Kids! Don’t Try This at Home! Robot Destroys Mankind

From the Forbin Project, to HAL 9000, to War Games, movies are replete with smart computers that decide to put humans in their place. If you study literature, you’ll find that science fiction isn’t usually about the future, it is about the present disguised as the future, and smart computers usually represent something like robots taking your job, or nuclear weapons destroying your town.

Lately, I’ve been seeing something disturbing, though. [Elon Musk], [Bill Gates], [Steve Wozniak], and [Stephen Hawking] have all gone on record warning us that artificial intelligence is dangerous. I’ll grant you, all of those people must be smarter than I am. I’ll even stipulate that my knowledge of AI techniques is a little behind the times. But, what? Unless I’ve been asleep at the keyboard for too long, we are nowhere near having the kind of AI that any reasonable person would worry about being actually dangerous in the ways they are imagining.

Smart Guys Posturing

Keep in mind, I’m interpreting their comments as saying (essentially): “Soon machines will think and then they will out-think us and be impossible to control.” It is easy to imagine something like a complex AI making a bad decision while driving a car or an airplane, sure. But the computer that parallel parks your car isn’t going to suddenly take over your neighborhood and put brain implants in your dogs and cats. Anyone who thinks that is simply not thinking about how these things work. The current state of computer programming makes that as likely as saying, “Perhaps my car will start flying and we can go to Paris.” Ain’t happening.

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A Digital Condom a Reality Thanks to Arduino

[Bill Gates]’ foundation is currently offering up a ton of prizes for anyone who can improve the condom. It’s a laudable goal, and somewhat difficult; one of the main reasons why male condoms aren’t used as often as they should is the,  “male perspective… that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom.”

While most of the work inspired by the [Gates] foundation is work investigating a change in the geometry of the condom, [Firaz Peer] and [Andrew Quitmeyer] of Georgia Tech managed to solve this problem with an Arduino.

The basic idea of the Electric Eel – yes, that’s the name – is to deliver short electric impulses, “along the underside of the shaft for increased stimulation”. These impulses are delivered in response to different sensor inputs – in the video example (surprisingly safe for work) they’re using a force resistor wrapped around the chest for an electrical stimulation with every breath.

Although this is only a prototype, the hope is the conductors in the condom can eventually be implanted along the inside surface of a condom during manufacturing.

Video after the break.

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Humanizing Microsoft

Ok, you’ve probably already seen it. If not, go watch the new Microsoft commercial right now. The commercial itself is nothing amazing. Its an obvious attempt to humanize [Bill Gates] and Microsoft.  [Bill] is almost endearing in his clunky delivery of the lines.  We could even get to like him. Imagine him stumbling through the world as a normal guy dealing with software as the rest of us do.  Would he change things? Could we get a sitcom with [Bill Gates] and [John Hodgman]? Would you watch it?  We would.