Hillary Clinton: ‘We are totally unprepared’ for the rise of artificial intelligence

Michael B. Kelley


Aliens are actually immortal robots, and they’re billions of years old, researcher claims

Rob Waugh




Habitable planet found in solar system next door

An artist's impression of the planet Proxima b, orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri

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An artist’s impression of the planet Proxima b, orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri (AFP Photo/M. Kornmesser)

Paris (AFP) – Scientists Wednesday announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest our Sun, opening up the glittering prospect of a habitable world that may one day be explored by robots.

Named Proxima b, the planet is in a “temperate” zone compatible with the presence of liquid water — a key ingredient for life.

The findings, based on data collected over 16 years, were reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

“We have finally succeeded in showing that a small-mass planet, most likely rocky, is orbiting the star closest to our solar system,” said co-author Julien Morin, an astrophysicist at the University of Montpellier in southern France.

“Proxima b would probably be the first exoplanet visited by a probe made by humans,” he told AFP.

An exoplanet is any planet outside our Solar System.

Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University London, described the find as the “experience of a lifetime”.

Working with European Southern Observatory telescopes in the north Chilean desert, his team used the so-called Doppler method to detect Proxima b and describe its properties.

The professional star-gazers spent 60 consecutive days earlier this year looking for signs of gravitational pull on its host star, Proxima Centauri.

Regular shifts in the star’s light spectrum — repeating every 11.2 days — gave a tantalising clue.

They revealed that the star alternately moved towards and away from our Solar System at the pace of a leisurely stroll, about five kilometres (three miles) per hour.

– Goldilocks zone –

After cross-checking an inconclusive 2000-2014 dataset and eliminating other possible causes, the researchers determined that the tug of an orbiting planet was responsible for this tiny to-and-fro.

“Statistically, there is no doubt,” Anglada-Escude told journalists in a briefing.

“We have found a planet around Proxima Centauri.”

Proxima b is a mere four light years from the Solar System, meaning that it is essentially in our back yard on the scale of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

It has a mass around 1.3 times that of Earth, and orbits about seven million kilometres (4.35 million miles) from its star.

A planet so near to our Sun — 21 times closer than Earth — would be an unlivable white-hot ball of fire.

But Proxima Centauri is a so-called red dwarf, meaning a star that burns at a lower temperature.

As a result, the newly discovered planet is in a “Goldilocks” sweet spot: neither so hot that water evaporates, nor so cold that it freezes solid.

But liquid water is not the only essential ingredient for the emergence of life.

An atmosphere is also required, and on that score the researchers are still in the dark.

It all depends, they say, on how Proxima b evolved as a planet.

“You can come up with formation scenarios that end up with and Earth-like atmosphere, a Venus-like atmosphere” — 96 percent carbon dioxide — “or no atmosphere at all,” said co-author Ansgar Reiners, an expert on “cold” stars at the University of Goettingen’s Institute of Astrophysics in Germany.

Computer models suggest the planet’s temperature, with an atmosphere, could be “in the range of minus 30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) on the dark side, and 30C (80F) on the light side,” Reiners told journalists.

Like the Moon in relation to Earth, Proxima b is “tidally locked,” with one face always exposed to its star and the other perpetually in shadow.

Emerging life forms would also have to cope with ultraviolet and X-rays bombarding Proxima b 100 times more intensely than on Earth.

– Search for life –

An atmosphere would help deflect these rays, as would a strong magnetic field.

But even high doses of radiation do not preclude life, especially if we think outside the box, scientists say.

“We have to be very open-minded as to what we call ‘life’,” Jean Schneider, an expert on exoplanets at the Observatoire de Paris, told AFP.

Some 3,500 exoplanets have been discovered since the first confirmed sighting in 1995.

Most of these distant worlds — like our own Jupiter and Neptune — are composed of gas, an inhospitable environment for life.

Even the 10 percent that do have rocky surfaces are mostly too cold or too hot to host water in liquid form.

And — until today — the handful that are in a temperate zone are effectively beyond reach.

Last year, for example, NASA unveiled Kepler 452b, a planet about 60 percent larger than Earth that could have active volcanoes, oceans, sunshine like ours, and a year lasting 385 days.

But at a distance of 1,400 light-years, humankind would have little hope of reaching this Earth-twin any time soon.

By comparison, Proxima b is a stone’s throw away, though still too far away for humans to visit with present-generation chemical rockets.

“This is a dream for astronomers if we think about follow up observations,” said Reiners.

Marlowe Hood


By Kelsey D. Atherton
Lunar Transformer Concept

Lunar Transformer Concept


Announced yesterday, NASA is moving ahead with funding to study several ambitious space research projects, including one that would transform an inhospitable lunar crater into a habitat for robots — and eventually, human explorers. Located on the moon’s South Pole, Shackleton Crater isn’t just prime real estate for terraforming experiments, it’s Optimus Prime real estate. NASA wants to fill the crater with solar-powered transformers, and then use the fleet of robots to turn the crater into a miniature hospitable environment.

Shackleton Crater is uniquely qualified as a location for terraforming in the small scale. Named after the famous explorer of Earth’s own south pole, the crater covers about 130 square miles, or roughly twice the size of Washington, DC. It is surrounded on all sides by peaks that rise over 14,000 feet above the surface of the crater. Inside this moon-bowl, scientists have already found water, which is essential for any future human habitation.

Before the humans come the robots. To function, robots need electrical power and warmth, and with the right equipment, the sun can provide both, with a little help. In darkness, the crater is about 100 degrees Kelvin, or -280 fahrenheit, but a series of solar reflectors could capture light from the peaks on the crater rim and then reflect it down into the crater, warming and fueling solar-powered rovers at the same time.

These reflectors would be carried around the crater rim by other rovers, unfolding and transforming into useful shapes when needed. A single reflector 130 feet in diameter could send light over six miles into the crater, powering a rover (or a fleet of several Curiousity-sized rovers) with up to one megawatt of energy and preventing them from freezing. Thanks to their height, there is always at least one point on the peaks on the crater rim that receives sunlight, so work could be done continuously in the crater.

Should this plan all work out, several transforming robots with reflectors would work on the edge of the crater, beaming sun in, while robots inside the crater built something close to an “oasis” on the moon. Or at least, an oasis for lunar robots.

The project was awarded in NASA’s Phase II funding, which provides up to $500,000 for two-year-long studies, so the next task is designing a workable reflector that fits into a cube slightly larger than three feet each side, weighing less than 220 pounds, and that unfolds to cover 10,700 square feet. If it all works out, the robots shall inherit the moon.


Conan O’Brien’s moving tribute to robot-sex pioneers

Technically incorrect: Robot sex has come a long way since the early days. But, boy, were those early days rough.

You probably can’t wait for your unreliable, moody, ill-mannered lover to be replaced by a sturdy, consistent, polite robot.

You’ve likely already experimented with a little robot sex. At least in your mind, surely.

But have you ever thought about those who came before you? Have you ever thought about the pioneers who began to conceive of a robot becoming your ultimate pleasure center?

Conan O’Brien decided to pay them and their hard work a tribute.


Robot Sex Pioneers

There was the creator of the Flappertron. Who could forget the man who invented Daddy’s Secret? And then there was the Gassy Chassis.

Each of these men — why were they all men? — deserve their place on the podium of progressive scientific thinking.

Many lost their dignity, if not their lives, in the pursuit of man’s pursuit of sexual satisfaction.

They toiled away in their laboratories, garages and, no doubt, bedrooms in order to bring us to where we are today, where there are at least 42 (allegedly) robots for you to have sex with (naturally, you should think twice about exploring that link while at work).

You might not feel the need for such mechanical companions right now. You may feel that your own companion is mechanical enough.

But these men’s work represents the future. These men will one day be revered for the contributions they made, the imagination with which they took to their task, and the sheer selflessness involved in helping you become involved with a robot.

These great scientists have ensured that no man will be left blissless. Just think how happy the future will be.



Watch a Boston Dynamics humanoid robot wander around outside

A Boston Dynamics Robot walks in the woods.

Above: A Boston Dynamics Robot walks in the woods.

Boston Dynamics, that company Google bought in 2013, has begun to testing one of its humanoid robots — those that are designed to function like humans — out in the wild.

Marc Raibert, the founder of Boston Dynamics, talked about and showed footage on the research during a talk on Aug. 3 at the 11th Fab Lab Conference and Symposium in Cambridge, Mass.

“Out in the world is just a totally different challenge than in the lab,” Raibert said at the conference, which was organized by the Fab Foundation, a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms. “You can’t predict what it’s going to be like.”

Boston Dynamics has tested its LS3 quadruped (four-legged) robot out in natural settings in the past. But humanoid robots are different — they can be much taller and have a higher center of gravity. So keeping them moving through rugged terrain, as opposed to paved asphalt, which is what Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robots dealt with recently during the DARPA Robotics Challenge, can be more tricky.

See for yourself how this humanoid robot performs in the woods.

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas Robot Tested Outside







The Robots are Here — and You should be Worried


irobot robot
According to an Oxford University study, 47% of US jobs could be automated within one to two decades.

It’s no surprise that technology is getting better, faster, and smarter. But is it at the expense of its makers?

Anxiety has been building around the second machine age and its implications for our economic future, and it may have reached a tipping point.

Just last week, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and executives published an open letter on the digital economy, calling for public-policy changes and new organizational models to account for this era of drastic technological change.

The authors write, “The digital revolution is the best economic news on the planet.”

But not everyone agrees. Several scholars have been sounding the alarm on the danger of technological progress.

During a presentation at the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs this week, researcher Wendell Wallach said technology is now destroying more jobs than it creates.

“This is an unparalleled situation and one that I think could actually lead to all sorts of disruptions once the public starts to catch on that we are truly in the midst of technological unemployment,” said Wallach, a consultant, ethicist, and scholar at the Yale University Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

Martin Ford, a software developer and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, recently published the book “Rise of the Robots” in an effort to generate a conversation around the prospect of a jobless future.

We’re not worried enough, he says. Most people don’t understand the “mind-boggling” speed that technology is advancing at.

“When people talk about robots, they’re mostly imagining factories, but the factory jobs have been gone for decades,” Ford tells Business Insider.

rise of the robotsAmazon

In May, Shenzhen Evenwin Precision Technology, a manufacturing company based out of Dongguan in southern China, announced it would soon be replacing 90% of its 1,800 employees with machines. The 200 employees not receiving pink slips will take on a new role — overseeing the robotic workforce.

This is part of a larger trend in southern China, where robots are poised to invade several manufacturing companies.

If that isn’t unsettling enough, consider the Oxford University study, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization,” which predicts that 47% of US jobs could be automated within one to two decades.

It’s no longer just the “dangerous, dirty, and dull” jobs on the block. Technology is also poised to replace white-collar positions, like lawyers, reporters, and financial analysts, to name a few.

While certain sectors, such as healthcare and education, are safer than others for the time being, Ford believes most industries will eventually be at risk.

But it’s not as much about what industry you work in, Ford explains, as it is the function you perform. Think about your job, he says, and consider whether or not any smart person could figure out how to do it if they watched you work or studied your past work patterns.

If so, then it’s a pretty good bet that an algorithm will eventually be able to figure it out as well, he warns. “If you look far enough into the future, say 50 years and beyond, there aren’t any jobs that you could say absolutely for sure are going to be safe.”

With creative computing underway, even the most artful of jobs could be at risk. Algorithms can now write symphonies and paint original paintings, Ford tells us.

Toyota RobotKoichi Kamoshida/Getty

“We should be concerned,” says Ford. “Primarily because we don’t have an alternate for people to lose their jobs.

“I’m not arguing that the technology is a bad thing. It could be a great thing if the robots did all our jobs and we didn’t have to work. The problem is that your job and income are packaged together. So if you lose your job, you also lose your income, and we don’t have a very good system in place to deal with that.”

The economic consequences could be dramatic, he says. Jobs drive consumption, and consumption drives our economy.

“Without consumers, we’re not going to have an economy. No matter how talented you are as an individual, you’ve got to have a market to sell it to,” Ford says. “We need most people to be OK. We need some reasonable level of broad-based prosperity if we’re going to continue to have a vibrant, consumer-driven economy.”

Of course, what Ford sees as a disaster, others see as an opportunity. The New York Times recently highlighted a study by the McKinsey Global Institute that presents a more cheerful outlook.

“By 2025, McKinsey estimates, these digital talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion a year to global gross domestic product,” the Times wrote. “And the digital tools, the report states, could benefit as many as 540 million people in various ways, including better matches of their skills with jobs, higher wages, and shorter stints of unemployment.”

Other experts point to the Industrial Revolution, which ultimately led to more employment opportunities, and say the same will happen during the second machine age. Some believe an increase in computing prowess will simply eliminate old jobs and introduce new ones, resulting in a net-zero effect — or even an increase in jobs.

However, Ford doesn’t believe the past will predict the future in this case. “On January 2, 2010, The Washington Post reported that the first decade of the 21st century resulted in the creation of no new jobs. Zero,” he writes in “Rise of the Robots.” “In other words, during those first 10 years there were about 10 million missing jobs that should have been created — but never showed up.”

The solution to this job displacement is not a simple one.

In the past, when low-skilled workers lost their jobs to technology, the conventional advice was to go to school for a better education and training and find more intellectual work in an office. This solution will no longer be effective, Ford says, because technology is coming after those higher-skilled jobs as well.


robotChinaFotoPress/GettyRobots are invading the service sector, where most of our jobs are.

“Investment in education and training will unlikely solve our problems. We must look beyond conventional policy prescriptions,” says Ford.

His solution is a radical one: To effectively restructure our entire system.

Ford suggests a guaranteed income.

“You give people a minimum — a survivable income. Not something so generous that they just sit around and do nothing, but you give them enough so they don’t have to worry about basic survival,” he explains. “Some people would be lazy, but most others would want more and would work part-time, start small businesses, or work a more traditional job if they could find one.”

Ford is not the only one proposing such extreme changes.

Scott Santens, a leader in the basic-income movement — a worldwide network of thousands of advocates — agrees that job growth is not keeping pace with technology and encourages government-provided income as a remedy.

“It’s not just a matter of needing basic income in the future; we need it now,” Santens told The Atlantic. “People don’t see it, but we are already seeing the effects all around us, in the jobs and pay we take, the hours we accept, the extremes inequality is reaching, and in the loss of consumer spending power.”

It’s unlikely Ford and Santens’ proposal would become a reality, at least any time soon. “In today’s environment, such a radical solution is completely unthinkable,” Ford admits. “But the paradox is that it’s ultimately what we’re going to need in the future. It’s unclear how we’re going to get there.”

For now, it might be time to consider strategies for staying ahead of the robots before they come for your job.




Japan Opens Doors to World’s First Hotel run entirely by Robots

Japan has opened the doors to the world’s first automated, robot-staffed hotel, replacing people with pretty, lifelike lady humanoid receptionists and a bow tie-wearing, dinosaur concierge.

At the Henn-na Hotel, or ‘Strange Hotel,’guests check in, check out, get their rooms cleaned and their luggage conveyed by a fleet of blinking, beeping and rolling robots that the hotel describes as “warm and friendly.”

Likewise, as part of their aim to feature cutting-edge technology, stays are keyless. Instead, guests enter their rooms via facial recognition technology.

Aside from its novelty factor, the use of robots and the emphasis on automated services is part of a bigger concept: To reduce labor costs, save energy, reduce waste, and develop a self-sufficient hotel powered by solar energy and machines.

For example, rooms are conspicuously absent of refrigerators, lights are motion-sensored, and rooms are cooled using an energy-efficient radiant panel air conditioning system.

The hotel is part of the Dutch theme park Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo, Nagasaki, and may be expanded across Japan and abroad, said company president Hideo Sawada.

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Strange Hotel in Japan

Strange Hotel in Japan

Future plans also include the addition of Chinese and Korean languages to the robots’ repertoire.

Other features include a porter robot, that will transport luggage to guest rooms, and a self-serve cafe which serves snacks and drinks from, what else, a vending machine.

It’s not just Japan that’s replaced humans with robots in hotels. Over in California, not far from Apple’s corporate campus, Aloft Hotels put what they called the world’s first robotic butler at the front desk last year. Botlr is used to shuttle amenities to guest rooms and acknowledges requests with peppy beeps and flashing lights.

Meanwhile, though the industry may be moving increasingly towards automated hotel services, the results of a recent JD Power survey that polled 62,000 guests in the US and Canada suggest that there’s still value in old-fashioned human contact: When staff greeted guests with a simple smile “all the time,” the average number of problems reported fell by 50 percent.

Room rates at the Strange Hotel, which features 144 rooms, start at 9,000 JPY ($73 USD) for a single room.