can respond to us and grow and learn and become more than it was at the start.

It’s the idea of making a companion race to follow alongside us that’s so compelling. While I think it’s doubtful that we’ll find an alien lifeform of comparable intelligence and that is actually physically capable of talking with us, I do think there’s potential for us to create a new life and robotics is one of the keys to that.

So I’m going to build a robot. It’ll be very simple. No real programming. It’ll just follow a light. But it’s a start. I’ve ordered it already.

In a week or two, the future will be here.

-D-

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Ten Percent

Last week, my computer was out of commission for about four days. It wasn’t a very long time and I was able to access everything I needed using either Emily’s computer (Thanks El!) or my iPod. So there was no real first world hardship involved and I was able to do pretty much everything that I was able to do before my computer decided to lose its marbles.

That didn’t change the fact that I felt a lot better after I had gotten my computer back. It’s a mix of a wide variety of different emotions. Partly it’s just a comfort thing. I like to write in the same spot, on the same surface, using the same interface. It’s just a matter of comfort and familiarity.

There’s also the matter that my computer is, in subtle and overt ways, thoroughly integrated into my life. Computer’s aren’t like, say, televisions or iPods or other pieces of technology. We talk to our friends through them. We bank through them. We buy through them. We look up facts through them. We maintain a large part of our lives through this one piece of tech. And when mine went haywire I felt…diminished.

It’s not the easiest feeling to explain, but I felt like I do before I have my morning coffee or when I don’t get enough sleep and all the cylinders aren’t firing. It was only a feeling I noticed after I got my computer back and I was relieved and happy and felt back in control of things again.

Which is a disturbing idea to me, that I could become so dependent on something that could be eradicated by a spilled sweet iced tea. I wish I didn’t need it for so much (writing, publishing, banking), just so I could rely on it less. And now, more than ever, I’m starting to rely on it more. It’s actually earned me money (hey, you should buy my book). And at some point, I’d like to completely earn a living off of it.

So, for better or for worse, I’m tied to this extremely fragile, not so durable, time wasting box.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think

The Cutting Edge

I’ve always loved gadgets. I like to read about the newest advances in gizmos and watch videos detailing their functionalities and doodads. When the Kindle was first announced, I pored over the specs, watching every available video. I followed the iPad and, to a greater degree, the Courier, Microsoft’s now cancelled tablet PC.

But I never bought any of it. I was always behind the curve, technologically speaking. I have an eleven dollar cellphone and I’m happy with it. Why would I want it to do anything else? Sure, I think the iPhone looks nifty, but I need my phone to make phone calls and not charge me crazy amounts for it.

That’s slowly started to change. After three years, I finally bought the Kindle. I got as cutting edge as you can possibly get with a book. And now, I’ve taken another, terrible step. I got an iPod Touch. I’m listening to it as we speak. It gives me information, almost whenever I want it. I’m now more in contact with the people around me than I used to be.

I’m slowly, steadily plugging in. And I’m terrified. I’m turning a corner where soon I’ll be one of THOSE people; wearing a blue tooth headset and talking to people no-one else can see. I’ll snap pictures of my pets and my lunch and then tweet them. I’ll be so busy emailing someone while playing Angry Birds that I won’t realize that the apartment is on fire

So, in conclusion, have a picture of my guinea pig:

Dylan Charles

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The Robot Menace

We all have different notions about what the future will be like, about what our world will be like. For some us, the Future will be signified by an ushering in of newer and better technology; whether it’s hover cars, molecule-sized computer, genetically engineered monstrosities or, in my case, robots.

For whatever reason, robots mean the Future for me. Robots fighting, robots flying, robots vacuuming the floor, robots fetching beers: that’s truly a sign that we’ve entered a new age. And not remote controlled robots either, but fully autonomous bots that are capable of learning and adapting to changes in the environment.

So I’m constantly scanning the news, looking for newer and better ‘bots. And by that, I don’t mean those terrifying monstrosities that the Japanese can’t get enough of. There is, apparently, no analogous term for “the uncanny valley” in Japanese.

I’m more interested in, say, the PR2. It learns to better do chores around the house. And look, it doesn’t have vaguely human features designed to send the user shrieking from the room. There’s also the blob-bot, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bot…that’s a blob. It moves through a complicated process that I can’t explain. Just watch the video.

But I think my interest (and the interest of many of the designers) goes deeper than just geeking out over cool tech. The idea of one of our creations being smart enough, flexible enough, human enough, to talk back to us is exciting.  I believe that humanity has, in general, always been on the lonely side. Our stories are populated with creatures and beings with brains that match ours and walk alongside us. We keep pets and then anthropomorphize the shit out of them. We keep a constant eye on the stars in the hopes that somewhere out there, there is intelligent life. Hopefully benevolent (or at least morally ambivalent) and willing to talk to us.

With artificial intelligence, it’s just one more way we’re trying to find a companion who is Other and, at the same time, very familiar.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think