Culture

Visions of our android future

Posted by on Jul 10, 2018 in Culture, Featured | 0 comments

Visions of our android future

I started to play Detroit – Becoming Human and the start of the game introduces us to a world in which most of the work is done by androids. The designers paid attention to portraying every day life with androids. They show androids in the roles of care taker, cleaner, construction worker, but also as a companion. Many humans are without a job but still enjoy an android cleaning their mess. Of course this whole setup is a typical in-out-group setup. But if this is the future we are working towards then we will also have to address these questions. What if there is no more work left for humans? What if we like interacting with androids more than with other humans? Here are some of my highlights of everyday life in the game so far:

Android Parking

Detroit: Become Human

Android compartment in the back of the bus

The androids have to enter the public bus at the rear and are standing in a segregated compartment that is divided by a glass wall. This is of course a reference to Rosa Park who refused to give put her seat in the colored section of a bus for a white person in 1955.

Detroit: Become Human

An article on how autonomous cars make life and death decisions

The game features an article on how autonomous vehicles make life and death decisions by considering a wealth of background information to calculate the value of a person.

How machines make life and death decisions

Here is the text of the virtual news article:

When a driverless vehicle foresees an accident, the car’s computer makes life and death decisions – for example deciding which of two pedestrians to hit. But the exact process by which cars make these decisions is not very well understood.

Martin Forlong, of CrowneCars, tries to clarify: “In these situations, the car’s imaging system gathers data to determine, the pedestrian’s age, gender, life Expectancy, etc, in the blink of an eye.” This data is parsed through the public I record “to determine marital status, employment record, life expectancy and whether they have children.” The car then assigns a ‘value’ to each possible victim based on criteria like their contribution to society: “we put a premium on lives that will save other lives, like doctors and nurses.”

All this may sound very reasonable. But Felix Gamble, head of Anti-Automation League (AAL) says the system has no rights to make such judgements: “Somebody with a criminal record is not necessarily less I valuable to society than a doctor. That kind of information is irrelevant to the sanctity of human life.”

But Forlong dismisses such claims: “We want our cars to make the best possible i choices, and that means acting on the basis of all the information they can gather. The more, the better.”

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Every edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila: an inquiry into morals

Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Culture, Documentation | 0 comments

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is arguably the most widely read philosophy book of all times. Since its first release in 1974 it has been printed by many publishers. Here is a list of all the editions that I could find. Rest in peace, Robert.

PublisherYearHardcoverPaperbackComment
William Morrow and Company19749780688002305Original Publication
The Bodley Head Ltd1974 9780370103389
Bantam Doubleday Dell19769780552101660
William Morrow and Company19799780688052300
Bantam Books19809780553138757
Bantam Books19829780553207088
Bantam Books19849780553257489
William Morrow and Company198410th Anniversary Edition Limited to 1000
Bantam Books19889780553277470
Corgi19899780552993784
Vintage Publishing19919780099786405
Harper Collins19999780688002305978119950347325th Anniversary Edition
Easton Press2001Collectors Edition
William Morrow and Company20059780060839871Also from Harper Collins
Perfection Learning20059780756902407
Harper Torch20069780060589462
Vintage Publishing2006978009932261025th Anniversary Edition
William Morrow and Company200897800620089309780061673733
Vintage Publishing2011978009959816940th Anniversary Edition

The situation for “Lila: an inquiry into morals” is a little bit easier although this is the more important work.

PublisherYearHardcoverPaperbackComment
Bantam Press19919780593025079
Bantam Press19919780553077377
Bantam Press19929780552995047
Bantam Press19929780553299618
Bantam Press19929780553180978
Alma Books20119781846881541
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Robert M. Pirsig died at the age of 88

Posted by on Apr 25, 2017 in Culture, Research | 0 comments

With great sadness I became aware today that Robert M. Pirsig, author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “Lila: An Inquiry into Morals” died today. He was and always will be a personal hero for me. His work inspired some of my own articles. Robert, you will be greatly missed and I wished you had written more.

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The United Colors Of The Brick

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 in Culture, Design, LEGO | 0 comments

Looks like I am in the t-shirt design fever. Here is my latest creation: The United Colors Of The Brick. Please vote for it so that it does get printed. This design is a homage to Benetton and the LEGO Color Palette.

UPDATE: The shirt is now available from Threadless.

The United Colors Of The Brick

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Cadbury Energy Chocolate Scam

Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Culture, Documentation | 2 comments

Cadbury Energy Chocolate Scam

Many products are being sold that are suppose to increase your energy. Unless your food is completely indigestible, this will always be true. Food by definition has calories which provide you with energy. But food manufactures have moved on and this trivial definition of energy is rarely used. These days energy food typically contains Caffeine. In particular energy drinks, such as Red Bull, Mother and V contain a considerable dose.

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Academic Freedom

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 in Culture | 0 comments

Distinguishing the signal from the noise is one of the main challenges in science. Scientists are trained to understand and judge the uncertainty in the world. We discuss our results and their limitations in articles and their merit is judged through the peer review process. Often these academic discussions have no immediate influence on the lives of the people around us, people who are not trained at interpreting statistics.

Italy has a tradition for lengthy legal proceedings and the recent overturn of six manslaughter convictions for Italian earthquake scientists is no exception. They were part of an expert panel discussing the earthquake risks for the south Italian city of L’Aquila on March 31st 2009. The citizens felt reassured and many decided to spend the night inside their houses. It is argued that 29 out of the 309 victims of the tragic earthquake in that night felt victim to this decision.

The six scientists and Bernardo De Bernardinis, who in 2009 was deputy head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, were originally sentenced to six years in jail in an October 2012 trial. The trial caused an international outcry amongst scientists. How could we continue to discuss science in public when there is a chance that we could get jailed for it? How can we contribute to expert panels that advice policy makers? Earthquake scientists know and understand the uncertainty associated with their predictions. Could they be punished for the ignorance of their fellow citizens?

Judge Marco Billi justified his verdict by arguing that the panel had carried out a “superficial, approximate and generic” risk analysis. It is rare that judges participate in a scientific peer review process, but in this case it happened.

In the appeal court judge Fabrizia Francabandera acknowledged that the scientists could not have predicted the earthquake and overturned the original verdict with one exception. De Bernardinis received a two year sentence for his role in communicating with the public.

This is certainly a relief for many scientists, but the controversy around this case is directly relevant not only for New Zealand’s earthquake scientists, but for all scientists. For science to work we need to be able to make mistakes and to openly discuss our results. If society aims to prosecute us for the work we do for them then we better hire an army of lawyers. I think we could spend our money more wisely. We should invest into the scientific education of our students.

Given the two year sentence for De Bernardinis I will certainly be more careful when talking to the media in the future. I do not want to be held responsible for not warning the world about the upcoming robot uprising.

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