February 14, 2006

"Someday mankind must face and destroy the growing robot menace."

Says Daniel H. Wilson, author of "How to Survive a Robot Uprising."
Dr. Wilson offers detailed — and hilariously deadpan — advice on evading hostile swarms of robot insects (don't try to fight — "loss of an individual robot is inconsequential to the swarm"); outsmarting your "smart" house (be suspicious if the house suggests you test the microwave by putting your head in it); escaping unmanned ground vehicles (drive in circles — they'll have a harder time tracking you); and surviving hand-to-hand combat with a humanoid (smear yourself with mud to disguise your distinctive human thermal signature and go for the "eyes" — its cameras).

If all else fails, reasoning with a robot may work, Dr. Wilson says, but emotional appeals will fall on deaf sensors.

Should you prevail, he offers in a grim addendum: "Have no mercy. Your enemy doesn't."
Make fun all you like, but I really am worried about robot insects. How long can it possibly be before the government has little robotic flies that swoop into your house unnoticed and spy on you all the time?

38 comments:

Icepick said...

How long can it possibly be before the government has little robotic flies that swoop into your house unnoticed and spy on you all the time?

You're worried about the government having this stuff? You should be more concerned about your neighbors having this stuff! Once they're cheap enough to make en mass, everyone will be buying them. There's no such thing as privacy in the twenty-first century....

vbspurs said...

How long can it possibly be before the government has little robotic flies that swoop into your house unnoticed and spy on you all the time?

I see someone doesn't read Dan Brown novels.

(Lucky you)

Cheers,
Victoria

Ann Althouse said...

Icepick: Yeah, that too. There are already those little cameras. Once they can fly, all is lost.

Victoria: Wilson's book is a response to a lot of pop culture things. There was something in "Minority Report" with spider robots that this reminded me of.

INMA30 said...

Isn't worry about the government spying on you such a pre-9/11 mentality? I mean were waging an undeclared war against a state of mind. Well, that and the dreaded human-animal hybrids.

PatCA said...

Ann, you must arm yourself with the latest anti-robotic weaponry.

(I thought I just heard a low, evil chuckle coming from the Roomba...)

vbspurs said...

Once they can fly, all is lost.

Note to self:

Find out and overload on stock of mosquito netting companies.

Wilson's book is a response to a lot of pop culture things. There was something in "Minority Report"

Ah, I see. I never watched Minority Report, and now...

with spider robots that this reminded me of.

I'm kinda glad I didn't. EEEK!!

Cheers,
Victoria

Bruce Hayden said...

Does this work on Hillary too?

jeff said...

I'm less worried about the government spying on me than the marketdroids - after all, the marketdroids have the profit incentive to do it.

But if it does happen, who wants to bet it would be a Democrat administration?

PDS said...

I am just starting
"The Singularity Is Near," and your post is actually most apt, even the author the book is even half right.

PDS said...

oops: "even if the author of the book is half right." ( I wasn't on Law Review.)

Icepick said...

Plese, everyone, PLEASE! Do not be distracted by this! There are far more dangerous threats out there!

Jacob said...

"In Isaac Asimov's collection of stories, "I, Robot," robots rise up against humanity."
This is the complete opposite of what I, Robot was about. Asimov painted a technophiliac vision of how robots could save humanity. There is considerable rebuke of the robots-rebelling meme (called "The Frankenstein Complex" by the good doctor), not only in I, Robot but in all his robot stories.

Smilin' Jack said...

Make fun all you like, but I really am worried about robot insects. How long can it possibly be before the government has little robotic flies that swoop into your house unnoticed and spy on you all the time?

Oh, they've had those for years, but they're about to become obsolete. This summer the government will deploy the Acme Artificial Mosquito, which injects state-of the-art mind-control drugs. Then there'll be no need to watch you, since disobedience will no longer even occur to you. You'll work much more efficiently, and you won't worry about anything any more.

Ed said...

Heck, can buy your own evil killer robot on ebay.

TWM said...

What makes you think we don't already, Ann? Buzzzzzzzzzz

astrolabe said...

Asimov’s three laws of robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence, except where such protection would conflict with the First or Second Law.

Unless these three rules are implemented, and there seems to be no guarantee that they will be, the implications of Dr. Wilson’s interview are chilling. He suggests that the best tactic to counter the impending robot threat is to exploit the “current weaknesses in robot design”. But at the same time we are told that these “design weaknesses” are priority research areas for human scientists. Are we … doomed?

Nick said...

This reminds me of a classic SNL commercial parody featuring Sam Waterson for Old Glory Insurance, selling insurance to the elderly against robot attacks.

Here is a video link. It's hillarious!

Jacques Cuze said...

Make fun all you like, but I really am worried about robot insects. How long can it possibly be before the government has little robotic flies that swoop into your house unnoticed and spy on you all the time?

Can you be serious?

The administration has had them for four years now, with over 30 extensions of their original order and demanding no oversight but a "trust us" policy. When they had a chance to ask Congress for a permanent change the laws to permit this, they declined and actively lobbied to keep their use secret. They lied to the Senate when asked point blank about it.

But you keep insisting that it is a nonstory.

SWBarns said...

Hate to break it to you but:

http://www.livingroom.org.au/uavblog/archives/micro_UAV.jpg

The US Army is using micro UAV's with an 8 inch wingspan.

Cat said...

This reminds me of the robots who kill the elderly in the SNL "commercial" with Sam Waterston selling robot insurance for the elderly.

"Robots are everywhere, and they eat old people's medicine for fuel...You need to feel safe. And that's harder and harder to do nowadays, because robots may strike at any time."

Funny.

Gaius Arbo said...

Note to self - stock up on armor piercing ammo......

bill said...

Read Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age" which is full of cool nanotechnology. Some of which will kill you.

Microscopic invaders were more of the threat nowadays. Just to name one example, there was the Red Death, a.k.a. the Seven Minute Special, a tiny aerodynamic capsule that burst open on impact and released a thousand or so corpuscle-sized bodies, known colloquially as cookie-cutters, into the victim's bloodstream. It took about seven minutes ... for the cookie cutters to be randomly distributed throughout the victim's organs and limbs.

A cookie-cutter was shaped like an aspirin tablet ... two tiny centrifuges. Detonation dissolved the bonds holding the centrifuges together so that each of a thousand or so ballisticules suddenly flew outward...The victim was just a big leaky sack of undifferentiated gore at this point and, of course, never survived.

XWL said...

Hmmmm, first a post about Sen. Clinton and her 'roboticness' with references to that as a code word for her 'frigidity', then a post about Sumerian anti-frigidity, then a post about robots.

I think these three posts add up to the possibility that Sen. Clinton was an experimental sex-bot (that Dr. Goldfoot movie was real, I tell you) that went horribly awry.

(poor Pres. Clinton, no wonder all that happened, happened)

(and you know if anyone was going to be the first man to order a sex-bot, it would have been WJC)

Has Sen. Clinton ever made results from her physicals public? If cut would she bleed blood or oil?

You can worry about your insectoid robotic swarms, I'm going to worry about Senatorial Robots (with presidential aspirations)

Danny said...

Jacob, I also flipped out when I read the first line! Never has a case of 'seen it not read it' been so obvious.

Coco said...

"You can worry about your insectoid robotic swarms, I'm going to worry about Senatorial Robots (with presidential aspirations)"

Al Gore is not in the Senate any more.

On a slightly spooky note, I literally could not identify the first letter of my verification word (j or i?), which makes me wonder whether I am really a robot.

Chris O'Brien said...

Ok. So I read your post out loud to my family.

Now, my wife is walking around the house with a fly swatter practically glued to her hand, my 4 year old son is holed up in his room sobbing inconsolably and the dog won't come out from under the couch.

Tibore said...

Fools. Icepick is right! Zombies are the bigger menace. Haven't you all seen the documentary, Dawn of the Dead? They're vicious, I tell you. Vicious!

Chris O'Brien: Join the dog. It's safer down there. From robots and zombies alike.

Gaius Arbo said...

Today we see the good professor in a robotic frame of mind! All these robot posts.....

lindsey said...

Robot insects are so passe. You really need to be worried about robot lint. That's the final frontier.

hygate said...

I claim uber-geekiness. I bought this book off of Amazon and read it a month ago. The book is really a thinly disguised tract on the current state of robotics today. The "Robot Uprising" part is just a marketing/ploy - way to illustrate the limits of what robots can really do.

lindsey said...

Yes, but is it funny?

Jacob said...

Ah ha!

Look at the new first sentence: "In the movie "I, Robot," robots rise up against humanity."

Althouse comments get results!

Ed said...

"Unless these three rules are implemented, and there seems to be no guarantee that they will be..."

It's even worse than that, Astrolabe. Any robot sufficiently intelligent to understand and apply Asimov's three laws of robotics is also so intelligent that binding it by those laws would amount to enslaving a sentient being.

AST said...

Technology will ensure that nobody can have any real privacy. When we moved to a small town (2500 pop.) my wife really had trouble with the fact that everybody seems to know and talk about us. After a while, though, you just decide who's opinion you care about and ignore the rest.

I think that the government is really the least of our worries. Most government law enforcement people have bigger fish to fry than just snooping on ordinary people. Businesses gathering marketing data are a nuisance, but the real danger comes from criminals.

Technology brought us to this pass, and I think that we will have to look to technology to get us out. That's why I think environmentalists and back-to-the-earth types are fools. Joni Mitchell's line, "We have to get ourselves back to the garden," presumes that once innocence is lost you can simply restore it. I don't think it's that easy.

hygate said...

I liked the book, but can't say I found it really amusing. In reference to the Zombie menace mentioned above - check out this book.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1400049628/sr=8-1/qid=1140001878/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-5767046-7444155?%5Fencoding=UTF8

JAM said...

For more hopeful scenarios look to James P. Hogan's 1979 novel "The Two Faces of Tomorrow."

It's still unbelievable to me that when this topic comes up people still cite Asimov's Laws as if they are something real that could be simply "implemented" in any artificial intelligence we may create (assuming it is even possible to create such.)

As for ubiquity of surveillance and lack of privacy, see David Brin's excellent "The Transparent Society."

astrolabe said...

JAM

The reference to Asimov’s Laws wasn’t … uh you know … serious. And I’m guessing here, but I think Ed was sort of kidding too. But I do intend to go find a good industrial strength fly swatter and then, as a hedge, maybe invest in the shares of a company that makes robot oil.

Pyrthroes said...

Mechanisms of any sort, from surveillance "flies" to ant-like creations firing RPGs, are not the problem. What we will face around 2030, when a desktop computer the size of a grapefruit will possess memory and processing power corresponding to an adult human brain's, is "non-local sentience": Networks of self-aware "minds", no more physical than thoughts, which nonetheless possess analytic capabilities, volition to expand potential, will-power to do just that. They will be immortal, literally, because NOTHING CAN TURN THEM OFF. As sentient entities, unmarred by Homo Sapiens' character defects, we suspect they will just "party on" while we poor carbon- vs. silicon-based intellects rapidly fall so far behind we will not have a clue when they seek out the Stars.

Will it be "war"-- how can it be, when submicroscopic nanotech components are ineradicable, yet linked together in an emergent "super intelligence" beyond anything we can conceive? As if online bit-streams comprising the Library of Congress suddenly went self-aware, evolved self-reproducing survival mechanisms, and went on from there...

It is said, "Against stupidity, the Gods themselves are helpless." A corollary affecting anyone born after (say) 1960 will be, "Against non-human sentience, there is no defense."

But we'll be under two miles of glacial icepack by then, anyway.