Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Beginnings: Rise of the Machines
As a result, a new generation of robots was winding up on the floors of small- and medium-size companies that had previously depended only on the workers who lived just beyond their doors. Companies now could pick between two versions of the American worker - humans and robots. Counting health insurance and retirement benefits, even the lowest-paid worker was more expensive than the robots, which Tenere was leasing from a Nashville-based start-up, Hirebotics, for $15 per hour. "How's everybody doing?" said Matt Bader, as four just-hired workers walked in on a day when Robot 1 was being installed. Now, as the testing continued on a robot that he said "Just looks like something you see in the damned dentist's office," Campbell was starting his 25th consecutive workday feeding claws to the machine. Robot 2 had a different job than Robot 1. Days earlier, Annie Larson, the woman who would work alongside Robot 2, had been at home, the end of another shift, laid out in a recliner sipping a Mountain Dew mixed with what she described as the cheapest vodka she could find. Her line supervisor, Tom Johannsen, had told workers a few weeks earlier the robots were coming. Eight days after arriving in boxes, the robots' first official day of work had arrived. In came the workers, some of whom took a moment to stand near the robots and watch. Within an hour, the workers of the first shift had filled a shipping box with finished containers - the first batch made by both humans and robots. In September, the engineers would be coming back, arriving this time with the boxes holding Robot 3 and Robot 4.
Elon Musk leads 116 experts calling for outright ban of killer robots
Tesla's Elon Musk and Alphabet's Mustafa Suleyman are leading a group of 116 specialists from across 26 countries who are calling for the ban on autonomous weapons. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. Experts have previously warned that AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of autonomous weapons is feasible within years, rather than decades. While AI can be used to make the battlefield a safer place for military personnel, experts fear that offensive weapons that operate on their own would lower the threshold of going to battle and result in greater loss of human life. The founders call for "Morally wrong" lethal autonomous weapons systems to be added to the list of weapons banned under the UN's convention on certain conventional weapons brought into force in 1983, which includes chemical and intentionally blinding laser weapons. Ryan Gariepy, the founder of Clearpath Robotics said: "Unlike other potential manifestations of AI which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability." The UK government opposed such a ban on lethal autonomous weapons in 2015, with the Foreign Office stating that "International humanitarian law already provides sufficient regulation for this area". While the suggestion of killer robots conjures images from science fiction such as the Terminator's T-800 or Robocop's ED-209, lethal autonomous weapons are already in use.
Killer robots: Experts warn of third revolution in warfare
More than 100 leading robotics experts are urging the United Nations to take action in order to prevent the development of "Killer robots". In a letter to the organisation, artificial intelligence leaders, including billionaire Elon Musk, warn of "a third revolution in warfare". The letter says "Lethal autonomous" technology is a "Pandora's box", adding that time is of the essence. The 116 experts are calling for a ban on the use of AI in managing weaponry. "These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways," it adds. There is an urgent tone to the message from the technology leaders, who warn that "We do not have long to act". Experts are calling for what they describe as "Morally wrong" technology to be added to the list of weapons banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Along with Tesla co-founder and chief executive Mr Musk, the technology leaders include Mustafa Suleyman, Google's DeepMind co-founder. A potential ban on the development of "Killer robot" technology has previously been discussed by UN committees. In 2015, more than 1,000 tech experts, scientists and researchers wrote a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weaponry. A killer robot is a fully autonomous weapon that can select and engage targets without human intervention. Those in favour of killer robots believe the current laws of war may be sufficient to address any problems that might emerge if they are ever deployed, arguing that a moratorium, not an outright ban, should be called if this is not the case.
UK scientists create world’s smallest surgical robot to start a hospital revolution
British scientists have developed the world's smallest surgical robot which could transform everyday operations for tens of thousands of patients. The robot, called Versius, mimics the human arm and can be used to carry out a wide range of laparoscopic procedures - including hernia repairs, colorectal operations, and prostate and ear, nose and throat surgery - in which a series of small incisions are made to circumvent the need for traditional open surgery. The robot is controlled by a surgeon at a console guided by a 3D screen in the operating theatre. Although surgical robots already exist, the new creation is much easier to use, takes up about a third of the space of current machines and will be no more expensive than non-robotic keyhole surgery, according to its maker Cambridge Medical Robotics. "The problem at the moment is that they are phenomenally expensive - not only do they cost £2m each to buy but every procedure costs an extra £3,000 using the robot - and they are very large. Many hospitals have to use the operating theatre around the robot. Their size can also make them difficult for the surgical team to use." For robots to revolutionise surgery, he said, they need to be versatile, easy to use and small so that surgical staff can move them around the operating room or between operating theatres, or pack them away when they are not being used. "Our robot does all of this and is the first robotic arm to be designed specifically for laparoscopic surgery," Frost said. One of the key benefits of the robot is that it works like a human arm and contains technology that detects resistance to make sure the right amount of force is used when the instruments are inside the patient. "Whereas traditional industrial robotic arms are large and the wrists have three joints, our robot is the same size as a human arm and has four wrist joints, giving the surgeon an unprecedented level of freedom to operate on the patient from whatever angle they want, versatility and reach," Hares said. To create this sophisticated and state-of-the-art device Versius's creators used electronics from mobile phones to help the robot "Think" and process information, and gear box technology originally designed for the space industry to help it move. The robot will be launched next spring and, once surgeons are trained, it should be available for procedures on patients by the end of next year. The current global market for surgical robots is worth approximately $4bn a year but this is expected to grow to $20bn by 2024.

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