By Roger F. Gay
From my articles here, you know me as a guy who engages regularly in unspinning political news and filling in public knowledge gaps on politics as usual. (Being an “old guy” with very heavy political analysis experience over many years and nothing to care about but the fate of the country, I can do that.) But as any thinking person might expect, I'm not this one-dimensional caricature with no other interests.
I have a blog but this isn't it. My own blog is about something called High Level Logic (HLL), a new concept for moving software technology, including Artificial Intelligence, into the next generation. The concept itself has been under consideration since the mid-1980s, but the first working prototype wasn't built until just a few years ago when it was funded as part of an advanced robotics project. One of the proposed applications for this technology is in the developing field of “Robot Ethics.”
I've spent much of my career in software R&D … no, really. I'm not just saying that. I've spent a lot of time developing new, sometimes cutting-edge products and the R part includes mostly industrial research. That's the kind of research that leads to new products during one's own lifetime, not contemplation of a far, possibly parallel future in which actual live humans have been mostly replaced by robots carrying our avatars. I think for example, that we have already developed artificial intelligence. It's not all that it can be, but we already have machines that perform complex tasks very efficiently that in the past required human skill and knowledge. So, what's the next step and the one just after that? Can we leap ahead instead of walking? Is the proposed idea feasible, practical, and commercially viable? What will it cost to do it? When will it be ready?
I shouldn't be too surprised then that, provoked by real-world events, the two interests have come together, enough so that I'm mentioning one of my alternative realities in a space usually reserved for my political character. You might be wondering at this point, whether I have anything to say on the subject beyond introducing another me. Just a little right now; a start. If you think about this at all, you should see it as even more urgent to vote for people who really believe the Constitution should be obeyed rather than those who only mention it as a talking point to help get conservative votes.
It's not the technology that's the problem. It's how they use it. Let me jump quickly to another example, one I think many people will find familiar. Database systems are fantastic tools. We need data and ways to store and handle it efficiently to run the modern world. They even help make government operations more efficient. But allowing government to have an unrestricted license to operate a national database system for keeping track of intimate details of the lives of all Americans is a very bad idea.
Drones are unmanned aircraft that can be used as nothing more than a cost effective alternative to helicopters with human pilots and cameramen onboard. They can keep us informed about traffic conditions, let police know when and where there is an accident or stranded motorist, patrol the border, chase criminals, and engage in other worthy activities that are quite legitimate and helpful. But multiply them by 1000 (or even if you don't) and use them in every nook and cranny of our lives and you have a big problem.
It's new technology but nothing has changed really. We still need government restrained by the rules.