Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oh these are the dogs my friends

Posted by goatchurch at 3:10 AM


Surfing around Category:Military robots came up with the above object. At first you are impressed, until it starts to look like two back ends of a pantomime horse dancing around like a blind thing to the sound of a whining tiny chainsaw. The comments on the video seem to bear me out.

Let's face it, it's a bit crap.

Often that's the reason for keeping military technology top secret these days-- so that we believe it's good.

The majority of the Military robots are flying drones. Obviously staying up in the air is much less of a challenge than interacting with something solid. However, all they can do is look around, find targets, and bomb them. Then the news gets bombed with lies about how legitimate targets were present, and how only legitimate targets were killed. Job's a good 'un.

I wish reporters would keep track of official sources properly, because if you pay close attention to the flow of information you realize that the definition of an indiscriminate attack is that the video-game teenagers on the warships don't have any idea many people they have killed-- until someone pokes through the rubble and counts the bodies. Once the number is known, they can all be declared guilty. Then, before anyone gets too interested, they move on to another remote control strike somewhere else in the world aimed at the ghost.

It's just not good enough. I am tired of this disconnect between the fantasy of what the engineers and war-makers convince the press they can achieve, and what's actually going on. The developments are heading in a different direction from the way people are used to making it up.

It's worth paying close attention and having a non-credulous discussion about what's good and what's not, because once robots begin to work and get out into the environment, they will change the world completely. The only question that matters is what type of robot is going to go mainstream first. Will it be a small device that can assassinate, or a slow vehicle driver? Will it be something that can do all the housework including cleaning the ceiling, or will it be street litter-picker, sorter and recycler? Will it be the size of a donkey, a car, or a honey bee?

This change to the age of the robots -- if it happens -- will be bigger than the internet, and must happen before anything close to AI gets invented. Science Fiction missed out on the internet, and it's missing out on stories about the age of robots for the same reason. The reason being that story-tellers consistently leap straight onto the trope of thinking computers (AI), because it gives them an extra character for free. Fiction is supposed to be about Characters, you see. That's how we are taught to write. The urge to anthropomorphise is totally irresistable.

Unfortunately, always, necessarily, this causes the SF author to gloss over the all intermediate technologies, such as effective (but dumb) robots that will undeniably change the world completely. AI is like a mile-deep bear-pit which SF writers routinely fall into, followed by an enjoyable experience of the wind swishing past the ears till the end of the story. On the other side of this hole lies an entire continent of unexplored territory that SF writers have rarely been into.

We will not have the world as it is now, but with AI. This fully played-out and false scenario is specifically excluded from Mundane-SF for this reason.


Meanwhile, here is a message of hope:



I can report that I had the honour of meeting Reverend Billy while he was on tour in England four years ago. I took part in a very modest retail intervention. The experience blew my mind. I recommend that everybody participates in one.

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10/01/2009 01:53:00 PM  

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