Archive for the ‘robotics/AI’ category: Page 572

Jan 20, 2013

Activelink Power Loader Gives HAL Some Competition, but Who’s Going to Fukushima?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, defense, military, nuclear energy, robotics/AI

LEFT: Activelink Power Loader Light — RIGHT: The Latest HAL Suit

New Japanese Exoskeleton Pushing into HAL’s (potential) Marketshare
We of the robot/technology nerd demo are well aware of the non-ironically, ironically named HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) exoskeletal suit developed by Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai’s also totally not meta-ironically named Cyberdyne, Inc. Since its 2004 founding in Tsukuba City, just north of the Tokyo metro area, Cyberdyne has developed and iteratively refined the force-amplifying exoskeletal suit, and through the HAL FIT venture, they’ve also created a legs-only force resistance rehabilitation & training platform.

Joining HAL and a few similar projects here in Japan (notably Toyota’s & Honda’s) is Kansai based & Panasonic-owned Activelink’s new Power Loader Light (PLL). Activelink has developed various human force amplification systems since 2003, and this latest version of the Loader looks a lot less like its big brother the walking forklift, and a lot more like the bottom half & power pack of a HAL suit. Activelink intends to connect an upper body unit, and if successful, will become HAL’s only real competition here in Japan.
And for what?

Well, along with general human force amplification and/or rehab, this:

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Dec 12, 2012

Crowdfunding campaign for Software Wars, the movie

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, futurism, robotics/AI, space

I’d like to announce the start of the Indiegogo.com campaign for Software Wars, the movie. It is called Software Wars, but it also talks about biotechnology, the space elevator and other futuristic topics. This movie takes many of the ideas I’ve posted here and puts them into video form. It will be understandable to normal people but interesting to people like us. I would appreciate the support of Lifeboat for this project.

Dec 1, 2012

Response to Plaut and McClelland in the Phys.org story

Posted by in categories: information science, neuroscience, philosophy, robotics/AI

A response to McClelland and Plaut’s
comments in the Phys.org story:

Do brain cells need to be connected to have meaning?

Asim Roy
Department of Information Systems
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona, USA

Article reference:

Roy A. (2012). “A theory of the brain: localist representation is used widely in the brain.” Front. Psychology 3:551. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00551

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Oct 28, 2012

Mapping the Mind to Merge with Machines: Experimental Research Approaches to Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs)

Posted by in categories: existential risks, futurism, robotics/AI

The historical context in which Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) has emerged has been addressed in a previous article called “To Interface the Future: Interacting More Intimately with Information” (Kraemer, 2011). This review addresses the methods that have formed current BCI knowledge, the directions in which it is heading and the emerging risks and benefits from it. Why neural stem cells can help establish better BCI integration is also addressed as is the overall mapping of where various cognitive activities occur and how a future BCI could potentially provide direct input to the brain instead of only receive and process information from it.

EEG Origins of Thought Pattern Recognition
Early BCI work to study cognition and memory involved implanting electrodes into rats’ hippocampus and recording its EEG patterns in very specific circumstances while exploring a track both when awake and sleeping (Foster & Wilson, 2006; Tran, 2012). Later some of these patterns are replayed by the rat in reverse chronological order indicating a retrieval of the memory both when awake and asleep (Foster & Wilson, 2006). Dr. John Chapin shows that the thoughts of movement can be written to a rat to then remotely control the rat (Birhard, 1999; Chapin, 2008).

A few human paraplegics have volunteered for somewhat similar electrode implants into their brains for an enhanced BrainGate2 hardware and software device to use as a primary data input device (UPI, 2012; Hochberg et al., 2012). Clinical trials of an implanted BCI are underway with BrainGate2 Neural Interface System (BrainGate, 2012; Tran, 2012). Currently, the integration of the electrodes into the brain or peripheral nervous system can be somewhat slow and incomplete (Grill et al., 2001). Nevertheless, research to optimize the electro-stimulation patterns and voltage levels in the electrodes, combining cell cultures and neurotrophic factors into the electrode and enhance “endogenous pattern generators” through rehabilitative exercises are likely to improve the integration closer to full functional restoration in prostheses (Grill et al., 2001) and improved functionality in other BCI as well.

When integrating neuro-chips to the peripheral nervous system for artificial limbs or even directly to the cerebral sensorimotor cortex as has been done for some military veterans, neural stem cells would likely help heal the damage to the site of the limb lost and speed up the rate at which the neuro-chip is integrated into the innervating tissue (Grill et al., 2001; Park, Teng, & Snyder, 2002). These neural stem cells are better known for their natural regenerative ability and it would also generate this benefit in re-establishing the effectiveness of the damaged original neural connections (Grill et al., 2001).

Neurochemistry and Neurotransmitters to be Mapped via Genomics
Cognition is electrochemical and thus the electrodes only tell part of the story. The chemicals are more clearly coded for by specific genes. Jaak Panksepp is breeding one line of rats that are particularly prone to joy and social interaction and another that tends towards sadness and a more solitary behavior (Tran, 2012). He asserts that emotions emerged from genetic causes (Panksepp, 1992; Tran, 2012) and plans to genome sequence members of both lines to then determine the genomic causes of or correlations between these core dispositions (Tran, 2012). Such causes are quite likely to apply to humans as similar or homologous genes in the human genome are likely to be present. Candidate chemicals like dopamine and serotonin may be confirmed genetically, new neurochemicals may be identified or both. It is a promising long-term study and large databases of human genomes accompanied by medical histories of each individual genome could result in similar discoveries. A private study of the medical and genomic records of the population of Iceland is underway and has in the last 1o years has made unique genetic diagnostic tests for increased risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer prostate cancer, glaucoma, high cholesterol/hypertension and atrial fibrillation and a personal genomic testing service for these genetic factors (deCODE, 2012; Weber, 2002). By breeding 2 lines of rats based on whether they display a joyful behavior or not, the lines of mice should likewise have uniquely different genetic markers in their respective populations (Tran, 2012).

fMRI and fNIRIS Studies to Map the Flow of Thoughts into a Connectome
Though EEG-based BCI have been effective in translating movement intentionality of the cerebral motor cortex for neuroprostheses or movement of a computer cursor or other directional or navigational device, it has not advanced the understanding of the underlying processes of other types or modes of cognition or experience (NPG, 2010; Wolpaw, 2010). The use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machines, and functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRIS) and sometimes Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans for literally deeper insights into the functioning of brain metabolism and thus neural activity has increased in order to determine the relationships or connections of regions of the brain now known collectively as the connectome (Wolpaw, 2010).

Dr. Read Montague explained broadly how his team had several fMRI centers around the world linked to each other across the Internet so that various economic games could be played and the regional specific brain activity of all the participant players of these games can be recorded in real time at each step of the game (Montague, 2012). In the publication on this fMRI experiment, it shows the interaction between baseline suspicion in the amygdala and the ongoing evaluation of the specific situation that may increase or degree that suspicion which occurred in the parahippocampal gyrus (Bhatt et al., 2012). Since the fMRI equipment is very large, immobile and expensive, it cannot be used in many situations (Solovey et al., 2012). To essentially substitute for the fMRI, the fNIRS was developed which can be worn on the head and is far more convenient than the traditional full body fMRI scanner that requires a sedentary or prone position to work (Solovey et al., 2012).

In a study of people multitasking on the computer with the fNIRIS head-mounted device called Brainput, the Brainput device worked with remotely controlled robots that would automatically modify the behavior of 2 remotely controlled robots when Brainput detected an information overload in the multitasking brains of the human navigating both of the robots simultaneously over several differently designed terrains (Solovey et al., 2012).

Writing Electromagnetic Information to the Brain?
These 2 examples of the Human Connectome Project lead by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US and also underway in other countries show how early the mapping of brain region interaction is for higher cognitive functions beyond sensory motor interactions. Nevertheless, one Canadian neurosurgeon has taken volunteers for an early example of writing some electromagnetic input into the human brain to induce paranormal kinds of subjective experience and has been doing so since 1987 (Cotton, 1996; Nickell, 2005; Persinger, 2012). Dr. Michael Persinger uses small electrical signals across the temporal lobes in an environment with partial audio-visual isolation to reduce neural distraction (Persinger, 2003). These microtesla magnetic fields especially when applied to the right hemisphere of the temporal lobes often induced a sense of an “other” presence generally described as supernatural in origin by the volunteers (Persinger, 2003). This early example shows how input can be received directly by the brain as well as recorded from it.

Higher Resolution Recording of Neural Data
Electrodes from EEGs and electromagnets from fMRI and fNIRIS still record or send data at the macro level of entire regions or areas of the brain. Work on intracellular recording such as the nanotube transistor allows for better understanding at the level of neurons (Gao et al., 2012). Of course, when introducing micro scale recording or transmitting equipment into the human brain, safety is a major issue. Some progress has been made in that an ingestible microchip called the Raisin has been made that can transmit information gathered during its voyage through the digestive system (Kessel, 2009). Dr. Robert Freitas has designed many nanoscale devices such as Respirocytes, Clottocytes and Microbivores to replace or augment red blood cells, platelets and phagocytes respectively that can in principle be fabricated and do appear to meet the miniaturization and propulsion requirements necessary to get into the bloodstream and arrive at the targeted system they are programmed to reach (Freitas, 1998; Freitas, 2000; Freitas, 2005; Freitas, 2006).

The primary obstacle is the tremendous gap between assembling at the microscopic level and the molecular level. Dr. Richard Feynman described the crux of this struggle to bridge the divide between atoms in his now famous talk given on December 29, 1959 called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” (Feynman, 1959). To encourage progress towards the ultimate goal of molecular manufacturing by enabling theoretical and experimental work, the Foresight Institute has awarded annual Feynman Prizes every year since 1997 for contribution in this field called nanotechnology (Foresight, 2012).

The Current State of the Art and Science of Brain Computer Interfaces
Many neuroscientists think that cellular or even atomic level resolution is probably necessary to understand and certainly to interface with the brain at the level of conceptual thought, memory storage and retrieval (Ptolemy, 2009; Koene, 2010) but at this early stage of the Human Connectome Project this evaluation is quite preliminary. The convergence of noninvasive brain scanning technology with implantable devices among volunteer patients supplemented with neural stem cells and neurotrophic factors to facilitate the melding of biological and artificial intelligence will allow for many medical benefits for paraplegics at first and later to others such as intelligence analysts, soldiers and civilians.

Some scientists and experts in Artificial Intelligence (AI) express the concern that AI software is on track to exceed human biological intelligence before the middle of the century such as Ben Goertzel, Ray Kurzweil, Kevin Warwick, Stephen Hawking, Nick Bostrom, Peter Diamandis, Dean Kamen and Hugo de Garis (Bostrom, 2009; de Garis, 2009, Ptolemy, 2009). The need for fully functioning BCIs that integrate the higher order conceptual thinking, memory recall and imagination into cybernetic environments gains ever more urgency if we consider the existential risk to the long-term survival of the human species or the eventual natural descendent of that species. This call for an intimate and fully integrated BCI then acts as a shield against the possible emergence of an AI independently of us as a life form and thus a possible rival and intellectually superior threat to the human heritage and dominance on this planet and its immediate solar system vicinity.


Bhatt MA, Lohrenz TM, Camerer CF, Montague PR. (2012). Distinct contributions of the amygdala and parahippocampal gyrus to suspicion in a repeated bargaining game. Proc. Nat’l Acad. Sci. USA, 109(22):8728–8733. Retrieved October 15, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3365181/pdf/pnas.201200738.pdf.

Birhard, K. (1999). The science of haptics gets in touch with prosthetics. The Lancet, 354(9172), 52–52. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/199023500

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Sep 9, 2012

The Recurring Parable of the AWOL Android

Posted by in categories: cybercrime/malcode, defense, ethics, media & arts, military, robotics/AI

Greetings to the Lifeboat Foundation community and blog readers! I’m Reno J. Tibke, creator of Anthrobotic.com and new advisory board member. This is my inaugural post, and I’m honored to be here and grateful for the opportunity to contribute a somewhat… different voice to technology coverage and commentary. Thanks for reading.

This Here Battle Droid’s Gone Haywire
There’s a new semi-indy sci-fi web series up: DR0NE. After one episode, it’s looking pretty clear that the series is most likely going to explore shenanigans that invariably crop up when we start using semi-autonomous drones/robots to do some serious destruction & murdering. Episode 1 is pretty and well made, and stars 237, the android pictured above looking a lot like Abe Sapien’s battle exoskeleton. Active duty drones here in realityland are not yet humanoid, but now that militaries, law enforcement, the USDA, private companies, and even citizens are seriously ramping up drone usage by land, air, and sea, the subject is timely and watching this fiction is totally recommended.

(Update: DR0NE, Episode 2 now available)

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Sep 2, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 3

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, counterterrorism, defense, education, engineering, ethics, events, futurism, geopolitics, life extension, media & arts, military, policy, robotics/AI, space, sustainability, transparency

A secret agent travels to a secret underground desert base being used to develop space weapons to investigate a series of mysterious murders. The agent finds a secret transmitter was built into a supercomputer that controls the base and a stealth plane flying overhead is controlling the computer and causing the deaths. The agent does battle with two powerful robots in the climax of the story.

Gog is a great story worthy of a sci fi action epic today- and was originally made in 1954. Why can’t they just remake these movies word for word and scene for scene with as few changes as possible? The terrible job done on so many remade sci fi classics is really a mystery. How can such great special effects and actors be used to murder a perfect story that had already been told well once? Amazing.

In contrast to Gog we have the fairly recent movie Stealth released in 2005 that has talent, special effects, and probably the worst story ever conceived. An artificially intelligent fighter plane going off the reservation? The rip-off of HAL from 2001 is so ridiculous.

Fantastic Voyage (1966) was a not so good story that succeeded in spite of stretching suspension of disbelief beyond the limit. It was a great movie and might succeed today if instead of miniaturized and injected into a human body it was instead a submarine exploring a giant organism under the ice of a moon in the outer solar system. Just an idea.

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Aug 20, 2012

Enhanced AI: The Key to Unmanned Space Exploration

Posted by in categories: engineering, robotics/AI, space

The precursor to manned space exploration of new worlds is typically unmanned exploration, and NASA has made phenomenal progress with remote controlled rovers on the Martian surface in recent years with MER-A Spirit, MER-B Opportunity and now MSL Curiosity. However, for all our success in reliance on AI in such rovers — similar if not more advanced to AI technology we see around us in the automotive and aviation industries — such as operational real-time clear-air turbulence prediction in aviation — such AI is typically to aid control systems and not mission-level decision making. NASA still controls via detailed commands transmitted to the rover directly from Earth, typically 225 kbit/day of commands are transmitted to the rover, at a data rate of 1–2 kbit/s, during a 15 minute transmit window, with larger volumes of data collected by the rover returned via satellite relay — a one-way communication that incorporates a delay of on average 12 or so light minutes. This becomes less and less practical the further away the rover is.

If for example we landed a similar rover on Titan in the future, I would expect the current method of step-by-step remote control would render the mission impractical — Saturn being typically at least 16 times more distant — dependent on time of year.

With the tasks of the science labs well determined in advance, it should be practical to develop AI engines to react to hazards, change course of analysis dependent on data processed — and so on — the perfect playground for advanced AI programmes. The current Curiosity mission incorporates tasks such as 1. Determine the mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials. 2. Attempt to detect chemical building blocks of life (bio-signatures). 3. Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils. 4. Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) Martian atmospheric evolution processes. 5. Determine present state, distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide. 6. Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic radiation, cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons. All of these are very deterministic processes in terms of mapping results to action points, which could be the foundation for shaping such into an AI learning engine, so that such rovers can be entrusted with making their own mission-level decisions on next phases of exploration based on such AI analyses.

Whilst the current explorations on Mars works quite well with the remote control strategy, it would show great foresight for NASA to engineer such unmanned rovers to operate in a more independent fashion with AI operating the mission-level control — learning to adapt to its environment as it explores the terrain, with only the return-link in use in the main — to relay back the analyzed data — and the low-bandwidth control-link reserved for maintenance and corrective action only. NASA has taken great strides in the last decade with unmanned missions. One can expect the next generation to be even more fascinating — and perhaps a trailblazer for advanced AI based technology.

Aug 13, 2012

The Electric Septic Spintronic Artilect

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, information science, military, neuroscience, nuclear weapons, policy, robotics/AI, scientific freedom, singularity, space, supercomputing, sustainability, transparency

AI scientist Hugo de Garis has prophesied the next great historical conflict will be between those who would build gods and those who would stop them.

It seems to be happening before our eyes as the incredible pace of scientific discovery leaves our imaginations behind.

We need only flush the toilet to power the artificial mega mind coming into existence within the next few decades. I am actually not intentionally trying to write anything bizarre- it is just this strange planet we are living on.



Jun 1, 2012

Response to the Global Futures 2045 Video

Posted by in categories: futurism, human trajectories, nanotechnology, robotics/AI, scientific freedom, singularity, space

I have just watched this video by Global Futures 2045.

This is my list of things I disagree with:

It starts with scary words about how every crisis comes faster and faster. However this is untrue. Many countries have been running deficits for decades. The financial crisis is no surprise. The reason the US has such high energy costs goes back to government decisions made in the 1970s. And many things that used to be crises no longer happen, like the Black Plague. We have big problems, but we’ve also got many resources we’ve built up over the centuries to help. Much of the challenges we face are political and social, not technical.

We will never fall into a new Dark Ages. The biggest problem is that we aren’t advancing as fast as we could and many are still starving, sick, etc. However, it has always been this way. The 20th century was very brutal! But we are advancing and it is mostly known threats like WMDs which could cause a disaster. In the main, the world is getting safer every day as we better understand it.

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Jan 10, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, fun, futurism, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, robotics/AI, space, transparency

Steamships, locomotives, electricity; these marvels of the industrial age sparked the imagination of futurists such as Jules Verne. Perhaps no other writer or work inspired so many to reach the stars as did this Frenchman’s famous tale of space travel. Later developments in microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy would inspire H.G. Wells and the notable science fiction authors of the early 20th century.

The submarine, aircraft, the spaceship, time travel, nuclear weapons, and even stealth technology were all predicted in some form by science fiction writers many decades before they were realized. The writers were not simply making up such wonders from fanciful thought or childrens ryhmes. As science advanced in the mid 19th and early 20th century, the probable future developments this new knowledge would bring about were in some cases quite obvious. Though powered flight seems a recent miracle, it was long expected as hydrogen balloons and parachutes had been around for over a century and steam propulsion went through a long gestation before ships and trains were driven by the new engines. Solid rockets were ancient and even multiple stages to increase altitude had been in use by fireworks makers for a very long time before the space age.

Some predictions were seen to come about in ways far removed yet still connected to their fictional counterparts. The U.S. Navy flagged steam driven Nautilus swam the ocean blue under nuclear power not long before rockets took men to the moon. While Verne predicted an electric submarine, his notional Florida space gun never did take three men into space. However there was a Canadian weapons designer named Gerald Bull who met his end while trying to build such a gun for Saddam Hussien. The insane Invisible Man of Wells took the form of invisible aircraft playing a less than human role in the insane game of mutually assured destruction. And a true time machine was found easily enough in the mathematics of Einstein. Simply going fast enough through space will take a human being millions of years into the future. However, traveling back in time is still as much an impossibillity as the anti-gravity Cavorite from the First Men in the Moon. Wells missed on occasion but was not far off with his story of alien invaders defeated by germs- except we are the aliens invading the natural world’s ecosystem with our genetically modified creations and could very well soon meet our end as a result.

While Verne’s Captain Nemo made war on the death merchants of his world with a submarine ram, our own more modern anti-war device was found in the hydrogen bomb. So destructive an agent that no new world war has been possible since nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the second half of the last century. Neither Verne or Wells imagined the destructive power of a single missile submarine able to incinerate all the major cities of earth. The dozens of such superdreadnoughts even now cruising in the icy darkness of the deep ocean proves that truth is more often stranger than fiction. It may seem the golden age of predictive fiction has passed as exceptions to the laws of physics prove impossible despite advertisments to the contrary. Science fiction has given way to science fantasy and the suspension of disbelief possible in the last century has turned to disappointment and the distractions of whimsical technological fairy tales. “Beam me up” was simply a way to cut production costs for special effects and warp drive the only trick that would make a one hour episode work. Unobtainium and wishalloy, handwavium and technobabble- it has watered down what our future could be into childish wish fulfillment and escapism.

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