Thoughts upon mechanical men. And women. Which are called gynoids. Which is a smutty, but really cool, book of pinup art by Sorayama Hajime.
- I totally cheated in my first contact story, I'll readily admit. The humans' AI (which uses a software workaround to avoid Lucas-Penrose) is able to translate the aliens' language ridiculously quickly. See, the felinoids' navigation satellites have a natural-language interface option, for emergencies, and that's also one of the few radio-transmitters they have (it being a lot easier to jury-rig a radio than a device for sending waveform space-time distortions).
The AI is able to do it by going all the way back to machine code, in the satellite's OS. Machine code is comparatively simple, and, well, the hardware necessary to run an AI is pretty impressive stuff, so learning an alien OS from the level of machine code is actually within its capabilities. But once it does that, it still has a relatively small vocabulary (a navsat's voice interface is largely restricted to navigational matters, after all). So, once contact is established, the felinoids send 'em a bigger vocab file.
I don't know, is that cheap, or cool? Or is it a really cool way of being cheap? I kinda lean toward that last one.
- Apparently the field of "safe human-robot interaction" refers to the human pain/injury threshold as "safety space" or "safeguarding space". I assume that terminology would be important if one were to program the Asimov Laws into a robot, e.g. "If command involves motion that would impinge on a human's safety space, do not execute."
Remember, in my thing, the company that makes the AIs deprecates the Asimov Laws, and installing them voids the EULA. Incidentally, here's an article (sorry if PDFs annoy), called "Beyond Asimov: The Three Laws of Responsible Robotics" about an alternative set of laws that are a little more realistic and a little less Plot Magic.
- Speaking of gynoids, didja know the first term for 'em was "robotess", used in RUR? Or actually "robotka", the play having been written in Czech (it literally means "drudgikins").
I prefer, well, "female android", and screw etymological accuracy, but gynoid is nice too, and anyone who says "fembot" should have their tongue cut out. I'm not doctrinaire about that last one, though; I'd settle for having their mouths sewn shut.
Also, RE: how "robotka" means "drudgikins", did you know "rur" is the Thai word for "belch"? Then again, "undergraduate research program" is basically the same thing in English.
- I don't know if most societies in my book have a term for it, but the Japanese characters call people with a fetish for robots "garakon", or galacon, short for "Galatea complex". Galatea is the statue-girl Pygmalion loved, by the way—and if you doubt that Japanese people would use an obscure Greek myth reference, well, I'm curious to know if you can even find their country on a map.
One does not doubt, not if one knows this species of ours at all, that there will be people with a fetish for the Uncanny Valley, as well as (relatively) more normal people who dig sex-bots as a substitute for humans. I'm sorry you had to think about that.
- Though the fine folks at TVTropes are doing the Lord's work in referring to the Post-Humans' "Singularity" nonsense as the Techno-Rapture, they are technically inaccurate. No, the Omega Point/Kurzweil Singularity is just a variant of good ol' Gnosticism, though, actually, most Post-Humans would have to really strain themselves to work up to the intellectual level of the Nag Hammadi corpus, or even of Hermeticism; most of 'em are stuck down in the gutter with the rest of the Manicheans.
Further example: many Post-Humans deny the validity of intellectual property, essentially asserting in one breath that one can only own material things or acts ("one's labor", they assert, is the reason you get paid for work) and that one ought not to bother about owning anything. Mere socialistic utopianism, you say? Nope. Know why it was considered worth going to war to put down the Cathars? They denied oaths, therefore all contracts and (by extension) all of society. Fundamentally, this is just a variant of the same thing.
- Kokoro is not just another book by the guy who wrote Wagahai neko de aru; it's also a key concept in fictional robot dealie-ness. It's a major theme in Astro Boy, and it's also that one Vocaloid song where, if it don't bring a tear to your eye, it's because you have none, nor blood.
It's that whole question about robot/AI personhood, and all that. One wonders, has anyone (certainly not Tezuka, who was an overrated hack) ever answered the question "can AIs be people"—that is, "have they the Buddha-nature, or not?"—with "mu"? I doubt that'd sell tickets, but it'd be a fun idea to explore.
- I have what is perhaps a nod in that direction in one of my stories, where an AI points out that your feelings, which people make out to be so damned important to their humanity, are programming just like he has. The actually relevant issues, though he doesn't exactly say as much, are self-awareness and free will. Fun times, by the way, one cannot actually know that anyone other than oneself has either of those things. See also "philosophical zombies". It is, however, much easier to tell (with a margin of error) whether something is, or at least seems, self-aware/rational, than whether its choices are free; that's why everyone but Rousseau makes that the determinant of personhood.
It is an interesting question, by the way, whether a person who has not read "The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes" by Mortimer J. Adler, is really qualified to discuss robot personhood. Admittedly he makes one mistake—an AI program, were it possible, would not arise from purely material origins, since data is not material. Nevertheless, that book is pretty much the definitive discussion of personhood as a philosophical concept.
- I was wondering, is it colossally nerdy that I intend to have a reference, in my book, to the Serial Experiments Lain line that is the only Proust reference in an animated TV show?
- Is it just me, or is it weird that both Creative Minority Report and Sci Fi Catholic have mentioned robots in the last few days? CRM mentioned this Harvard thing what's making flexy inchy-squinchy robots, to get into hard-to-reach places, and Deej was talking about the folks as are making cyborg June bugs. Which would be the coolest-ever UAVs, by the bye, though probably only useful for recon. Though I suppose one might have them devour the target, but that'd be hard to pull off right, ethical considerations to one side.
Speaking of UAVs, but otherwise rather off-topic, I wish people would quit pretending Al-Awlaki "had a right to a trial". Terrorism is not a crime, it is an act of war, generally conducted by forces both foreign to the areas they fight in, and not in any recognized uniform. Guess what, those guys? Yeah, they count as spies under international law, and a spy's civil rights consist of "get a decent burial after their summary execution, which must be as humane as feasible". All a terrorist's American citizenship means is you also get to punish treason, as well as eliminating a terrorist SOB.