The Fourth Law of Robotics - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

The movie "I, Robot" is a muddled affair. It relies on shoddy pseudo-science and a general sense of unease that artificial (non-carbon based) intelligent life forms seem to provoke in us. But it goes no deeper than a comic book treatment ofrepparttar important themes that it broaches. I, Robot is just another - and relatively inferior - entry is a long line of far better movies, such as "Blade Runner" and "Artificial Intelligence".

Sigmund Freud said that we have an uncanny reaction torepparttar 133584 inanimate. This is probably because we know that pretensions and layers of philosophizing aside we are nothing but recursive, self aware, introspective, conscious machines. Special machines, no doubt, but machines allrepparttar 133585 same.

Considerrepparttar 133586 James bond movies. They constitute a decades-spanning gallery of human paranoia. Villains change: communists, neo-Nazis, media moguls. But one kind of villain is a fixture in this psychodrama, in this parade of human phobias:repparttar 133587 machine. James Bond always finds himself confronted with hideous, vicious, malicious machines and automata.

It was precisely to counter this wave of unease, even terror, irrational but all-pervasive, that Isaac Asimov,repparttar 133588 late Sci-fi writer (and scientist) inventedrepparttar 133589 Three Laws of Robotics:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obeyrepparttar 133590 orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict withrepparttar 133591 First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict withrepparttar 133592 First or Second Laws. Many have noticedrepparttar 133593 lack of consistency and, therefore,repparttar 133594 inapplicability of these laws when considered together.

First, they are not derived from any coherent worldview or background. To be properly implemented and to avoid their interpretation in a potentially dangerous manner,repparttar 133595 robots in which they are embedded must be equipped with reasonably comprehensive models ofrepparttar 133596 physical universe and of human society.

Without such contexts, these laws soon lead to intractable paradoxes (experienced as a nervous breakdown by one of Asimov's robots). Conflicts are ruinous in automata based on recursive functions (Turing machines), as all robots are. Godel pointed at one such self destructive paradox inrepparttar 133597 "Principia Mathematica", ostensibly a comprehensive and self consistent logical system. It was enough to discreditrepparttar 133598 whole magnificent edifice constructed by Russel and Whitehead over a decade.

Some argue against this and say that robots need not be automata inrepparttar 133599 classical, Church-Turing, sense. That they could act according to heuristic, probabilistic rules of decision making. There are many other types of functions (non-recursive) that can be incorporated in a robot, they remind us.

True, but then, how can one guarantee thatrepparttar 133600 robot's behavior is fully predictable ? How can one be certain that robots will fully and always implementrepparttar 133601 three laws? Only recursive systems are predictable in principle, though, at times, their complexity makes it impossible.

This article deals with some commonsense, basic problems raised byrepparttar 133602 Laws. The next article in this series analysesrepparttar 133603 Laws from a few vantage points: philosophy, artificial intelligence and some systems theories.

An immediate question springs to mind: HOW will a robot identify a human being? Surely, in a future of perfect androids, constructed of organic materials, no superficial, outer scanning will suffice. Structure and composition will not be sufficient differentiating factors.

There are two ways to settle this very practical issue: one is to endowrepparttar 133604 robot withrepparttar 133605 ability to conduct a Converse Turing Test (to separate humans from other life forms) -repparttar 133606 other is to somehow "barcode" allrepparttar 133607 robots by implanting some remotely readable signaling device inside them (such as a RFID - Radio Frequency ID chip). Both present additional difficulties.

The second solution will preventrepparttar 133608 robot from positively identifying humans. He will be able identify with any certainty robots and only robots (or humans with such implants). This is ignoring, for discussion's sake, defects in manufacturing or loss ofrepparttar 133609 implanted identification tags. And what if a robot were to get rid of its tag? Will this also be classified as a "defect in manufacturing"?

In any case, robots will be forced to make a binary choice. They will be compelled to classify one type of physical entities as robots and allrepparttar 133610 others as "non-robots". Will non-robots include monkeys and parrots? Yes, unlessrepparttar 133611 manufacturers equiprepparttar 133612 robots with digital or optical or molecular representations ofrepparttar 133613 human figure (masculine and feminine) in varying positions (standing, sitting, lying down). Or unless all humans are somehow tagged from birth.

These are cumbersome and repulsive solutions and not very effective ones. No dictionary of human forms and positions is likely to be complete. There will always berepparttar 133614 odd physical posture whichrepparttar 133615 robot would find impossible to match to its library. A human disk thrower or swimmer may easily be classified as "non-human" by a robot - and so might amputated invalids.

What about administering a converse Turing Test?

This is even more seriously flawed. It is possible to design a test, which robots will apply to distinguish artificial life forms from humans. But it will have to be non-intrusive and not involve overt and prolonged communication. The alternative is a protracted teletype session, withrepparttar 133616 human concealed behind a curtain, after whichrepparttar 133617 robot will issue its verdict:repparttar 133618 respondent is a human or a robot. This is unthinkable.

Moreover,repparttar 133619 application of such a test will "humanize"repparttar 133620 robot in many important respects. Human identify other humans because they are human, too. This is called empathy. A robot will have to be somewhat human to recognize another human being, it takes one to know one,repparttar 133621 saying (rightly) goes.

The Solow Paradox

Written by Sam Vaknin


The world is debatingrepparttar Solow Paradox. Named afterrepparttar 133583 Nobel laureate in economics, it was stated by him thus: "You can seerepparttar 133584 computer age everywhere these days, except inrepparttar 133585 productivity statistics". The venerable economic magazine, "The Economist" in its issue dated July 24th, quotesrepparttar 133586 no less venerable Professor Robert Gordon ("one of America's leading authorities on productivity") - p.20: "...the productivity performance ofrepparttar 133587 manufacturing sector ofrepparttar 133588 United States economy since 1995 has been abysmal rather than admirable. Not only has productivity growth in non-durable manufacturing decelerated in 1995-9 compared to 1972-95, but productivity growth in durable manufacturing stripped of computers has decelerated even more."

What should be held true -repparttar 133589 hype orrepparttar 133590 dismal statistics? The answer to this question is of crucial importance to economies in transition. If investment in IT (information technology) actually RETARDS growth - then it should be avoided, at least until a functioning marketplace is there to counter its growth suppressing effects.

The notion that IT retards growth is counter-intuitive. It would seem that, atrepparttar 133591 least, computers allow us to do more ofrepparttar 133592 same things faster. Typing, order processing, inventory management, production processes, number crunching are all managed more efficiently by computers. Added efficiency should translate into enhanced productivity. Put simply,repparttar 133593 same number of people can do more, faster, more cheaply with computers than they can without them. Yet reality begs to differ.

Two elements are often neglected in consideringrepparttar 133594 beneficial effects of IT.

The first is thatrepparttar 133595 concept of information technology comprises two very distinct economic activities: an all-purpose machine (the PC) and its enabling applications and a medium (the internet). Capital assets as distinct from media assets are governed by different economic principles, should be managed differently and berepparttar 133596 subject of different philosophical points of view.

Massive, double digit increases in productivity are feasible inrepparttar 133597 manufacturing of computer hardware. The inevitable outcome is an exponential explosion in computing and networking power. The dual rules which govern IT - Moore's (a doubling of chip capacity and computing prowess every 18 months) and Metcalf's (the exponential increase in a network's processing ability as more computers connect to it) - also dictate a breathtaking pace of increased productivity inrepparttar 133598 hardware cum software aspect of IT. This has been duly detected by Robert Gordon in his "Hasrepparttar 133599 'New Economy' renderedrepparttar 133600 productivity slowdown obsolete?".

But for this increased productivity to trickle down torepparttar 133601 rest ofrepparttar 133602 economy a few conditions have to be met.

The transition from old technologies to a new one (the computer renders many a technology obsolete) must not involve too much "creative destruction". The costs of getting rid of old hardware, software, of altering management techniques or adopting new ones, of shedding redundant manpower, of searching for new employees to replacerepparttar 133603 unqualified or unqualifiable, of installing new hardware, software and of training new people in all levels ofrepparttar 133604 corporation are enormous. They must never exceedrepparttar 133605 added benefits ofrepparttar 133606 newly introduced technology inrepparttar 133607 long run. Hencerepparttar 133608 crux ofrepparttar 133609 debate. Is IT more expensive to introduce, run and maintain thanrepparttar 133610 technologies that it so confidently aims to replace? Will new technologies be spun offrepparttar 133611 core IT in a pace sufficient to compensate forrepparttar 133612 disappearance of old ones? Asrepparttar 133613 technology mature, will it overcome its childhood maladies (lack of operational reliability, bad design, non-specificity, immaturity ofrepparttar 133614 first generation of computer users, absence of user friendliness and so on)?

Moreover, is IT an evolution or a veritable revolution? Does it merely allow us to do more ofrepparttar 133615 same only in a different way - or does it open up hitherto unheard of vistas for human imagination and creativity? The signals are mixed. IT did NOT succeed to do to human endeavour what electricity,repparttar 133616 internal combustion engine or evenrepparttar 133617 telegraph have done. It is also not clear at all that IT is a UNIVERSAL phenomenon suitable to all climes and mentalities. The penetration of both IT andrepparttar 133618 medium it gave rise to (the internet) is not uniform throughoutrepparttar 133619 world even whererepparttar 133620 purchasing power is similar and even amongrepparttar 133621 corporate class. Countries post communism should take all this into consideration. Their economies may be too obsolete and hidebound, poor and badly managed to absorb yet another critical change inrepparttar 133622 form of IT. The introduction of IT into an ill-prepared market or corporation can be and often is counter-productive and growth-retarding.


Then, of course, there isrepparttar 133623 Internet.

The internet runs on computers but it is related to them inrepparttar 133624 same way that a TV show is related to a TV set. To bundle to two, as is often done today, obscuresrepparttar 133625 true picture and can often be very misleading. For instance: it is close to impossible to measure productivity inrepparttar 133626 services sector, let alone is something as wildly informal and dynamic asrepparttar 133627 internet. It is clear by now thatrepparttar 133628 internet is a medium and, as such, is subject torepparttar 133629 evolutionary cycle of its predecessors. Central and Eastern Europe has just entered this cycle whilerepparttar 133630 USA isrepparttar 133631 most advanced.

The internet is simplyrepparttar 133632 latest in a series of networks which revolutionized our lives. A century beforerepparttar 133633 internet,repparttar 133634 telegraph andrepparttar 133635 telephone have been similarly heralded as "global" and transforming.

So, what shouldrepparttar 133636 CEE countries expect to happen torepparttar 133637 internet globally and, later, within their own territories? The issue here cannot be cast in terms of productivity. It is better to apply to itrepparttar 133638 imagery ofrepparttar 133639 business cycle.

As we said, every medium of communications goes throughrepparttar 133640 same evolutionary cycle:

It starts with Anarchy - or The Public Phase.

At this stage,repparttar 133641 medium andrepparttar 133642 resources attached to it are very cheap, accessible, under no regulatory constraints. The public sector steps in : higher education institutions, religious institutions, government, not for profit organizations, non governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions, etc. Bedevilled by limited financial resources, they regardrepparttar 133643 new medium as a cost effective way of disseminating their messages.

The Internet was not exempt from this phase which is at its death throes. It started with a complete computer anarchy manifested in ad hoc networks, local networks, networks of organizations (mainly universities and organs ofrepparttar 133644 government such as DARPA, a part ofrepparttar 133645 defence establishment, inrepparttar 133646 USA). Non commercial entities jumped onrepparttar 133647 bandwagon and started sewing these networks together (an activity fully subsidized by government funds). The result was a globe encompassing network of academic institutions. The American Pentagon establishedrepparttar 133648 network of all networks,repparttar 133649 ARPANET. Other government departments joinedrepparttar 133650 fray, headed byrepparttar 133651 National Science Foundation (NSF) which withdrew only lately fromrepparttar 133652 Internet.

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