27 October 2009

Robot good robot bad

Glancing at the robot, Mary lifted a magazine from the top of the pile and guided it into a rack on top of the shelf. As soon as the magazine was in place, the robot emitted a beep. During the next few minutes, Mary moved each magazine, one by one, to the rack. Gradually, she increased her pace, and the beeps from the robot came faster. Mary began to laugh.
She turned and looked squarely at the robot. With a sly smile, she moved her weak arm toward the remaining magazines on the desk and mimed putting one into the rack. She then stuck her tongue out at the machine.
Matarić said, “She is cheating. She is totally thrilled, because she thinks she cheated the robot.” The robot, though, was on to the game. A reflective white band that Mary wore on her leg allowed the robot to follow her movements. A thin motion sensor attached to her sleeve transmitted Mary’s gestures to the robot, so that it knew almost instantly whether she was raising her arm and in what motion. A sensor in the rack signalled the robot when a magazine was properly placed, and the robot communicated with Mary only when she performed the task correctly.
Although the task lasted about an hour, the novelty of the interaction did not seem to wane. In a debriefing after the study, Mary said, “When I’m at home, my husband is useless. He just says, ‘Do it.’ I much prefer the robot to my husband.”
-- from Robots that Care by Jerome Groopman.
"Drones are a technological step that further isolates the American people from military action, undermining political checks on...an endless war" [says Mary Dudziak]...

...there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing with drones has become official U.S. policy. "The thing we were complaining about from Israel a few years ago we now embrace", [Gary Solis] says. Now, he notes, nobody in government calls it assassination...

...It appears to have taken sixteen missile strikes , and fourteen months, before the C.I.A succeeded in killing Baitullah Mehsud. During this hunt, between two hundred and seven and three hundred and twenty one additional people were killed.
-- from The Predator War by Jane Mayer.

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