Thursday, May 31, 2007

World's First Robotic Murderer?

It's the same old story: idiot accidentally kills himself with robot, media blames 'unsafe killer robots,' we all laugh at 'Skynet became self-aware' jokes. Expect to see more of these in the future... blaming artificial intelligence for human stupidity.

Google Knows Your Face...?

Google has added another powerful AI tool to their search arsenal, this time in facial recognition. By adding the argument "&imgtype=face" into the URL of a Google Image Search, results can be filtered to provide only faces related to the search string. It seems to be pretty accurate, excluding most non-facial images, and capturing many cartoon faces along with results where the face is only a small portion of the image.

Maybe if they mash this up with their new Street View in Maps, they can start identifying people outside of strip clubs...

Semantic Search is Coming

I came across an article about semantic search that does a decent job of explaining the differences between statistics-based and semantics-based approaches to information retrieval. It also describes some of the difficulties and shortcomings of the Semantic Web, along with a few of the related natural language applications.

via Slashdot

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hubris Spells Doom for Grandmaster

Sophisticated AI chess programs are continuing to beat the world’s greatest human players, and the humiliated Grandmasters are continuing to gripe & complain. First, Deep Blue defeated world champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, and just five months ago the current champ was beaten in a one-move checkmate by a new AI program.
"I rechecked this variation many times and analyzed quite far ahead," Kramnik protested. "It seemed to me I was winning."

Indeed. Chess had been long regarded as a game requiring much creativity & ingenuity to excel, something that machines would never dominate. But as Deep Blue and others have shown us, our unabashed confidence was no match for the brute force mapping of all possible outcomes. Eventually, human players adapted their game play to try to throw off the computer programs, but the AI have adapted as well, going so far as to invention previously unknown variations, to maintain their chess supremacy.

How long until other domains previously described as bastions of creativity & consciousness give way to algorithms & AI? Many have spoken about the “God of the Gaps” concept, but what about a Consciousness of the Gaps?

Dartmouth’s New Approach to AGI

Dartmouth College’s new Institute for Computational Science seems like a very promising approach to creating Artificial General Intelligence, combining elements of engineering, philosophy, neuroscience, and traditional computer science.

While the student paper article seems little more than a press release regarding the new Institute, the author raises and interesting issue about algorithms used by computational scientists to “re-create” elements of the real world for research & experimentation. Could sufficiently-complex modeling & simulation systems serve as the mechanism behind internal mental modeling for a conscious artificial mind? We regularly use similar tools for testing aerospace & fluidic systems, as well as modeling astronomic & quantum phenomena, so why not a generalized apparatus for predictive conscious thought? Such a system could provide the means for planning, intentionality, exploring cause & effect, as well as guessing what one will find around the next corner. Of course, expanding the domain of our modeling & simulation algorithms to be thoroughly general in nature is no trivial task, but it does open an interesting path to explore.

A Field Study in Human-Robot Relationships

The Washington Post published an intriguing article about the emotional connection forged between U.S. soldiers in Iraq & Afghanistan and their robot companions. It seems many soldiers attribute personalities to the machines they interact with on a daily basis, and are considerably upset when one is damaged or destroyed. While many critics are quick to point out the vast differences between mankind and its robotic creations, our frontline troops prefer to treat them as valuable team members worthy of praise & honor.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Using Guesses to Build Mental Maps

Purdue Univ researchers have constructed a robotic navigation system that utilizes predictive mapping to chart the environment of unknown areas. The robots create “mental maps” of unseen regions based on observed patterns recognized in previously-charted territory. Simulations have shown successful navigation while exploring as little as 33% of an environment.

This system seems well-suited for Grand Challenge driverless vehicle applications, which in the past have mostly relied on interpretation of real-time sensor telemetry. If this predictive mental mapping could be expanded beyond environmental navigation to contextual awareness in general, building abstract mental models of ideas and concepts, it could be another step on the path towards artificial consciousnesss.

Meet Domo, Son of Kismet & Cog

With funding from NASA and Toyota, MIT researchers are creating a domestic assistant robot designed to interact with people in an unfamiliar human environment. Combining the human interaction skills of Kismet with Cog’s object manipulation abilities, it is hoped Domo will someday assist the elderly with common household tasks.

Friday, May 4, 2007

AI as a Moral Agent

The Ottawa Citizen takes a closer look at the ideology behind South Korea's initiative to draw up ethical guidelines to govern intelligent machines (as previously covered here). The article predictably examines the influence of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, but also dismisses the "hype" surrounding the proposals as much ado about nothing. The author correctly points out the weaknesses in the Three Laws, as relating to military and sentry applications of robotics. However, despite describing himself as an optimistic Luddite, he betrays an anthropocentric egoism that human intelligence will never be surpassed, therefore, these proposed guidelines will ultimately serve no purpose.