A bedtime-story by Tolstoy
Geschrieben von Ron Segal um 14:49
“Our goal is to have a robot soccer team beat a human team by 2050″, said the professor (Prof. Dr. Hans-Dieter Burkhard, Humboldt Uni) who was giving the lecture “Research and Fun: Robots play Soccer” at the last DAAD meeting (which was excellent – thank you very much!). The audience was laughing. After all, he had just shown us short clips of the latest mechanic-Beckhams and it didn’t look too promising: early attempts were tv-shaped thingies on wheels which knew how to perform two acts: catch and kick and kept bumping into each other like bumper-cars; second generation were those Japanese dogs we all know and love and they were playing soccer much worse than had they been real dogs; and the last generation – humanoids at last, quite short though – were the least impressive; they could walk in the pace of your average grandpa, but unlike your grandpa, when these little fellows fell down – the audience rolled with laughter. They stopped laughing quite abruptly though, when the mechanic-opa kicked the ground a few times and then stood up with no sign of rheumatism and rejoined the game, eager to win.
But really, 2050? doesn’t seem plausible. The professor reminded us that it took 257 years from the first steam-powered vehicle to the first Ferrari, but merely 66 years from the the Wright Flyer 1 to Apollo 11…And need I remind you the look on Kasparov’s face on May 11, 1997, when he stared into the deep blue eyes of the machine deigned by IBM which won a six-game chess-match by two wins to one with three draws? Or should I say: who won.
I was the sole audience member who wasn’t laughing. I was staring at the screen with sheer terror. I had a horrible Déjà vu, starting with two similar robots fighting in the streets of LA and ending with one of them becoming the current governor of California. It is quite clear to me that robots are our future, but it seems that our plans for them always end up changing, and not to our favor: we wanted robots to work for us – let them go out and provide for us – but now they’ve gotten so much better at it than us, that thousands of working places have been replaced by one greasy machine.
A.I. is the name of the game: Artificial Intelligence. Whether we want to beat Kasparov or Beckham, we have to be able to create a robot which could think for itself, learn from its mistakes, evolve. A short clip the professor showed us demonstrating a robot which learned to walk on his own much better than utilizing the software developed by his creators, was proof enough that AI is more than a mediocre Steven Spielberg movie.
But I’m not worried about losing my job to WALL-E or falling in love with a Voice Input Child Identicant (nick-named Vicki on “Small Wonder”). let’s imagine for a second that the people who designed “Deep Blue” would set a new goal for themselves: to create a robot which could write a best seller. They would go about it the same way they did with their last success: they would teach their robot (let’s call him Tolstoy 1000, or T-1000 for short) everything there is to know about literature; he would consume all the books ever written by men, from the Bible to “War and Peace” and know by heart every word ever written by a literary critic; he would be fed drama-algorithms and suspense-formulas; he would start by writing silly short stories and would pick up the pace faster than any child learning a new language; until finally, one day, they would send one of his stories to a local writing talent contest, where he would win his first award: Promising Writer of the Year.
2050 is coming up in 40 years. Most of you reading this would live to see it. By then you would probably have some robots helping around the house; driving your laundry to the cleaners and picking up the groceries on their way back; helping you up the stairs; reminding you to take your pills or to call your grandson for his birthday. At night they would bathe you and help you to bed, where they would cover you with your favorite blanket and wish you good night, or even tell you a bedtime-story, to ease your loneliness.
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