Robots Support Basic Income

At the current World Economic Forum in Switzerland, some activists published a declaration of robots in support of a basic income for everybody. The event with a dancing robot came in preparation for a Swiss refendum on the topic that will be held in Summer 2016. „We – the robots“, the declaration goes, „call for an universal basic income for humans. We want to work for the humans to relieve them from the struggle for income. We are really good in working. But we do not want to take away people’s jobs and thereby bring them into existential difficulties.“

There is also a German version of the declaration: „Wir Roboter fordern ein bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen für die Menschen. Unsere Aufgabe ist es, die Menschen von der Erwerbsarbeit zu entlasten. Wir arbeiten sehr gerne. Aber wir wollen den Menschen nicht die Jobs wegnehmen und sie dadurch in existenzielle Schwierigkeiten bringen.“

Minesweepers Competition

I recently learned about the robot competition Minesweepers – Towards a Landmine-Free World, which was initiated in 2012 by the Egypt Chapter of IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. The first of the yearly competitions was held in Cairo. There are three categories: Academia, Junior, and Industry with different degrees of difficulty.

One of the initiators of the competition, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, is currently pursuing a survey among roboticists on the educational value of robot competitions. As he explains, „the aim of this study is to better understand the effect of robotics competitions on participants, teachers and organizers“. Please have a look and take a few minutes to answer his questions.

Germany Fuels Robot Arms Race

Now it is official: As German media report, the German armed forces have decided to procure the Israeli drone Heron TP with the option to weaponize it. So my home country finally has joined the club of nations using armed robots to enforce their interests. It’s a sad day. I feel ashamed.

More details (in German language) can be found in my article Deutsche Roboter sollen Waffen tragen – Die Bundesregierung treibt das Wettrüsten voran (Telepolis, Jan 15, 2016).

Human Societies beyond Earth

First view of Earth from the Moon, seen by Lunar Orbiter 1 on Aug 23, 1966 (Foto: NASA/LOIRP)

… will see humans and robots in completely new relationships. Intelligent machines will provide the necessities of human life, humans and robots will act together and cooperate in the exploration of new worlds. The recent International Symposium on Moon 2020–2030 in Noordwijk, organized by ESA, concentrated on the technological aspects. At the same time, the more sociologically oriented book The Meaning of Liberty Beyond Earth, edited by Charles Cockell, skips the role of robots in future extraterrestrial societies completely. Both approaches need to converge. It is not too early to discuss and develop a vision for the peaceful und fruitful co-existence of humans and robots in outer space.

How about EOD Robots?

© Photo: Landeskriminalamt Nordrhein-Westfalen

Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR is working on a multimodal sensor suite for a robot to inspect suitcase bombs. While this certainly is  a non-aggressive application, it is at the same time part of an arms race. It contributes to safety, but it is not a peaceful robot. To be one, it lacks a clearly visible intention to stop the escalation and represent the last step of this arms race.

Marines not interested in Big Dog

Since I mentioned Boston Dynamics and their grondbreaking (though confidential) research in legged robots in my recent post, it should be noted, that the US Marine Corps announced just before Christmas that it would not continue the program known as LS3 (Legged Squad Support System) or Big Dog. With its combustion engine it was simply too loud to be used in the field.

With Boston Dynamics being acquired by Google two years ago, there is at least some hope that the know-how gained during the project might be transfered to the civil sector.

VSPARC: Teaching Robots how to move

VSPARC Screenshot of a robot with 8 modules

Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania are creating a library of configurations and gaits for modular robots. This library will be used to create autonomous, complex, high-level behaviors for modular robots. For this purpose the simulation tool VSPARC has been developed.

From the perspective of promoting peace such open source approach for developing basic robot capabilities seems much more favourable than to cloud it in secretiveness as companies like Honda or Boston Dynamics are doing it with their legged robots.