DARPA Wants Humanoid Robots
DARPA's Robotics Challenge is a contest to design robots for dangerous disaster relief situations from natural or industrial disasters. (Credit: DARPA) Disaster Zone Robot Competition Announced By Pentagon -- BBC A competition to develop next-generation robots capable of saving lives in disaster zones has been unveiled by the Pentagon's advanced research laboratory. More
Call for Post-Conference Proceedings Papers with Extended Submission Deadline of May 25, 2012: The 2012 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ICAI'12), USA, July 16-19, 2012
Dear AI and Soft Computing community: Please share the announcement below with individuals who may be interested. We anticipate having about 2,000 attendees from 88 countries participating at the federated event that this conference is part of. here
Origin of Internet ?
According to Wikipedia, "The origins of the Internet reach back to research of the 1960s, commissioned by the United States government in collaboration with private commercial interests to build robust, fault-tolerant, and distributed computer networks." But perhaps it really dates back to late 1930's to early 1940's, the Operation Magic. Here ...
Towards an Enactive Artificial Intelligence I
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be approached just with an engineering frame of mind, looking for algorithms that work, being able to solve a problem. However, one can settle to a philosophical one too, and consider AI a conceptual tool to get better insight on what the mind is and how it works. here
On Obama, Artificial Intelligence, Getting Ahead at Work
Obama's gonna win again. Is there any doubt? If there is, you ve been watching too much TV. Read
TRON and Artificial Intelligence
Tron. The movie about 'the Dude' who gets sucked into a computer. More
Machine Learning with Python - Logistic Regression
Hi all, I decided to start a new series of posts now focusing on general machine learning with several snippets for anyone to use with real problems or real datasets. Since I am studying machine learning again with a great course online offered this semester by Stanford University, one of the best ways to review the content learned is to write some notes about what I learned. Read More
Call for Papers with Extended Deadline: The 2012 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ICAI'12) at WORLDCOMP'12, USA, July 16-19, 2012
************************************************** CALL FOR PAPERS EXTENDED Paper Submission Deadline: April 12, 2012 ICAI'12 The 2012 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence July 16-19, 2012, Las Vegas, USA http://www.world-academy-of-science. here
Artificial Intelligence and Emotions
Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal" mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0 mso-tstyle-colband-size:0 mso-style-noshow:yes mso-style-parent:"" mso-padding-alt:0in 5. Read
'Genius' Computer With An IQ Of 150
Artificial intelligence? The high-IQ software uses a mix of computer logic and 'human like' thinking to achieve higher scores than previous software 'Genius' Computer With An IQ Of 150 Is 'More Intelligent' Than 96 Per Cent Of Humans -- Daily Mail * Software uses mixture of logic and 'human-like' thinking * Score is classified as 'genius' * It could 'spot patterns' in financial data A computer has become the first to be classed as a 'genius' after scoring 150 in an IQ test. The average score for people is 100. Read more

Merry Christmas, fellow Humans and other Sentient Beings!

This picture from Fake Science explains it perfectly! Christmas is good for our humanoid future. Enjoy your holidays everyone, and see you in the next year. Which will be just as busy as this, so I’m not sure how much time I’ll be able to devote to this blog. Sorry and Merry Christmas!


Current AI Panic Level


What's AI Panic?

This site is dedicated to research and unveil the perils, imminence and probabilities of a hostile takeover of the world through artificial intelligence. I will stay on the lookout for you and post articles, research papers and break-throughs of everything that could affect this danger.

Who's panicking?

Not me. Not yet, at least. And you probably shouldn't, either. But staying alert and informed doesn't hurt.

I'm , and I'm interested in Artificial Intelligence, Games, Astronomy, and Science in general. I'm a PhD student at Imperial College London, UK, where I research AI and Automatic Adaptation of Video Games. Follow me on Twitter for brief comments and AI news too short for a blog entry!

Recent articles

Siri, in a year

I found a wonderful comic while procrastinating socializing on Google Plus. Please click through to the image to see the full comic, made by Doghouse Diaries.

Having an Android-phone myself, I haven’t really used Siri much, but the speech and context recognition capabilities are quite impressive. Don’t make a mistake - there is no “sentient” being in your phone. While the algorithms used can clearly be called AI algorithms, but mostly it’s relatively straight-forward search. Siri (and related chat bots) use a large database to look for context clues (like “date” “meeting” “remind” “reminder” and so on for a calendar entry) and then use grammar rules to deduct the corresponding data (date and message for the calendar example).

There is a long debate about how machines can really understand human language (and what understand actually means in this context). Direct commands (Siri) and questions (Wolfram Alpha and Google) are a bit easier to decipher - however they still have their issues.


John McCarthy, father of AI, dies

Sadly, John McCarthy has passed away yesterday, at the age of 84.

McCarthy is one of the founding fathers of AI, he organized the important Dartmouth Conference, which is now considered as the defining event that pretty much created AI as a field (John McCarthy himself coined the term “Artificial Intelligence”).

As a mathematician, he championed the use of logic in AI, and invented the programming language Lisp in 1958, a multi-paradigm high-level language that quickly became the language of choice for artificial intelligence research. I found this nice and sad programming analogy earlier today on reddit:


Anyone who codes in Lisp knows what it means to type a long series of close parentheses — the more parentheses, the bigger the work being brought to a close.

Unfortunately, in real life, we seldom get the opportunity to close all of those parens. Life just ends with a whole bunch of unmatched open parentheses.

In his later years, McCarthy became very interested in the sustainability of progress and looked into the question of simulated emotions (”The Robot and the Baby” is a lighthearted short story he wrote on the topic).

It is a sad day for us, having lost our proverbial father. In fact, it has been a sad month, with Dennis Ritchie (the inventor of C and co-creator of UNIX) also passing away.


Lego-and-Android Robot bests Humans in Rubik’s Cube solving

Actually I didn’t know that this record wasn’t already in the hands of a machine, but now it surely is: solving a Rubik’s cube as fast as possible. Mike Dobson and David Gilday built a robot called CubeStormer II, using sets of LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT and a Samsung GALAXY S II smartphone. Have a look at the video:

While definitely easier than understanding Go, the challenges here are different, and the solution is remarkable for a couple of reasons:A step in solving the cube

  • Image Recognition: The state of the cube has to be recorded and recognized from an image. Everyone familiar with image recognition knows that this is a very error-prone task and there are hoards of PhD students and researchers working on recognizing faces and objects in pictures. That said, recognizing the colors of squares on a regular cube is not too bad, especially with good and even lighting.
  • Finding an optimized solution, quickly: This is one of the easier challenges, as the state-space of a Rubik’s cube is not too big, and a path to a solution can be found reasonably quickly. While it might require something a bit faster than brute-force, there are plenty of fast algorithms out there. Still, it needs to run in milliseconds and convert the solution into a series of motor commands for the machine.
  • Fast and accurate motor control: Solving a Rubik’s cube very quickly requires (apart from a well-lubricated cube) very fast and accurate control of the layers. Once the robotic grip of them slips or fails to align perfectly, it’s basically game over, and would probably also lead to destruction of the mechanics.
  • Android RobotAvailability of parts: The robot was built using a mobile phone and Lego, both of which are readily available. While it might use some custom parts to optimise for speed, nothing would stop you to re-build a similar robot using your smartphone and your Lego-set. I’ve built a small, pointless robot using an Arduino and Lego myself, and it’s easy and good fun for a lazy weekend!

A 5-Dimensional Rubik's Cube.
The computing power in modern smart-phones is incredible, and combined with cheap mechanical sets such as the Lego Mindstorm NXT, which can be found in many kids rooms these days, robots can be built that are better at their tasks than any human. This trend will continue and accelerate, and will be used for good and evil, I’m sure (Panic Level: +1%). While this might give reason to worry about the safety of kids playing with extremely computationally powerful toys, I believe it is crucial to grow up playing and experimenting with them, as an increase in automatisation and “robotification” seems inevitable at this point.

There are plenty of websites that keep on top of the hobbyist efforts, such as Hackaday.com.

(via SingularityHub)


State of Google AI: A Long Way To Go

Google Eight Days Of The Week

1.14285714 is Google’s answer when you search for eight days of a week. On the first glance, this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. However, with some clever deduction, you’ll find that it apparently uses days and week as durations, so days a week would be 7. So 8 of 7 is then the result you can see up there. I think it is very interesting that this Google Calculator output appears funny and a bit confusing to us humans. We’re not expecting to get a floating point number as a result to this query, yet Google’s pattern matching happily identifies a proper formula it can use and number-crunches away.

Although this is just a small oddity that is not even a bug in Google, it is a good example for a much deeper running, fundamental problem not only the big search engine providers have to fight with: How do we recognize what is important in a statement? What is its likely purpose? How can we distinguish the purpose of a query such as eight days a week from five feet in meters? Calling these questions difficult would let a good opportunity to use the phrase hardest problem of our time go to waste. Okey, I know this is an exaggeration, but as far as AI problems are concerned, it gets close.

I know this picture is over-used ...The definition of understanding is not straight forward, many definitions involve the words conceptsclassification, relationship, awareness and abstraction. In AI, it is often the background knowledge which is the problem. You need to have sufficient background knowledge to understand what is going on, what is meant, what is not meant, or that nothing is meant at all. I think especially this last type of understanding is hard: without a concept of “nonsense”, we’ll have to use the process of elimination to find out that none of the existing concepts fit in our case. I’m quite sure that it will take very long before a computer is able to find the (admittedly overused) picture on the left funny. Even if we discount the difficulty of image recognition, which has an even longer way to go still.

I’m not an expert on the field of natural language processing, but I bet Google employs hordes of the finest minds in this area to cope with the problem of ambiguity, meaning and the understanding of short utterances. No doubt they (and all the other search engine providers) have the best algorithms in existence to get a glimpse on the thoughts their users. While the search engines get smarter and smarter, the steps taken are still only very small and on the lowest slopes of the huge mountains ahead on the path to true artificial understanding, distillation of meaning, and thus artificial general intelligence. The problem is far from solved, and thus my AI Panic Level decreases a bit, say by -1.14285714%. A lot of people are working on it, but progress is slow, and it won’t get any easier soon. Maybe the semantic web and - dare I say it - web 3.0 will help. But that’s a story for another time.


The story of the future

Having a couple of raw drafts in wordpress, I never really got around to finish a proper post during the summer. But now that Michael Anissimov ended his summer break with a post on the non-storyness of the future, and I just had a nice post on Wall-E in my queue, I felt I had to waffle a bit about that topic, too. Damn peer pressure!

Last week I saw the new Pixar animated movie Wall-E, and I must say, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Although I have to admit that I’m a sucker for animated and movies loaded with special effects, critics agree with me here, and it’s already on #26 of the all time best movie list on imdb (Warning: minor spoilers ahead).

Pixars Wall-E

It’s an interesting story with lots of (heavily) anthropomorphised robots in it, which is already a gem for its slapstick and brilliant display of robotic “emotions” alone. However, it also picks up the classic idea of machines disobeying humans and robots acting on their own judgement, with an interesting twist: Mankind has to be saved by robots gone rogue that act against other command-obeying robots. Now if this conveys the right ideas to the younger audience, I don’t know. However, it makes the younger generation think about “what could happen if robots were ubiquitous and we relied entirely on this autopilot?”.

Wall-E draws an exaggerated but hilarious picture of our future selves of what I’d consider American unlimited consumerism. In an almost matrix-esque way humans are reduced to stupid meatballs without any sense of reality. But I guess that’s necessary in order for the audience to sympathise even more with the robotic protagonists. And, by the way, from a “real AI” point-of-view the programming of the robots in Wall-E isn’t very sound. They possess all kinds of human characteristics that make absolutely no sense to be programmed into specialised robots (such as trembling because of fear) while they lack others (a robot with a full-blown personality, but no proper sound output?). But of course, that’s not the point of a movie. The content was made interesting on a human level, as Michael phrased it.

Captain Future - Worlds to ComeThis cunning bridge brings us right to his the future is not a story-post. Micheal argues that only stories that humans can relate to are interesting:

For a story to be interesting to humans, it has to feature interesting content occurring at the human level. [...] Conversely, humans cannot write meaningful stories about content above the human level, because we lack the cognitive complexity to imagine such things.

Now, ignoring that the “human level” doesn’t seem to be a fixed barrier to me that cannot be moved, this ironically reminds a bit of religious beliefs into a superiour being: God moves in mysterious ways. And, staying in this limping analogy, many people find god quite interesting, although his motives of letting millions of children starve are indeed mysterious.

Of course, I could have just fallen in this very trap of being unable to imagine anything above the human level, but I just don’t think transhuman (AI) actions will be that much more incomprehensible than, say, a superpower declaring war on a small country to get their natural resources under some false pretenses (WMDs, for example).

Total annihilation is also what Michael has in mind when thinking about unfriendly AIs:

More likely, when confronted by a recursively self-improving unFriendly AI with abstract mathematical goals unrelated to human concerns, the simple outcome is death.

Obviousy, this is not content above the human level, because we just imagined it. You could even call it interesting, as it is definitely relating to human concerns. Hey - maybe we should make a movie out of this!

I agree with Michael on the “interestingness bias” (authors make up showy stories to get attention), especially when fiction is sold as science and scentific authors get carried away by stories that start with “no, it we will survive, because…” and then go on with some fancy explanation, that reduce to “or not” when we apply logic or - God forbid! - occams razor to it. However, I don’t really see a worrisome problem with all that. Of course, the “true” threat might be waved aside as fiction, but that may be true for every futuristic scenario. The more we talk about it, the better. And to be honest, most of the futuristic movies nowadays assume rogue robots anyway, so we’re well prepared!

1 comment

The Humans Are Dead

The world is very different ever since the robotic uprising of the mid-nineties!

I think we were wrong … there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of AI required for the robotic uprising. :-D


AI in GTA IV: Nothing Spectacular

I’ve written about AI in video games and their real-life impact a while ago, with the conclusion that it is quite basic and does not really contain “intelligence”. Now with all the hype around the newest version of the Grand Theft Auto series, GTA IV, and a development budget of about $100 million, lets take a closer look if anything has changed.

GTA is basically a sandbox game with a good story tucked on. As a gangster in a virtual city, this iteration it is Liberty City, modelled after New York, you are free to roam around in all kinds of vehicles, from bikes, lots of cars up to military helicopters and do all kinds of things - most of them illegal, of course. Everything that is forbidden in the real world becomes not only possible, but a goal in GTA, from assassination tasks, drug trafficking, gang wars and - of course - car theft there’s everything there what the villain’s heart desires (I wont go into the psychological aspects here, but it is a real concern for parents and politics, especially the German government is pressing hard to ban Killerspiele).

Image Copyright IGN

There is a wide variety of actions in Liberty City, especially when it comes to driving and destroying things. Also, such a city simulation requires believable and complicated (artificial) agent behaviour, to allow the player to suspend his disbelief. And in fact, it is an interesting and often funny pastime to just watch non-player character (NPC) interactions, their discussions and police activity.

The general pedestrian behaviour and driving AI has improved considerably over GTA: San Andreas, but there are still the odd situations where agents don’t react properly. Some mention that the cover seeking behaviour of the police has some glitches, so that policemen in search for a new cover run around the side of the police car facing you instead of the back, or that they fall off buildings when you hide just behind the edge. However, these situations are rare and are often more funny than annoying. The AI, while not perfect, does it’s job alright. All the situations where you say “Wow, I didn’t think it would be that smart” are most likely scripted though, meaning that they have been predefined by the game designers and are not (fully) dynamically generated. Another indicator for the limitations of the AI system is the density of pedestrians, or rather, the lack of it. Similar to the previous incarnations, there are not nearly enough people or cars in the streets. Admittedly, this increase in crowd density is hard to implement correctly and is probably an effect of limited CPU power.

GTA4 is a good example of fake AI, artificial intelligence that only pretends to reason. This is very common in video games, as their primary goal is not to plan realistically and beat the player, but to provide enjoyment and make (smart) mistakes. This becomes apparent in how the game handles the appearance of police units. When your wanted-level increases, there are suddenly more police cars and cops around (especially for the higher levels), that come pouring out from behind street corners or are just there when you turn around. This behaviour, while perfectly legit for a game, would be useless in real life. All the steps which are most important for navigation and reasoning in robots and “proper” AI are cropped away in video games. Therefore there is -still- no possibility that non-player villain behaviour (would that be the police then, in GTA IV?) accidentally or even on purpose crosses over into the real world from a game AI.

Side note: As you may have noticed, I didn’t have a lot time to update AI Panic very often over the last weeks. At the moment I’m quite busy at the university, I have to hand in a kind-of-important internal report in about a month of what I’m planning to do in the next 2-3 years. Once this is out of the way, I’ll have more time for the blog again. Sorry about that!


Self-Reassembling Robots Sure To Annoy Repair Shops

The University of Pennsylvania has built a new self-reconfigurable robot, which can, as the name suggests, assemble itself after it has been kicked apart. Of course it is not much more than three robots with a smart communication, orientation and interfacing system, but as the atomic units get smaller these compound robots might actually get useful for, say, building a liquid metal Terminator.

There is also a high-resolution version available at the youtube page of the video.

(Via NewScientist)


The Power of Control Systems

About 9 years ago, on June 10th 1999, the first humans fell victim to a computer control system failure. Due to a chain of unfortunate circumstances, a the pressure on a 16-inch steel pipe line increased uncontrollably and caused it to rupture, flooding two small creeks near Bellingham in the process. The petrol ignited and killed two 10-year-old boys and an 18-year-old adolescent. Although it was later revealed that the accident was in part caused by human failure, it is still considered as the first cyber-event that killed humans.

Now, you might think that things have changed since then, but you’d be wrong. Joe Weiss from Applied Control Solutions says:

Until eight years ago, my whole life was making control systems usable and efficient, and, by the way, very vulnerable. It is exactly what you will find today in many, many industrial applications. This isn’t just 1999. No, this is June 2008.

And it is true. The computer systems that control complex technical facilities, like the power grid, traffic control infrastructure, or pipeline systems have historically only been optimized with respect to usability, efficiency and effectivity. Security has almost never been a concern in the design of these systems. Many of them have been developed before the rise of the internet, so that attacks had to be carried out physically. But eventually some systems responsible for the control of important infrastructure have been connected to a network, often in an effort to improve control or just because of company policies, without any evaluation of possible risks.

There are more examples. The 787 Dreamliner from Boeing, which is scheduled to come out later this year, may be vulnerable to hacker attacks. This is because the flight control network is separated from the passenger network only by software firewalls, and thus might be attacked from inside the plane (or even from the outside, with the help of a trojan horse maybe).

When military control systems fail, it gets nasty quite quickly. Last year, a robot anti-aircraft cannon killed 9 and wounded 14 soldiers when it went berserk during a training of the South African National Defence Force. However, it is not yet clear if the accident was caused by a mechanical malfunction or software failure.

And it is not only the security of control systems that poses a risk, the control systems themselves are feared by researchers to remove human control from key decision-making processes. Tom Rodden, Professor of Interactive Systems at the University of Nottingham concluded at the Human-Computer Interaction conference that this loss of control might not directly be a risk for our lives, but surrenders “basic human values and concepts such as personal space, society, identity, independence, perception, intelligence and privacy.”

This lack of security must become a higher priority to control system designers, especially as there is an unavoidable trend towards more autonomous, intelligent systems that can cope with the size and complexity of modern infrastructure. We have to take care that we do not hand over all control of critical systems and uncritical but socially important concepts to machines. Even if a worst case scenario - such as malicious AI breaking loose - does not happen, programs are likely to be susceptible to bugs and misinterpreted signals, and therefore have to be very carefully designed. As the examples in the past have shown, these issues are a real threat to human beings and the lack of security against tampering from the outside increases the AI Panic level by +1%.