Space for Profit?

In the current issue of the journal Space Policy, Fabio Tronchetti (Harbin Institute of Technology, China) presents a legal analysis of the „Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act“ that has recently been endorsed by the US Senate. This Act allows private companies to mine and utilize asteroid resources for commercial purposes and has already been criticized.

Tronchetti lists several aspects of the Act that contradict international law and warns: „It is unrealistic to imagine that other States, especially those actively engaged in the exploration of the Moon, such as China, would passively accept such development. Instead, it is more realistic to foresee that these States will react not only by demanding clarification to the United States in appropriate diplomatic fora but also by enacting national legislation similar to the Space Exploration and Utilization. The presence of a multitude of national legislation and approaches regulating extraterrestrial mining would likely enhance the risk of disagreements and tensions among those engaged in this kind of activity.“

So it seems that by pushing ahead with this Act the USA once again increase international conflict instead of settling differences. Tronchetti concludes: „The utilization of celestial bodies resources holds potentially significant economic and technological rewards. One can only hope that such an exciting venture will be undertaken by States in a cooperative and coordinate manner without undermining the fragile equilibrium that exists in space.“

Transformative Making

Last summer makers, scientist, hackers, bricoleurs, researchers, artists, designers, and other interdisciplinary practitioners from around the globe met in Indonesia at Transformaking 2015 to discuss the transformative power of the maker movement.

Now you can continue this discussion on „Transformative and Critical Making“ on the Yasmin discussion list. „The constructive discourse at the Transformaking2015 symposia prompted us to propose this discussion on various aspects of critical making“, write Colette Tron and Nina Czegledy who are going to moderate the discussion. „The exploration of this concept and activities could be helping us to criticize the way we make things, and what we make together. All the participants of Transformaking2015 are invited as well as Yasminers on this list to contribute to the discussion.“

SETI International

Founded in July 2015 one of the missions of SETI International is to increase „awareness of the challenges facing our civilization’s longvity“. That is certainly related to the idea of this website: using robots to increase peace on Earth and contribute to a sustainable, long-lasting society. Thinking about extraterrestrial civilizations inevitably means at the same time thinking about possible futures of humanity. Robots will play an important role in these futures, especially if humanity decides to become a space-faring species.

The Peaceful Use of Robots

…is not limited to certain applications like search and rescue, or assistance in fire-fighting. A more profound effect of increasing peace could probably be realized by using robotics and automation technology for providing the basic needs of life for everyone. A recent study by Randall Akee, Emilia Simeonova, E. Jane Costello, and William Copeland showed in quantitative detail the positive effects of a rise of unearned income to the personal development of children in poor households of an Indian reservation in the USA.

The only dark spot in this example is the source of the extra income: It resulted from the profits of a casino run by members of the Cherokee tribe. Gambling does not seem to provide a sustainable path to a future of peace and social justice, as little as exploiting the reserves of fossil fuels like oil and coal. At least, it is a good first step into the right direction to distribute the profits from these businesses equally, like they do with the Government Pension Fund in Norway, too.

A next step could and should be to use robotics and automation as a common resource that works for everybody, thereby liberating human work to become a means of personal expression and development again instead of being just a job and a necessary evil to earn for a living.

On The Way To A Peaceful Future

… US congress recently took the wrong way by granting US firms the right to own and sell natural resources they mine from asteroids and other celestial bodies, as Gbenga Oduntan, University of Kent, criticizes in this commentary:

Who owns space?

That certainly relates to the peaceful use of robots, since they will always be the first when it comes to exploring and settling outer space.

We should always be aware of the historically unique opportunity that we have: It was never so easy to discontinue wrong social practices as it would be on other heavenly bodies where we can make a new start, based on justice and equality. In the first space settlements all the essentials of life will almost certainly provided for free, produced by robots, like breathing air, water, and food. Why not keep that as a social principle — and use it as a model for the future on Earth?

Demining – A Job For Robots

According to the UN Mine Action Service, landmines kill 15,000-20,000 people every year (mostly children) and maim countless more across 78 countries. Demining efforts cost US$ 300-1000 per mine, and, for every 5000 mines cleared, one person is killed and two are injured. Thus, clearing post-combat regions of landmines has proven to be a difficult, risky, dangerous and expensive task with enormous social implications for civilians. Motivated by these considerations, the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society – Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (RAS–SIGHT) is inviting the academic and non-academic community to participate in the third Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC) at the 2016 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA’16) in Stockholm, May 2016.

An opportunity to prepare for HRATC would be one month before at RoboCup Iran Open, Tehran, April 2016. It is the only major RoboCup competition including leagues for demining robots, like: tele-operated robots, small and middle size intelligent robots, and technical challenge.

Robots for Peace

In defence of drones and other military robots it is sometimes argued that robot soldiers might optimize warfare by acting less emotional and following ethical rules more strictly than humans.

This website promotes another approach: Why not concentrating on optimizing peace instead of optimizing war? It seems like a better use of societal resources.

This is a grassroots initiative, starting small, hoping to become bigger continously. It grew out of an interview with Federico Pistono at the Challengers Conference in Barcelona, September 2015. When I asked Federico about „robots for peace“, he interrupted me and said: „I like that title. We should make it a website.“

Great idea, Federico! Here we are. Let’s grow.

Hans-Arthur Marsiske